Thursday, 4 July 2019

I have a Level 3 Qualification.. | Access to Higher Education Diploma Update

I am not sure where the past twelve months have gone, but they have certainly flown by and I am officially the proud owner of a Level 3 Education Qualification.. well, I will be once I get my certificate. My year back at college is completed, I actually finished on the 12th June, so I have spent the past three weeks working and desperately waiting to get my results back and now that I have them back, I thought that I would do a summary of my year. 

I decided in the beginning of 2018 that I would like to go to University to study either Mental Health Nursing or Psychology but I didn't have the qualifications to do so and I just didn't think it would ever happen as I had a quite negative experience with education and I couldn't even imagine going back to do my A Levels. It wasn't until somebody that I knew was doing an Access Diploma that I realised that I didn't need to do a lengthy two year course to get a place at University and after looking into the courses available near me, I decided on one; Access to Healthcare Practitioners which I applied for, got a place and have now managed to complete.

An Access course is completely different to any form of education that I have experienced before, it is intense, it is time consuming and it is stressful however, it is only for nine months and everyone on the course is above the age of 19. My specific course was mostly focussed on Science as most healthcare practitioners rely heavily on science to be able to do their jobs. I hate Science, I find Science so boring, it really has never been my subject but I told myself that this was my last chance to get a Level 3 qualification and I was determined to complete it. With Access courses, it is less about preparing you for your exams and more about preparing you for University. On the access course, if you miss a lesson, your tutors aren't going to hunt you down, if you'd rather study outside of the classroom then that is ok and it is quite a relaxed way of learning. My course was only for three days per week, two of which were fairly long days but it worked for me. 

Another thing that I struggled to adapt to was the grades as this is a diploma, so everything is marked as Pass, Merit or Distinction and to make it even more confusing was that there are 60 credits to the course; fifteen were unmarked so you couldn't get higher than a Pass and 45 were graded. Instead of all of the exams being at the end of the year, each unit was divided into eight weeks and we would have around three units that we were learning at the same time. I surprised myself when I got Distinctions in my first two exams but this also meant that in my head, I had to get distinctions and I did actually manage to get a Merit in one exam which felt like the end of the world but I only needed Merits to get into University so in reality, it was fine. Overall, I managed to get my 15 Ungraded Credits at a Pass and out of my Graded credits I got 42 at a Distinction and 3 at a Merit which looking back on, I am pleased but I still am a bit annoyed that I messed up one of my exams. For my Conditional Offer for University of East Anglia, I needed to get 36 credits at a Merit and 9 credits at a Pass plus my 15 ungraded credits so I have gotten what I need and I am now just waiting for the confirmation to come through which will probably be in August.

As far as attendance goes, we all know that I am not exactly great at keeping my attendance up and it did slip in the last full half term of the year and I did only attend for 53% of this half term. This did cause my overall attendance to drop dow0n to 80% however, I did get the grades that I needed so I don't think my attendance was a massive issue and compared to at Sixth Form, 80% for a year is a miracle.

I did find the Access course fun, I liked how it was only for three days of the week but there was still a huge workload and we were meant to at least be matching the same hours outside of college that we did within college. It was tough, but it was doable and there was options to ask for an extension if it was required, I am pretty shocked that I didn't need an extension for anything as some of my submissions were very last minute.

I think what helped me the most throughout the year was that nobody; staff or students knew my background and I therefore felt that I was quite free to get on with my work myself, I wasn't constantly being asked if I was ok and it made it a lot easier to just get on with it, I knew there was support if I needed it but I managed ok and I think that just having a structure really benefitted me. 

Other than receiving my certificate and formally being accepted into University, I have fully completed the Access course and in just over two months I will be starting a course in Mental Health Nursing at the UEA.. scary! Who'd have thought that I would be going to Uni? Certainly not me but I can't wait to start training and to eventually be able to help others who have been in similar situations than me.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT)... Thank You

I got myself into a little bit of a panic today because I saw something online about suicide and I realised that it was the first time all day I had thought about dying; something that just a year ago would consume my mind throughout the majority of the day, all day, every day. I thought again and although the thought does appear in my mind every so often, it isn't anything compared to what it used to be and the urges to act on the thoughts are almost rare. I took some time to think of everything that has happened over the past year, over all of the stresses and dramas that I would never have dreamed of being able to deal with, big things that I didn't even know I was capable of thinking about, let alone living through them with absolutely no harming myself in any way whatsoever and I just panicked. 

I'm not entirely sure why I panicked but I think its because I got the realisation that my life is no longer based on my mental health whereas for the past five, six, however many years, everything that I have done has been surrounding my mental health, absolutely everything. My mental health played a role in everything I did. I'd worry about going to work, I wouldn't be able to cope with education, I couldn't go out and do things I wanted to because I felt anxious. My family were anxious to leave me alone, they were constantly worried about me, they'd sort through my medication, they'd always be by my side in A&E, waiting to be sewn back together, wondering where it all went wrong and what they could do to help. Suddenly, that isn't my life anymore, I'm ok, I'm stable, I'm not harming myself, I'm not crying, I'm not a risk and I'm managing. It's as though I went from rock bottom to stable with no climb in the middle, from one extreme straight to the other and now I'm ok, what is ok? All that I have ever known is how to be poorly me and how to cope the best that I can but now what do I do? I don't know what type of person I am 'well', I don't know who that person is and I certainly don't know how to be her. 

