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Reisverslag Sad day, happy end
27 oktober 2011
Sad day, happy end
The admission ward was really looking like a prison ward, patients behind real bars, staff in the middle in a glass island.. the first things users in the male admission ward said was: This place is like a prison.. I really felt sad after seeing the institution. I wasn’t allowed to make any photographs at all, but I saw a lot. I went to male-admission ward (high care unit..pfff prison.. - “dear patient, comply here to get out” - ..), female closed sub-acute ward, hmmmzz, patients were “too ill” for everything, and by making progress to this ward they were visually moving towards the gate, .. - “earn your freedom, Be Healthy” - And I saw the forensic ward..pff strict and poorly equipped.. the youngest patients was 17, “he may look sweet but he’s a gangster and has killed a girl, while the other raped her”.. and this young boy is now stuck with 30 adults in this hopeless prison ward.. - “What perspective?” -
It had nothing to do with care, and certainly not mental health care. It was really like a prison, but it looked very nice on the outside, apart from the double fences, and the admission-ward was only 5 years old, no doors, just real bars.
They wanted to rebuild the place, “because some parts were old, and the nice compounds with palm trees dated from the 1980s, when the Christian view said you needed space, but now they want something more compact, with everything closer to each other”, which clearly means: more like a prison-hospital with a medical view, drilling the people to behave..
And they did have wooden chairs and coloured table cloths on the female ward, and there was some coloured painted art they made, and a few buckets of flowers in the yard, so they actually sometimes had things.. but the view of the carers was quite horrible.
Although I liked the one who led me around. She was nice, she actually told at every ward that I was a consultant for psychiatry in the Netherlands, and I was interested in treatments with force, and they actually let me in everywhere, and so I got a lot of info. She didn’t say I was from a user movement, which she knew. She really got me in. And she saw some things herself, she wasn’t stupid, but in the sound of her voice I heard the hopelessness, that change won’t come here.. It was sad. It felt like a bad place.
Valkenberg is originally a “white-built psychiatric hospital”, with beautiful compounds, with palm trees, green grass and some monumental buildings, (and their view is also monu-mental instead of environ-mental). They did have some more resources, but less care.. Fear dominated, and they had obviously a kind of European / American view of medicalizing care, like the illness has to be captured and drugged away..
I’m really ashamed to be European, and Dutch.. to be of one of those countries who colonized here (and psychiatry still does). It’s my country and others who feed Africa with this crap of psychiatry.. with the medical view.. It’s so obvious that psychosis and so come from uncoped relationship issues and trauma so on, it IS a social issue.. I’m really happy that Lentegeur is also here in the district, and that patients tell each other where to go. Nobody likes Valkenberg, and Lentegeur is said to be better. (not perfect, but nowhere is, we can only find the best practices).
In my opinion, they should break Valkenberg down, and certainly NOT give them money for a rebuild, they are abusing their resources. Even if I could choose, I’d rather be at Lentegeur, than at Valkenberg. Especially when you talk to people, you can feel the vibe.. Valkenberg is strict, really prison-like, except for that the patients get drugged as well (and in prison they don’t). And Valkenberg doesn’t feel for the social model, although they call their admission “High Care” (but it looks like a prison, and there is no way to ignore that, there is no way to provide humane care there), and they had an ACT team there, but what I heard this was more like a medication-supervision team, and if you don’t comply with your treatment, they will give forced medication, outside the institution, but then you will still have your freedom of movement…
This is not human-right compliant. It doesn’t show compassion, you cannot force commitment. And they totally didn’t see it. You could feel how strict everything was, even for the nurses, they knew nothing would actually change, even ordering soap or pillows leads to a struggle in the organization. They were basically burn-out.
Afterwards, I walked along the fence, digesting what I just saw, looking at the little river and the flowers (springtime!) and then I took a train home. My head was full.
Then Annie and I drove to Muizenberg, to see the sea, the ocean. We saw a lot of surfers there. And I wished I could surf as well, missing my blades and the smooth slides, I would have loved to dive in the water, but it was getting cold and I had no wetsuit or so. Then we ate something and drove off to Sally, to pick her up and go to the local bar.
We had a lot of fun being at the bar. We ate a pizza and went to Sally’s home. And I smoked some dube, and we had a very long and honest talk about seclusion experiences and so on. It was really painful, but also very good to share this with each other. We all had our horrors in psychiatry. We are survivors. And we really laughed about a lot of things, how crazy THEY are. Yeah, it was good to do so. The evening was nice. Tomorrow we will go out as well, to dance. I’m a free tourist now, I can do whatever I like, no more appointments, no more witnessing violations (except Robben Island, if they stop their strike… ). I can relax now, and enjoy. And if the strike continues at Robben Island, I will make sure that I will see whales and dolphins, as a compensation (sometimes you see them on the ferry to Robben Island, and I already liked that idea). I love the ocean. That’s for sure. Today I printed my footprints in the sand of the beach.. love it! I will make sure that I will enjoy myself the next few days.
Foto's bij verslag (2)
28 oktober 2011 07:21 | Door: je moeder
Kop op meid!
Je doet prima werk; maar nu nog een paar dagen relaxen.
28 oktober 2011 14:14 | Door: Tony
Have a nice weekend! See you soon :)
22 januari 2013 15:52 | Door: Marlize Swanepoel
I have been reading your blogs on Valkenberg and Lentegeur with great interest - thanks! I'm a Dramatherapist who recently returned to South Africa (Cape Town) and am looking for ways to start some groups in the above-mentioned hospitals. In London, I ran Dramatherapy groups in psychiatric hospitals. As you said, the issue of funding in SA may be tricky, but I hope to find a way. The service users certainly can do with some therapeutic input and the arts is such a great way for supporting people through their hospital stay.
I've also been to Valkenberg, but never went inside - I was shocked to read your experience. I look forward to contacting Lentegeur; please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for setting up an arts therapy service there.
29 januari 2013 07:13 | Door: John Parker
In response to Marlize, I work at Lentegeur and am the founder and coordinator of the Lentegeur Spring Project, for a short talk on this please have a look at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qaeTq7ne0Pw . One important aspect of the project is connection with our heritage and culture through cultural revival and I believe Dramatherapy would have a vital role to play in this. I cannot promise any funding but do have some ideas about how we could work together to get some. So if you are interested, please get hold of me, my email address is Jsparker@westerncape.gov.za.
Thanks Jolijn for all your hard work, I really admire your energy and courage!
Especially thanks for reaching out to me (a psychiatrist) and never judging me on that alone, despite the bad experiences of yourself and so many others. This is a real lesson to us all, perhaps if we can judge less and work more on finding and bringing out the positive in people we can start to break down systems that seem to be designed to bring out the worst and suppress so much good.