Archive for the social work and social policy Category

Alternative Therapy

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on August 12, 2014 by leovineknight

“You’re going through a tough time Steven” somebody commented.
“It could be better” I agreed, not really in the mood for talking.
My interlocutor was Stan, a man of about my age who had been admitted to the ward three weeks ago with an acute relapse of psychosis. He was stable again now, and I had been impressed with his articulate understanding of mental illness, society and the ward. He seemed curiously at peace, even though his family rarely visited and his early promise at university had been annihilated by schizophrenia and lengthy periods of hospitalization. His ‘romantic life’ had disappeared at roughly the same time as his success, and no doubt this had made him sensitive to my current plight.
“I’m afraid they don’t really understand places like this” he said. “It’s embarrassing and frightening to them.”
“I suppose you can’t blame them for wanting to be somewhere else” I said.
“Yeah. Love and morals only take people so far. Then it’s ‘what about the children’, and ‘I deserve a life too’. “
“You don’t think she’ll be back then?”
“Who can say? I’m only glad I don’t rely on things like that any more.”
“So what will you be doing when you leave?”
“I’ll go back to the village.”
“Where’s that?”
“C——- Village. It’s one of the religious communities up on the H—— hills.”
“Oh, one of the therapeutic communities?”
“I suppose you could call it that, but it’s really a way of life rather than therapy. About half the people who live there have never had a mental disorder, they just like the idea of working as part of a large family. It’s back to basics, of course, and ‘close to nature’ in a way which sounds cheesy, but really isn’t. You ought to come out and see for yourself.”
The tea trolley trundled around the day room, interrupting our conversation, and my mind began to tick. I was in the mood for radical changes, as people always are when a crisis breaks the mould of routine and complacency. Could C—— Village provide a solution for me? I knew that these places sometimes took whole families, and my imagination began to soar in a wildly evangelical direction. Could I persuade Carol…..?


Solipsism or Bust

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, life and modern times, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on May 23, 2014 by leovineknight

On my way down the street, I noticed the old lady brushing the pavement in front of her house again, while the two post-punk wastrels were once more spending their valuable time taunting the old dear with monosyllabic insults and girlish tittering. Without further ado, I arranged for these fine young people to be escorted to the public toilets by four nightclub bouncers, who carefully supervised them cleaning the urinals with cotton wool buds, before enlisting them in the army. I then marched steadfastly on towards the council estate – ready to face my greatest challenge.
Happily, my super powers did not fail me, and I surged through the streets erasing graffiti, repairing fences, replanting shrubs, replacing broken windows, and sweeping up seas of glass shards and rubbish, like Robocop on a mission. The blue police lights were again illuminating the sky above the pubs and shops in the centre, and I observed an embattled young constable trying to control a mass of braying half-wits by wagging his finger at them. It was time for real action, and I transported the policeman to a safe position outside the estate, replacing him with a battalion of seasoned commandos who easily rounded up the gurning thugs and took them away in cattle trucks for a year’s moral retraining on Dartmoor. One jug-eared oaf temporarily escaped, and complained:
“This ain’t fair! They must be breaking some law doing this!”
Pointing out his hypocrisy in seeking shelter from the very law he had flouted with contempt all his half-life, I sent him spinning towards his whining chums with a contemptuous flick of my finger. The last truck moved off with shrill piglet screams emanating from the back, and rousing applause echoing down the streets as grateful residents reclaimed their lives for the first time since 1991. Handing my garlands to a young girl with large green eyes and raven ringlets, I then quitted the estate like Elvis Presley leaving Hawaii, and set sail for home at last.
A heady combination of fairground lights, perfumed air, and the stentorian boom of my own heartbeat, propelled me along the roads of Edwardian houses and down the gentle slope to our little ‘neighbourhood watch’ retreat. I put pink spots on the matching silver cars, introduced the workaholic man to his workaholic wife, and changed our three bed-roomed house to a four bed-roomed villa so that the copyists across the road would have an interesting experience the following morning. I strode into the house, found Carol waiting patiently for me in her dominatrix outfit, and gratefully accepted a glass of vintage claret which she handed across to me, whilst winking a welcome at my hump-fronted trousers.
“Welcome home esteemed husband. May I give you succour?”
“By all means, my dear.”
I settled back and watched the hypnotic grind of her athletic white flanks, while Motorhead played sweetly through my headphones, and a Cuban cigar sat snugly behind my right ear.
“I’m going to discharge myself, in a minute” I said.
All was well with the world; and perversely I slept.

“Wake up” said a distant voice.
The problem was, I couldn’t. I really couldn’t.


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on February 4, 2014 by leovineknight

I passed the duplex (or should it be duplo) apartment blocks, and the space that was once occupied by a fine Regency hotel, and I wondered why our town had to be like everybody else’s. I felt some change jingling in my pocket, looked at the cheap breeze-blocks stacked in a corner, and intuited the answer. An original sandstone wall still stood defiantly around the cleared area, and I felt pleased that this tiny piece of my childhood had escaped the reclamation yard, even though it now doubled as a white board for dullards’ ‘tags’.
Around the corner a whole avenue of Georgian buildings had remained intact, but they had been inhabited by D.S.S. colonists and now the option was clear; flaking paint, rotting timber, the odd boarded window, and groups of unemployable wastrels wandering back from the off licence with gallons of cider, baseball caps, and guttural voices. An old lady was outside clearing the slush and litter off her doorstep, while two fine youths with lager cans sat opposite in the concrete portico of the community centre, aiming obscenities at her. The icy pavements had apparently been polished by a proud council.