It's been a year since I was discharged from Mental Health Services and I am doing ok. I haven't had a single visit to the hospital or even the doctors. I've distracted myself all the way through the past year, taking it one day at a time, step by step. I just don't know how I got here. It could be that I was on the wrong medication and that they were changing my hormones or it could be that I decided that I wanted a change, and I went and got my education, or even a mix of both. It could be that I just got sick of being unwell and just did absolutely everything in my power to prevent a relapse and to move forward with my life. It could be the structure that came with college or even the good grades building my confidence within education back up. It could have been anything. 

But despite all of the good, I still sometimes miss the bad, which does come with a slight panic. I miss knowing who I was as a person and not having an identify crisis every week, I miss being able to recognise my emotions instead of pushing them aside, I miss being able to vent my heart out and have a good cry but I wouldn't go back, I couldn't do it to myself because I wouldn't be sure that I'd survive.

It's just the strangest feeling when you have that moment of realisation that despite their still being bad, your life is ok, you're somewhat content and you have a future to start living. It's ironic really, it is always the future that terrifies us the most but it is also the future that can help us, time does heal pain after all. 

I honestly think that my life and my mindset has changed so much because of being discharged from mental health services. I was so angry and so upset because I didn't know how to cope without support, and I certainly wasn't ready to be discharged but I was so angry that I wanted to prove them wrong, I wanted to prove that I didn't need them and that I could cope better without them and that is exactly what I have done. I may have not chosen the best ways of dealing with my emotions over the past year, but I certainly haven't given into urges or had to get back in contact with services. Determination is an odd thing, it has drawn me into the darkest of situations yet it has pulled me out of the toughest and although I did this by myself, I also have the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust to thank, for forcing me out of their shambled services and for allowing me to have space and time to focus on me and more importantly, to prove them all wrong so again, thank-you NSFT, thank-you for your service that is so poorly wrong, that people are better without you.

So, the reality is, I don't really understand myself what has changed over the past year, but I am ok, I really am this time and the only components that I believe to have some sort of impact on this was deciding to do something with my life, getting a structure and routine back and my absolutely angels of a family and friends, without you, I wouldn't have made it, and that's the truth. 

I don't know what the next chapter will hold, and it's no guarantee that I will still feel ok in a week, let alone for the rest of my life but for now, I am ok and that is the most important thing, I would even go as far to say that I am 'well', which I sometimes feel like I shouldn't say because as horrendous as it was, being unwell was me and I don't want people to get the impression that I am cured because that is certainly not the case, I'm not sure if you ever do fully recover from mental health conditions that have crippled you for years, but you can certainly make drastic improvements, and you can live a normal life, you just need to believe in yourself and be determined to make a difference to your own wellbeing. I also feel guilty for stating that I am doing ok, because sometimes, there can be nothing worse than seeing other people managing whilst you're struggling but if I can be ok, then so can you, we all can. Who knows what the next chapter will be, but whatever it is, good or bad, I am sure that I'll find a way to cope and I will keep you updated along the way.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

ITV The Priory: Teenage Mental Health Uncovered | Review

Disclaimer: Both this post and the programme contains talk of self harm and suicide. Please don't read or watch if you think you'll be affected by this. This is a very long post, I do apologise but it's Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I'd try something a bit different this year.

On the 18th April 2019, The Priory: Teenage Mental Health Uncovered Documentary aired on ITV. This is an hour long documentary of what life is like within the Priory Ticehurst Child and Adolescent High Dependancy Psychiatric Unit after 14-year old Amy El-Keria died whilst an inpatient there, five years prior. The Priory group have recently been fined three hundred thousand pounds for its failings over Amy's death.




According to ITV, 'exposure goes undercover to reveal evidence of serious failures of care for teenage patients at a high dependency mental health unit.'

Initially, I was slightly skeptical about watching this documentary because I felt that the aim of this programme was to only show the negatives of the running of the ward and not the positives, but upon starting to watch, I was speechless at how horrendous the care given to the patients really was, and I have a lot to say about it.

It is no secret that Britain is in the middle of a teenage mental health crisis with 1 in 8 children in the UK experiencing a mental health condition, the Mental Health Services are underfunded and available inpatient beds are getting lower and lower but this is no excuse for a privately funded inpatient unit to promote unsafe and undignified care to their patients, knowing risk factors around the ward that could easily be used for a patient to harm themselves without doing anything to improve them, and continuing to work whilst being extremely unstaffed, putting the patients at even bigger risk. I am surprised that there hasn't been more deaths on this ward and I am even more shocked that the unit was allowed to continue running, despite what was seen on this programme. 

Gráinne Morrison was an undercover reporter who applied for a job as a Healthcare Assistant at the Priory Ticehurst House for three months where she secretly filmed the daily life on the ward. She was able to secure the job on the High Dependency Unit (HDU) with no previous experience or relevant qualifications however, she was told upon initially arriving at the ward that she will need specialised Breakaway and Restraint training before she is able to be placed on the unit, being told that some of her training will be completed within a fortnight. All she was initially taught was basic CPR and First Aid and there is even a clip on the programme of one worker stating that they "had no training" and how the patients "don't get near enough therapy," just medication and restraints. 

