I remember in 1995 when my oldest son became unwell after leaving home to go to university in Glasgow. It was the summer after first year at uni and he began to have altered perceptions. I knew this during a phone call from him when I was a leader at a Christian summer ‘Discovery’ camp at Glenshee, think it was.
I quickly went home to see what he was like and knew it was a psychosis, that he would require hospital treatment in the local psychiatric institution, Stratheden Hospital. We lived on what used to be the hospital farm, then Elmwood College Farm as my husband was the dairyman. My oldest son had practised driving around the grounds with me sitting beside him.
I was broken-hearted on seeing my son in a psychosis as I knew what lay before him. And so it was but even worse than what I’d expected. The state of care in Lomond Ward, Stratheden, was dire in 1995 and it’s even worse now. I had to keep an eye on my son back then because the nurses didn’t. There was an injury and a complaint made by me about bad practice. Nothing changes.
It meant I had to toughen up and so I did. There’s nothing quite like disempowerment and bad practice for toughening up one’s resolve. It was either that or go under, and I definitely wasn’t going to do that. Too much was at stake.
Eventually my oldest son made a full recovery, with my support, getting off the psychiatric drugs and getting back to university in Dundee, nearer to home, where he lives now, as it happens, and where he was born, in Ninewells Hospital. He achieved a 1st class honours degree in the summer of 1998, when I got my postgraduate diploma in community education, and has never looked back.
Then on Friday past I received an Email from a man who I’ve known for 5 years, first meeting him at the United We Stand conference I ran in October 2009. He sent me his story in the Email and today told me more of what happened, following his inpatient stay as a teenager in Ward 4 (IPCU) of Stratheden Hospital in 1981.
It would break your heart.