Emotional Wellbeing


Mandy's personal stories


Mandy Kloppers

Diary of a care assistant working in a mental health secure unit (2)

A little bit about the girls…

Not all patients on the ward have committed a criminal offence. Some are just perceived as being so unmanageable that they end up here. The tragedy is that most, if not all of these women were abused in some form as children and as a result, have been left with permanent scars – some physical but all with emotional scars.

Sometimes, I think their irresponsible parents should be the ones locked up here! All the women are young – between the ages of 21-35 yrs old. Each pateint has their own room which locks but all staff have master keys. Their rooms are tiny, perhaps 4metres by 2 metres. Enough room for a single bed and a closet. Some of the girls have posters up on their bedroom doors (on both sides) ranging from childlike images such as Winnie the Pooh to more adolescent-type images such as David Beckham or Eminem.

Each door has a small window with a curtain covering it on the outside. The facilitates the half hourly checks to locate all patients. Not all the women get on and there seems to be a few ‘outsiders’. The dynamics of these relationships on the ward do change, depending on who is transferred in and transferred out to an intensive ward with more restrictions. Patients remain there until such time when their clinical team feels the patient is ready to return.

The women on the ward:

Due to confidentiality restrictions, names have been omitted and some details have been changed:

Patient ST. She killed her father with a hammer during a psychotic phase. She has been here about 7 years now.

Patient PL. She is one of the youngest. She convinced her boyfriend to let her tie him up. Once he was tied to the bed she stabbed him to death. She then super glued his eyes, and his lips shut. She explained that this would prevent him  from telling the police who killed him. Clearly there were severe mental health issues here.

Patient NF. She killed her baby and also tried to kill several other babies when left alone with them before finally killing her own child.

Patient LJ. This patient has never actually committed a crime but had regular homicidal fantasies. Due to her frequent visions of killing someone and her unpredictability she was sent to this mental health institution for rehabilitation. She presents as a very calm, quiet, friendly and intelligent woman. She is seen as an ‘outsider’ on the ward and not welcomed by the other patients.

Patient RD. A 28 year old who was extremely unmanageable in the community. She had not committed a criminal offence but extremely disturbed and was severely abused growing up.

Patient ES. Born in 1973. She is a self harmer (the one that grabbed a plate and smashed it so that she could cut herself). She is married to a fellow inmate who lives on another ward in the males section. He ended up leaving early and went to stay with this patient’s mother – ended up having an affair with the patient’s mother..ooops.

Patient AH.  Prostituted as a child. Abused during her childhood.

Patient MH. Criminal offence – arson with no regard for whomever may have been in the house at the time. She has three children, two of whom have now gone to foster homes. One was adopted. Sadly she has no contact with her children but she is currently investigating her rights to have access to them.

Patient FD. Stabbed a stranger to death in public.

Despite their histories, I got to know all of these women on a personal level and saw beyond this to a person with fears and dreams just like the rest of us.

Mandy X

Link to post 1 https://wp.me/p3DOTH-6Er

Photo by Denis Oliveira on Unsplash