Jack Marsden's experience of hospital treatment - as a voluntary in-patient - was characterised by a lack of communication over what to expect, a lack of accommodation of his diabetes needs, and a lack of therapy.

When I was voluntarily admitted to a mental health unit after attempting suicide there was no communication to me about my recovery care plan.

It had taken a week for the Crisis Unit to find me a safe place near home.

But now that I was inside a mental health unit I finally felt I would get the care and support I needed and some help in managing my Type 1 diabetes – or that’s what I hoped.

But it was not to be.

I had an hour-long assessment with a consultant psychologist, who concentrated on my ‘suicidal ideation’. I suppose that was to be expected – safety first.

We talked briefly about my sudden break-up with my partner and my on-going battle with my employer.

But there was hardly any discussion about my yoyo-ing blood sugars and out-of-control diabetes.

Not for the first time, I was struck by how little account was taken of my physical health - and the consequent impact on my mood and mental health.

So much for parity of esteem.

The consultant simply prescribed much stronger anti-depressants, which would take two weeks to kick in, but would help me find the sleep I longed for.

And that was it. No care plan. No recovery plan. No clinical recommendations, no communication about what would happen to me on this unit.

It was a mental health unit alright - you could tell that by the locks on all the doors. Still, it was a kind of sanctuary for now.

No one talked to me about how I felt

I knew why I was suicidal, chronically depressed, not fit for life in the 21st Century. But that understanding didn't change the way that I felt.

And none of the mental health nurses talked to me about my feelings. Or even just listened to my story. Not once.

They left me alone most of the time, to sleep and try to ease my exhaustion.

Anyway, best to knuckle down, I thought, and just get on with it. If I didn't, I would be sectioned. And that would be too much.

Life on a mental health ward

In the two weeks I spent on this mental health unit, I was never given any therapy for my mind.

The unit's 'Activities' Notice Board stayed blank. No one ever went into the games room - the pool and table tennis tables stayed silent.

Only the TV blared constantly in one room, like a loud narcotic.

At night, there would be screams and shouting from some of the patients. Sleep was elusive.

During the day-time, my fellow inmates, as I came to regard them, wandered aimlessly around the corridors, or sat chain-smoking in the enclosed courtyard. The bins overflowed with rubbish, the pavements were littered with fag ends, the patients left unkempt and uncared for.

Playing the game  

Black humour surfaced occasionally. "This place is driving me mad," we would say.

This was certainly not the best place for anyone suffering from depression.

So I played the game. Behaved myself. Did not speak to anyone of my 'suicidal ideation'.

Or the jumbled, crazy thoughts that still kept pounding in my head. Did not do anything crazy or stupid. Did as I was told.

That’s how I finally got free, unsectioned.


  • Each patient has unique needs in terms of both mental health and physical health 
  • Provide some therapy at least – talking helps
  • Be clear about what is going to happen to the patient whilst in their care
  • Offer some hope

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