Five years prior, Amy El-Keria managed to kill herself whilst on the HDU. Amy's mother, Tania appeared on the programme, expressing her concerns of the running of the unit, and explaining the care that Amy received on the unit. Amy's mental health was complex, she suffered with a variety of disorders including ADHD, Tourettes Syndrome, OCD and Conduct Disorder, making it difficult for her to sit still. When Amy reached her teenage years, her Mental Health got drastically worse, she attempted suicide at home and her mum went straight to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) to try and get support for her daughter but on the second suicide attempt, she decided that things weren't right and that Amy needed specialised treatment. Amy was given a place at the Priory's Ticehurst House and her mum felt a sense of relief, explaining how "she was in the right place now, she'll get the help that she needs and we'll get the right diagnosis."

Mark Beresford is a Mental Health Nurse who worked at Ticehurst House from 2004 to 2012, he explained how Amy had very complex needs and was a challenging person to work with. Before he left the Priory, Mark contacted management, expressing his concerns over the lack of staffing levels and the way the unit was running but never received any sort of response.

Amy's care was inadequate to meet her needs. When Amy's first restraint occurred, her mum wasn't even informed of the incident. Tania later found out from Amy that the incident started when she was given fifteen minutes on the phone and instead of the staff counting down her time or telling her to say goodbye, thee phone was just slammed down, with no prior warning. Amy told her mum how the staff pulled her t-shirt over her head to cover her mouth, exposing all of her top before sedating her and having to drag her along because she was strong. Amy's mum usually wasn't informed of incidents that took place, and it was very difficult to have communication with senior members of staff. Amy's mum received a phone call one day from the unit where she was told how "Amy was found with a ligature, they managed to regain a pulse." Her mum wasn't informed of the severity of Amy's incident and was just told to make the two hour journey to the hospital. Whilst driving to the hospital, Tania received another phone call from a doctor at the hospital who said that she needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Amy died from strangulation and despite being categorised as 'high risk' over ten times since being on the ward, she was left alone in her room with items that she could harm herself with and ligature points.

Tony Murphy is the lawyer to the El-Keria family and he explained how the "failures were so basic", they could have removed the ligature items out of the room or even just spoken to her. In 2016, an inquest into Amy's death said how neglect contributed to her death and they found more than twenty issues including; Inadequate staffing and insufficient knowledge of care plans, Ligature risks not correctly identified and delays in contacting emergency services. The coroner warned that action should be taken to prevent further deaths. There had been hope that since this, there had been significant changes within the ward however, that simply did not seem the case within this documentary. 

Tony Murphy said how they had been told that ligature points had been removed and that there is now a better system in place for searching for items that may be used to self harm with and he had also been offered assurances that the quality of care had improved, which is yet to be seen and despite this, patients were still able to find ways to ligature.

Early on in her job, Gráinne was asked for help by a patient but had no training and was told nothing about the patients medical history. Four weeks into the job, she still hadn't received her restraint training even though she was initially told that she wouldn't be able to work on the ward without it. Gráinne expresses her own concerns, asking why it wasn't a priority and why she was suddenly allowed to work on the ward without it. She also discovered that on most of her shifts, patients were able to self harm even though the Priory group states that "treating this is one of their key areas of expertise." 

In a different clip, there was an extremely serious incident that occurred, and the senior staff members acted awfully. A patient called Amber was able to swallow a battery from a tv remote control. Amber receives 1:1 care, 24 hours a day and she still managed to not only get hold of the battery, but to swallow it. Amber wasn't taken to A&E for three days and Gráinne found evidence that a senior doctor at the local A&E department had concerns about staffing levels due to them not taking Amber to hospital immediately. The letter stated that "this should have been brought to the attention of the surgeons straight away and not delayed presentation". Within a later staff meeting, the ward manager spoke to staff about what to do when a patient swallows a battery. The ward manager also stated that "Batteries contain acid. If what is in the battery leaks into the body, they will die. Our policy for batteries is they go to A&E and they go straight away" and when asked what to say when the A&E staff question why the patient wasn't brought in immediately, she said to tell them that "the nurses and doctors on duty that day fucked up, sorry about that." Once thing that I can't get my head around is how was she left three whole days when usually the staff on shift change over every twelve hours, so there was around six different shifts before she was taken to A&E, yet nobody on shift questioned why she wasn't in hospital.

Clinical Psychiatrist, Andrew McDonald specialises in working with young people with challenging behaviour. When commenting on the battery incident, he explains how a form of negligence was involved and that no consequences were made. The incident happened again within two months, as well as with patients swallowing staples, screws and even a knitting needle.

Another patient called Ash who had been on the unit for over a month told Gráinne that she'd taken some tablets that another patient had smuggled into the unit. She explains that "I took so many pills and they still didn't kill me" to which Gráinne finds out that she took twenty sleeping tablets. Gráinne goes to the office to speak to the other staff about what had been done about the incident where she learns that Ash wasn't taken to A&E because the staff members had been told that "with the amount she had, she would be able to sleep it off. And then feel like she had a hangover." I am sorry - what? Those words came out of the mouth of a Mental Healthcare worker, if she has taken sleeping tablets, she needs to get medical attention, even if they do just tell her to sleep it off. It took over a day for Ash to be taken to A&E which just sounds ridiculous as the longer it is left, the more time there is for the tablets to dissolve into her system. Ash says how she was unconscious, they took her observations, couldn't wake her up and still did not take her to A&E.