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on January 28, 2014 by leovineknight

The air was icy and invigorating, and it filled me with a second wind as I set off across the car park towards home and hearth. Bleak streets were covered in half frozen slush and peppered with the yellow stains of dog and cat, while complaining drains choked and spluttered under their seasonal load of flood water, crisp packets and grime. Yet attitude is everything, and by simply walking out of the prison door I could now imbue these mundane sights with a wonderful piquancy; a sort of thrilling aesthetic so different from the useless, pointless farce of the last twelve hours. I had a little bit of freedom, however cold and damp the streets were, and it stretched like a thrilling rainbow away from the confines and contrivances of the psychiatric policy world I had just left. I drew the air in hungrily, and walked away from the hospital, my spirit flickering back on.

Mass Debatable

Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on January 21, 2014 by leovineknight

Cecilia’s downfall didn’t cause much of a stir with the night nurses, because things of this sort were always happening, and there was a constant shuttle service of ambulances from our psychiatric hospital to the General, often running on a more regular basis than the local buses. After she’d gone, we sat around the biscuit tin and justified ourselves a bit. One nurse said:
“Well, something was bound to happen to Cecilia. She was getting more and more agitated and the drugs just didn’t do anything for her.”
“I’m afraid it was a bit of poetic justice really” I said.
“Yes, she got away with bloody murder” said Alec. “It would have been different if she was my daughter.”
“She’s got a basic personality problem, and the drugs don’t make a scrap of difference to that.”
“A bit more discipline earlier in life might have helped.”
“Or even now” I commented. “She’s already kicked a pregnant woman in the stomach and broken someone’s arm on this unit, but the police don’t want to know about it.”
“On the acute unit, one of their nurses got a broken nose, so they took the person to court. The judge threw the case out, even though the Consultant told him the patient knew exactly what they were doing at the time.”
“Yeah, being in a mental hospital gives you more immunity than a foreign diplomat with seventeen inoculations.”
“No wonder it’s becoming so popular.”
“One tearaway I know makes for the community team every time he assaults someone. By the time the police get to him, he’s always incoherently ‘hypo-manic’ in hospital – case dropped.”
“Yeah, it’s easy to forget that some people are mad and bad.”
“ And some people are just plain bad.”


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , on January 2, 2014 by leovineknight

At 4.00a.m, I heard the first few early risers shifting around their wardrobes and running their taps to let us know that they were up, while the rest turned off their radios and began to settle down for a morning in bed. There was a crescendo of shouting, hooting, soiling, wetting and washing as the patients were ‘assisted’, and then we dragged our bodies to the office ready for release. A recently bathed patient appeared at the office door with a fresh brown wet patch on the back of his trousers just as the early staff arrived, and snide accusations of indolence rained down on us like shrapnel, from a choral row of saintly know-it-all faces.
Thinking how easily our explanations had been dismissed, I chipped the opaque frost from the windscreen of my car and watched the world wake around me; a fox scavenging in the bins and the first siren of the day. The hydraulic tappets clattered and I pulled away onto the street, passing the man with the dog who always waved even though I didn’t know him, and the man without a dog who never waved, even though he was our next-door neighbour.
I bounced over the 4” traffic calming humps and dropped down the 3” sunken drainage covers, wondering why they’d bothered relaying the roads when the original potholes had provided a better surface. I took a slalom course around the deepest pits on the main road, looked out for tank drivers testing their vehicles, and remembered how my kids called this the Grand National, whooping with joy at the water jump.
Arriving home at last, I parked the car in the garage, and then reversed it out again because I couldn’t open the driver’s door far enough to get out. I thought how the garage was probably more suitable for a Doberman than a car and I saluted the people who had become so very rich with all those saved bricks, as I shuffled out sideways like a half dead crab. I went to bed as the kids were getting up, then attempted to sleep while the neighbour mowed his lawn, the window cleaner watched me closely, and the latest conservatory went up around the corner. I felt my body saying night time and my mind saying daytime, while the kids were saying “hello, where have you been?”


Posted in Biographies and Inside Stories, Blogging, jobs, careers and work, mental health, social work and social policy with tags , , on December 1, 2013 by leovineknight

I left the house when the kids were going to bed, scraped the sleet off the car and drove past the snug little bungalows with their billiard table lawns and miniature wishing-wells; my mind going forwards and the world going backwards. It was too soon for revellers and too late for shoppers, leaving the dark streets lanced by yellow beams, deserted and sad, washed by filthy rain, and swept of meaning.
Even before I entered, the wails and monotones reached out of the unit’s front door like a monastic chant, but I forced a grin at the annoying levity of staff on their eager way home, as the old tired rituals began once again.
After three hours had passed, I watched the last chain-smoker going to bed, wishing I was in mine, and I flinched as the gathering silence was shattered by a patient deciding to run a bath at midnight. There was more silence, more doors, more wandering souls, then a period of tenuous tranquillity as the clock moved slowly on to 2.00a.m. Armies of unseasonable flies, wasps, mosquitoes and moths floated and buzzed around the hot reviving lights, while my eyes struggled to concentrate on a Bronte classic rendered meaningless by fatigue. Needing to walk around just to stay awake, I inspected the tightly screwed on, plastic covered prints of impressionist scenes for the tenth time that night, and heard every snore, sigh and mumble in the building – not because they were near, but because I was sensitised to the slightest sound, like an unwilling guard dog.

%d bloggers like this: