Managing madness

I wanted to tell you about our early morning today, because to me, it says something about how accepting a group can be here. I don’t want to idealise. In wider society here, mental illness is poorly understood. But the hospital is different.

Today was about tolerance.

Normally we have morning prayers outside in the Outpatients waiting area. Today it was in the staff dining room, because it was going to be followed by a staff meeting. We sat down to sing and for prayers, and were joined by a number of patients, as is usual. One lady has bipolar illness, and in her mania, is hyper-religious. After the singing, she burst into a stream of prayers, people closed their eyes and listened respectfully. It was clear her out-pouring wasn’t going to come to a natural end any time soon. After many minutes, our colleague, who happens to be the Mental Health clinician for the hospital, gently started to sing a prayer, allowing everyone to join in, and enabling the lady to stop. Meanwhile, another psychotic patient belched, took his shirt off and and climbed onto the table. Again, our colleague didn’t blink. Instead he made sure that the bible passage he was reading was translated into Rugika for the patients to be able to understand, and then he drew the session to a close, saying ‘’ and I am now just going to help our friend (the patient) back to the ward before we start our meeting.’’ The patient followed without argument.

The action was skilful and compassionate.

I was left wondering how we in the UK respond when we find madness in our midst, and whether we do it as well as this.

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