When young people are admitted to the unit, they are often far away from their parents and home so parents have to put their trust into the staff to inform them of what it happening but in this instance, Ash's mum wasn't told until the night after that she'd taken a few tablets. She had no idea that her daughter had taken twenty tablets but she is a Mental Health Nurse herself and did question why she wasn't taken to hospital. She even explained how if they couldn't have taken her to A&E, they should have called a doctor in.

However, poor communication between staff and parents seems to have remained the same since Amy's case and her mum says how "You never found out about anything, not even the restraints" and it was only after looking through Amy's notes that were written by staff that she was able to piece together the failings in her care. The last page of Amy's notes shows how she was struggling and not getting the support. She had even threatened to hang herself earlier in the day that she died. Her mum was never informed, she never had any say and she feels that Amy may have thought that hr mum wasn't there for her when she just didn't know.

Since Amy's death, Tania has been trying to find out the truth about what happened to her daughter in the days and hours leading up to her death, "all they wanted to do was brush it under the carpet and put it down to a suicide" but her mum wasn't going to allow them to do that. It took five years for an apology and arranged settlement which makes the family concerned that the hospital isn't making changes.

After six weeks working at Ticehurst House, Gráinne still hadn't received her training, which is horrified considering that she has already had to deal with multiple incidences where she doesn't know how to react. We next meet a patient called Megan who often makes ligatures out of torn clothes. The priory says how everyone has a unique treatment plan tailored to their needs. In Megan's case, the decision was made by staff to not allow her clothing. Instead, she was left with nothing more than a safety blanket. After some time without clothing, staff decided that it was inappropriate for Megan to be in the dining room and with other patients naked so they decided that she could only be in her room where she just had to sit there. Consultant Clinical Psychologist Julia Faulconbridge explained how "it is utterly inappropriate for a teenage girl to have to spend a length of time without clothes" and later added that "she's not going to forget that." 

When Megan's parents realised what the hospital were doing to her, they decided to do what the hospital couldn't, or wouldn't do and they made her some clothes out of rip-stop material that they got from their local fabric store. According to Megan's parents, "there was no discussion of the safe suits, not about buying one in, not about we'll see what we can do" which is appalling. Surely, a HDU should have rip proof clothing stocked and how did they manage to get away with being so degrading towards one of their patients?

Megan's mum said how "at the beginning, you trust the hospital and the staff to do the right things but as time went on, more and more things became obvious that we felt weren't appropriate and communication was very difficult to have." Megan spent five months as an inpatient at the priory and is now treated at home, she explains that "when people think of psychiatric units, they don't think of how scary it can be for the patients, they think of how the staff were unsafe or how the patients are violent. Physically being naked gave me sores, made me itchy, made me red. It was very uncomfortable and emotionally, it made me very self conscious. It made me extremely unhappy and I felt so undignified."

After Megan had left Ticehurst House, Gráinne heard a senior member of staff discussing her case. In the documentary, you can hear the staff member say "Megan put in a safeguarding complaint against her saying that we didn't offer her any clothes. She was a month nursed naked in her bedroom. We didn't offer her a tear proof suit, even though we have them in stock. But they were told that they'd have to pay £70 if they were to have them. So God knows who told her that, because we haven't got any in stock. And apparently, the parents complained about us as well". Gráinne later hears the same member of staff and the ward manager having a conversation about Megan's parents which goes as follows:
"Mum and Dad are making a complaint"
"Ah mate, they all make complaints about different things"
"Because basically there's no place like home, they can't contain them but they think they can. All the parents are likely to be fucked up themselves."

I couldn't believe this conversation when I first heard it, so I watched it again and I do not understand how these people, who are a senior staff member and a ward manager, still have their jobs when they clearly have a very little understanding of mental health and little respect towards the patients. How about admitting that they messed up? That they left a vulnerable girl feeling undignified? 

On the Priory's website, it mentions how "they enable young people to get back on track and resume a for filling childhood" but this doesn't seem an accurate description of the care being provided. 

One clip shows a patient called Jessie asking for some PRN which is a medication used when an individual is in distress to help calm them down. The conversation goes as follows:
Jessie: "Can I have some PRN?"
Senior Nurse: "What for?"
Jessie: "Because I'm agitated"
Senior Nurse: "If I give you any PRN, you know you can't have it at night time... Do you know that?... I'll give it to you but you can't have it.."
Jessie: "Fuck"
Without the medication, Jessie begins to self harm by banging her head against the wall. She has a range of Mental Health Conditions as well as Autism. Gráinne has not been briefed about these conditions and therefore struggles to communicate effectively with Jessie and calm her down. She tries to protect Jessie's head by placing her hand against the wall, even resulting in getting blood on her hand. Jessie begins to bang her head harder. Gráinne decides to call fast response and radios for help to be told that nobody can respond.. for the second time within this documentary. 

It is another two minutes of head banging until a nurse arrives. This nurse tells Gráinne to stay right where she is and tries to talk to Jessie who repeatedly tells him to go away. He then stands there watching her, telling her how there are staff there for her to talk to. Jessie continues to head bang to the point where she falls to the ground to which the nurse responds with "she's breathing, she'll be fine". By the time that Jessie has been banging her head hard for thirteen minutes, Gráinne expresses her concerns to the nurse by asking "is that not dangerous or?", the nurse responds by saying that "she's using sideways of her head to bang. We've assessed it, there's no problem with that, yeah?" He didn't seem worried in the slightest and added, "head banging will not do anything to her."

This was later confirmed by Psychiatrist Andrew McDonald that this is not safe in the slightest and he wonders how it would be assessed as safe on the side of the head when if you bang slightly lower, there is a risk of blindness and we have senses of memory on both sides of the head as well as lots of other things that can cause brain injury. "We don't know about the long term effects of these things at all"

Understandably, this comment from the nurse agitates Jessie even more and she starts to bang the front of her head saying "now I'm using the front of my head hopefully that will be dangerous enough." Until seeing this clip, Jessie's parents were unaware of the extend of their daughters self harm at Ticehurst. Jessie's parents had previously told Ticehurst the risks of head banging as Jessie previously had to have a brain scan after head banging on a separate occasion at a different hospital. Jessie's mum said how "the doctors giving us the feedback of the scans said that they needed to make sure that this is not allowed to happen again under any circumstances." Her parents had to constantly remind staff when they saw evidence of head banging about the brain scan. It is very clear from the footage of Jessie that the nurses responsible either didn't know or had chosen to ignore the warning.

The nurse again says "We've assessed it, she's alright" to which Jessie replied "stop fucking saying I'm alright" and then the nurse leaves and Gráinne is left to cope as well as she can, without specific training, knowing her care plan or knowing what she'd specifically respond to. Eventually, after 40 minutes of head banging, Jessie is finally given some PRN but Gráinne doesn't witness her receiving any other medical treatment. Jessie is also no longer being treated at Ticehurst. 

After working for six week full-time, Gráinne finally receives her restraint training, during this training she is told of the importance of restraint techniques. One of the ladies giving the training explains how "hopefully you're able to de-escalate the situation before it goes into restraint because restraint is the last resort. You shouldn't be doing it, you should be trying to de-escalate." This is a complete contrast to what we've seen throughout the programme so far, and if they had given Gráinne her training sooner, she may have been able to remind other staff members that it is a last resort. 

Following this, another example of restraints not being used as they should is that Gráinne see's Ash banging her head on the wall, nobody had been out sitting with her and despite Gráinne asking for assistance, it was twenty minutes until two senior nurses arrive on the scene. They immediately tell her how they're going to move to the soft room and start to prepare for a restraint by calling for a five man response. Ash said herself how she didn't need to go to the soft room but three more male workers turn up and the situation quickly escalates with Ash getting very agitated. She screams how she doesn't want people touching her and their response was "well walk then", she also complained that her hand was being twisted and hurt to which the staff members again said "well walk then." They take Ash into a padded room where the restraint continues despite her telling them how much she hates small rooms.

Like many of the patients at Ticehurst, Ash is supposed to receive specialist treatment. When watching this clip, Andrew McDonald stated how this was a blatant over reaction and mentioned how there was nothing that suggested escalating this situation to the next level and that this will cause individuals to get frightened and scared. In this case, the restraint was not being used as a last resort, the staff members had barely even attempted to talk to her. Ash's mum said how she felt that how they behaved with her daughter was cruel and said that "if you're having to brutalise your patients by manhandling them, then you've failed." She added that it doesn't matter if it's done appropriately as an improved hold but you shouldn't have to go to a point where you need a five man response for a child head banging in distress and placing them into a small room that they don't like.

In a different clip, Gráinne is given a talk about the companies finances as part of her induction. We learn that across the country as a whole, the Priory group receives around 720 million pounds per year from both the NHS and local authorities. A senior manager brings up the subject of profit and states how they should have made £253,000 last month yet they only made £54,000 profit. He goes onto explain how "it's a real challenge. Thats not kind of your concern in that respect but it just shows the amount of effort it takes to make any profit." He later explains how their "average daily revenue per patient is about £500 per day, so we're not going to have a lot of profit out of that. Most of it is going onto making the site safe and staffing." I understand having to have conversations with members of staff about funding issues, budgets and where the money is going but to discuss with them that they're not making enough profit, that they aren't making enough money off of their vulnerable patients is disgusting. This is so wrong, psychiatric hospitals should not be used as a way to make money, it just makes you wonder if the staff members on the ward even care about the patients because it is clear that the individuals higher up don't.

Amy's mum said how she felt that all it was to the company was a bank and explained how "our vulnerable children, young adults are making money. It's all it is about, and my daughter was just the little coin in their cash pot."

Throughout her three months working at Ticehurst House, Gráinne found many occasions where it wasn't safe and there was a shortage of staff. On a shift towards the end of her time on the unit, this would be shown more seriously. Gráinne was asking to work with a high risk patient who needs close supervision. The patient seems to be asleep in the lounge but Gráinne hears Ash who is self harming by banging her head hard against a wall in the corridor outside. The ward seems short staffed and Ash is alone so Gráinne tries to help. There wasn't enough radios to go around all of the staff so Gráinne has to borrow one from a colleague. Gráinne checks on her patient who is still asleep in the lounge and calls for assistance to support Ash but there is no response. A minute later, she calls again but still, nobody answers. Her colleague goes to get help and Gráinne returns to check on Ash and although Ash is banging her head, Gráinne is conscious that she has left her 1:1 patient alone and returns to the lounge just over a minute later and by now the patient has woken up and has locked herself in the room. Gráinne again calls for assistance but there is still nobody to help. When Gráinne gets into the room she finds that the patient has found a way to make a ligature with the TV cable. Nine minutes after Gráinne's first call for help, a senior nurse arrives and removes the ligature. 

Watching this angered me as firstly, it is a HDU so why is there not enough staff members on shift? Surely there should be enough members of staff to go around all of the patients considering that this is a unit that probably has a lot of incidences. Secondly, why is there a TV cable that a patient can access? I have already heard numerous times on this documentary that they have recognised ligature points since the death of Amy. Thirdly, what is Gráinne meant to do? She's still fairly new to the job and to put her in a situation where she has no choice but to leave her 1:1 is disgusting. Short staffing should not be acceptable, we already heard earlier in the programme a ward manager saying how "we've got to work out if there's safe numbers to go on" and clearly, there wasn't safe numbers. There have been multiple occasions throughout this programme where an individuals life was in danger, but the senior staff act like they don't care. This is a thirteen bed unit, so why isn't there enough staff members to cover thirteen individuals? What is even more disgusting is that Gráinne wasn't told if the patient was taken to hospital for treatment nor was she asked formally about the incident by the manager or anybody else at the hospital. In this instance, I feel that Gráinne did the correct thing despite being on 1:1 with a patient but to not even be formally asked what went wrong baffles me completely. 

Immediately after Amy's death, the Priory said they'd assessed all known ligature points in all their hospitals. Yet Gráinne saw or heard of five different ligature incidents whilst working on the ward, on a High Dependency Unit may I add.

As well as Amy, there has been four other deaths reported of Children and young people receiving care of other Priory hospitals since 2012 but campaigners say the full extend of similar tragedies in Mental Health units isn't known. Debrah Coles, an execute director of the inquest states how it is very hard to find out how many children die in inpatient settings. The figures are shadowed in secrecy and they are not made publicly in the same way as other settings such as children's deaths in police custody. She says how this is something that parliament needs to address at the highest level.

When Gráinne filmed at Ticehurst, the unit was rated as 'good' by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) but after the Priory was told of the findings in March 2018, CQC carried out an urgent inspection. It confirmed the HDU was working in breach of regulations surrounding care and treatment of patients. But after a later inspection in November, the CQC rating of 'good' was given back to the unit. Ligature points had been address but it wasn't clear if work on these points had been completed.

Recently at Lewis Crown Court, the Priory Group pleaded guilty to a criminal charge over the death of Amy. They were fined three hundred thousand pounds by the judge. The company offered sincere and profound apologies to Amy's family. They said "we also intent to undertake a strategic review of our inpatient units and our CAMHS, to assess how best to respond to the individual needs of patients who are presenting with increasingly challenging conditions and self harm risks."

In response to the programme, the priory said how "we take patient safety extremely seriously and strongly refute any allegation that we put profit before safety. We continue to work closely with our commissioners on improvements to our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. We accept that there are instances shown in the programme where the care provider in 2017 has fallen below the high standards we expect and that our training and induction policies have not been followed. We sincerely apologise for this. We fully investigated these incidents as soon as they were disclosed to us and discussed them openly and candidly with our commissioners and our regulator. We took pro-active steps to address the concerns raised, including improving our risk management processes and providing additional training. Unfortunately, it has also been necessary to refer certain individuals to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This programme is not representative of the CAMHS services provided at Ticehurst House. With the exception of the report from June 2018, all CQC reports in the last six years have found services at Ticehurst to be 'good' overall. The CQC's most recent review in November 2018 found that the standard of care being provided was 'good' in all areas.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 5 May 2019

1 Year Self Harm Free | Overcoming Self Harm

I can't believe that I am writing this post, the post that seemed impossible and the post that I thought would never come. I am one year clean from Self Harm, for the first time since 2012. Six whole years of blood, tears and a poorly brain with no hope that I'd ever be able to stop and here I am, around 365 days clean. I can't believe it.

Self Harm is an addiction, once you start it feels impossible to stop and I have therefore done too much damage to my body, my only body that is with me until the day I die. I can live with this body and I can live with my scars because I wouldn't be who I am today without my journey or without my past. 

Addiction is cruel, it is intense and it can become the most important aspect of your life, turning your lovely, innocent self into what often feels like a monster. This addiction has shaped me into the person I am today. It has been there through my highs and my lows and I depended on it more than anything, I knew it'd get me through each and every day but overcoming it is allowing me to be free. It hasn't been easy, there has been many times when I could have relapsed but something changed in my mind and I didn't want self harm to be part of me anymore, I didn't want the guilt, shame and endless trips to A&E anymore, I wanted to be free, I wanted to be able to live without it, I didn't want to continue using it as my coping mechanism whenever even the smallest of things went wrong, I didn't want to have to wear short sleeves in the summer because I had open wounds, I didn't want to have to look after stitches and staples and I didn't want anymore scars.

I lost so much to self harm but at the time it felt like the only option, the only thing that would make me feel better, even if it was only for five minutes until the reality kicks in of what I had done. I had multiple rounds of therapy, years of treatment for my mental health but throughout it all, the only thing that made anything better was being able to self harm. But I also knew deep down that I didn't want that life anymore, I just couldn't escape. I didn't feel in control of it and in reality, I wasn't, at all. I never wanted to have to go to A&E after each time I'd self harmed, that wasn't my intention but it was as if I blacked out and then all of a sudden I needed treatment. If someone would have told me when I first started self harming that in just a couple of years it'd escalate to needing treatment, something so severe that I didn't even know it was possible then I would have been too scared to continue using it as a coping mechanism. There are a lot of what ifs, what if I had stopped sooner? What if I didn't let it get worse? What if I wasn't covered in all of this scars? What if I did go and seek treatment for all of the ones that needed it instead of feeling like I deserved a huge scar? But we're not here for the what ifs, we're here for the now.

Quitting self harm was a challenge, I didn't wake up one day and decide that enough was enough and that I was never going to hurt myself again because I had tried that countless times before and it never worked, I took each day as it came and every time I got the urge to self harm I just thought about how much pain I was putting the people around me in, it wasn't just about me feeling better and causing pain to myself, I was also projecting the pain onto my family and friends because even if I didn't tell them I'd self harmed, they'd soon notice a new scar appear. It hasn't been easy but as the months went by, I wanted to reach six months clean like I had a few years prior, I remembered how proud everyone around me was and I wanted this time to be the last. Six months past and from there on, I didn't think about how many months clean I was, I just knew that I'd managed six months without it so I needed to keep going and then a few weeks ago it occurred to me that I am almost one year clean. The initially first few months are the hardest, but after that it soon becomes normal and now, I can't see myself ever going back to it. I don't understand how I managed to put myself through that much pain and damage and how it possibly ever made me feel better, but it did and that's how addiction works.

I have permanent scarring covering my body, especially my arms, I sometimes lose sensation in my fingers because of nerve damage, I have dents in my skin, parts of my body are distorted and my scars burn easily in the sun. Self Harm isn't something to brush off as it has lifelong consequences and can be so dangerous but I'm learning to live with my scars and to not be ashamed of them, when I am at home I don't even notice they're there. I know that they will never disappear, but they may continue to fade but as for now, they're a reminder that I don't want to go back to being stuck in the grips of self harm because you can learn to cope in other ways, it just takes some time, commitment and desire.


The UK has the highest rate of Self Harm within Europe with an estimated 400 in 100,000 people self harming however, these rates are likely to be much higher as many people keep it a secret.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Being Left Behind

It's so easy to scroll through instagram and watch everyone around you getting on with their lives, doing amazing things, being out and about and moving away from their illness whilst you're spending every piece of free time that you have, laying in bed with no energy to move or even attempt to do something else. We're so hooked on everyone else, how everyone else lives their life, how everyone else is recovering and it is just as easy to sit there, scrolling through instagram and putting yourself down over the fact that you aren't where they are, that your progress is slower than theirs and getting frustrated over things that are out of your control. But, no matter how hard I try, I always find myself repeating this process over and over again, it is as though I am so hooked on trying to find my own happiness, that I get jealous of everyone else's but in reality, who says that their life is amazing, who really knows how good or bad they are feeling and how many people are telling themselves the same things about my instagram feed? We just don't know.

And then there are the times, every so often when you'll reconnect with old friends who also struggled with their mental health and you hear about how well they're doing and how much better they're feeling which is such a bittersweet moment, because you are so happy that their life is looking up but at the same time, you're so sad that you're still in a similar situation to what you were five years ago and you just wonder how you'd be doing if you took the same turnings in life as they did, but we're all unique, and some peoples recovery is quicker than others. You also wonder how and why you managed to drift so far when you were so close, and now you're almost strangers. Did they get sick of you? Were you both too unwell to sustain the friendship? What went so wrong? When did it all go so wrong? 

I think that although it can be incredibly difficult, it is so essential that we are not always comparing ourselves to everyone else, we are all unique, with different stories and different methods of healing and it is quite ironic that we put ourselves down for not being as 'well' as someone else, when at our worst, we'd put ourselves down for not being as 'ill' as them. We don't always know what is going on in someones life behind the camera, behind the text message or even behind the phone just like others don't know what is going on in ours and it is so important to remember that, because if we keep comparing ourselves to everyone else, then we'll never get better. 

It may often feel like you are being left behind, that everyone else is going to University before you, that everyone is getting on with their lives without you and that everyone got sick of you, but we've all got our own lives, our own demons and our own goals. We must keep moving forward to reach them, and we must not allow ourselves to feel like we are being left behind because we're not, we're just prioritising other things, like our health first.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Monday, 8 April 2019

5 Years in Recovery

This was the first year that I have gotten a week into April without remembering the April that changed my life, the April that I fell to rock bottom, the April that I lost my secrets and the April that I started my journey in Recovery. It has been five years since that April, five years of blood, tears, hard work, failures and achievements and it has been five years of fighting, finding my voice and never shutting up about Mental Health.

Five Years ago today on Tuesday the 8th April 2014, I was in my sixth day of being in general hospital and was waiting for a bed within an adolescent psychiatric hospital. I remember believing I was just going home but in reality, I was just one day away from being taken to a hospital in Cambridge where I spent the following months. It was a horrendous time in my life but we're not here to dwell on the past, we're here to celebrate five years in recovery and all of the achievements that has come with it.

I'm going to be honest, it hasn't always felt like recovery and it is only the past six months that have felt somewhat worthwhile but it has been five years of medication, therapy and honesty that has contributed to getting me where I am today - still a mess, but a little less of a mess than before.

One of the biggest milestones that I really doubted I'd meet was turning 18, my 18th probably wasn't your typical 18th, but I had my family and friends beside me and it was better than I could have imagined and despite not thinking I'd make it to 18, here I am at 21 years old.

I attempted Sixth Form, which may not seem like an achievement considering I dropped out, going back to the same school that I had spent five years at, that I had to miss the last six months of Year 11 at was a big deal because now everyone knew me as the 'crazy girl' and I was constantly smothered and babysat by teachers despite being 16, 17 and even 18 years old at the time.

I got my first job, which I lasted at a year and then after a month off work, I got my second job which I am still at now, three and a half years later and although it has been hard at times, I know that working has definitely improved my mindset and has often been a good distraction from my head.

I have been with my boyfriend for over three years which has been so essential in my recovery and I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without him.

In five years, I have seen Olly Murs more times than I can count and have met him three times (does that count as an achievement?)

I also started this blog in 2016 which has been one of my biggest achievements because it is my own space to write about mental health that others can read and relate to, I have had so many lovely comments from people reading my posts.

Elle has been in my life for five years and we have made our friendship work in a healthy and positive way and we're just as close now, if not closer than we were as room neighbours on the ward.

I decided to go back to College despite the fear of failing again and not knowing anybody on my course and am getting good grades for the first time in well over five years.

I have a conditional offer for my top choice University and will be starting my journey on becoming a Mental Health Nurse in September.

Finally, I am around about one year free from self-harm which is the longest I have ever gone since starting seven years ago.

It may not sound like a lot of achievements for five years, but it is more than I could have imagined and hopefully there will be more to come. I think that five years is a good time to cut off the past and therefore, unless I do an in depth post, this will probably be the last I talk about my psychiatric hospital admission as it is time to close that chapter. I am sure that the next five years will fly by just as quick as these years did and I am intrigued as to where I will be then. Onto Chapter 3: the future.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Impulsivity and Mental Health | a reflection

Impulsivity, Impulsiveness or Impulsive Behaviour is the process of acting on an impulse or urge without thinking about it and it can often be thought as an immediate reaction instead of thinking before acting. It is common within Mental Health conditions, especially Borderline Personality Disorder and individuals who are often impulsive can be impulsive in a range of different things whether this be spending money, taking drugs, engaging in self-destructive methods or breaking the law.

I personally have struggled with being extremely impulsive over the past few years which has usually been surrounding spending money and self-harm. I no longer self-harm, but spending money can still be an issue for me and I try to avoid temptation as much as I possibly can. However, I decided to have a look into the multiple shopping bags that contains my January sales purchases after neglecting them out of shame and realised that I still have a lot of work to do in order to overcome this and I surely can't be the only one with this issue. It's also important to note, that when I impulsively spend money, it is almost always on things that I don't need hence why everything I purchased is still in bags, collecting dust. Having said that, impulsive spending also does make its way into necessary purchases that I need to make; an example being that I recently ran out of face primer and instead of just buying one bottle, I ordered three which was so ridiculous but I just can't always seem to stop myself. I think that one of the main reasons why I continue to shop impulsively is because it does make me feel better and it lifts my mood in the moment but that moment is soon forgotten when I don't even seem to remember buying the product let alone how it made me feel. Its safe to say that it is a bit of a problem, but its not the worst problem to have because the money that I am spending is my own and I'm not getting myself into debt over it but I'm also very aware that it can lead to getting into debt into the future.

On the other hand, I am noticing that my impulsive behaviour is improving which is why I think it is important to take time to reflect on what you've spent money on and what was necessary and what wasn't. One thing that I have learned is that sales are a massive trigger for me to impulsively spend money because I always think that I am getting a 'bargain' and I get excited, carried away and then before I know it the damage is done when in reality, I'm not getting a bargain at all because I wouldn't have bought the item full price anyway. As far as the damage that I spent in the sales goes, it was quite horrendous but everything was 50% off, so I got carried away and one of the things that I got completely obsessed with was buying high end makeup brushes even though I did not need anymore and I ended up spending £90 on sets and single brushes at half price; a grand total of 25 brushes that I have no space for but I now can't bare to get rid of them because I've grown attached and they are good brushes - a mare and a half.

I hope that you have enjoyed and possibly benefited from this post but to conclude, I do have some tips that I have learnt along the way that really helps to prevent me impulsively spending money (some of the time anyway) and the three main tips that I have are to:

  • Avoid shops that you usually spend money in - I often have to go into the city for College and I now resist going into any of the shops, it was difficult at first but now it is normal and its only vary rarely that I actually go shopping.
  • Do a lap of the shop before proceeding to purchase the product in your hand - this has been the biggest game changer for me as before, I'd quickly browse the shop, find some things I like and buy them whereas now, walking around the shop gives me time to reflect on how much money the items will cost, if I need them, if I'll use them and what I could spend the money on if I didn't purchase them.
  • Only pay with cash - this has also been a big step for me because going into the shop, finding something I like, then having to go and get cash out to buy the product before returning to the shop often gives me enough time to realise that I don't really need the product. This step might not be useful to everyone because you'll still have your card with you so you could still buy the product straight away but when I am feeling impulsive, I have it as a little rule that I can only buy the product with cash.
Thank-you for reading, Tay x
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