When we heard the news we stopped rehearsing for our show and spent the evening reflecting on what has happened this past week.
Below are the transcripts of the recorded monologues and thoughts of us. We are past and current Bootham patients along with those of others supporting our company who are looking at the situation from the outside.
Please read and widely share this blog so that these voices of those with lived experiences of mental health can be heard on this issue and the wider issues of mental health care that the closure of Bootham raises.
When I was in Bootham I wasn’t eating and I refused all the 40 sips. And the way to make eat was the fact I was very particular about my food and the only thing I would eat was the sugar free jelly. I refused to eat the jelly they had there and they wanted me to eat that much that they went out and bought me sugar free jelly.
When I was in Bootham I used to get up a lot during the night. I’d get up every night. I basically had a lot of energy. I was full of life. I felt indestructible. It was great for me but for the staff it was quite scary, I think. There was one night when they were very impatient with me and they got this big security guard on me and he basically took my hand and pulled it back and it really, really hurt. In that moment I felt like ‘I’m in this place and I’m human and I don’t know what’s going on and I’m very vulnerable.’ I felt really scared. That’s my Bootham Story.
I am very concerned that there is no safe place now. There’s no central place. What if someone is on a police section? They’re just going to end up in a cell. I was in a cell for God knows how many hours and they treat you like a criminal. It’s horrific. That’s obviously going to happen now. There’s nowhere for people to go. What do you do is someone has a crises now? What happens? You know they get carted off in an ambulance to Middlesborough. What if it’s the middle of the night? What if their family aren’t around? So it upsets me and I’m worried for people who are ill and struggling at this current time in York, now.
I went to Bootham in 2009. For me I didn’t like it, really. It was the worst time possible but I now realise and I can reflect on how people were really good to bring me back to health and well being. I’m very annoyed how they’ve done this. How they’ll uproot people and put them everywhere. They’re [patients] in a really surreal and bad place in their minds, with no support, and the family will be far away. It’s just a catalogue of errors. It’s disgusting. Its horrendous. Whatever they put the 2 million pounds to was dreadful and it should have been upgraded from the start. I feel sorry for the patients and the staff.
This is a Bootham story. You may have heard it before but it is a Bootham story. ‘They once woke someone up to give him a sleeping pill.’
I went to an OT session and everybody was sat round in a circle and the OT, the occupational therapist said, ‘Right we’re going to go around the circle and I want everyone to say what the worst thing, that is happening in their life right now, is.’ And we went around the circle and there were some people there who were very ill, very paranoid people who were worried about saying ‘the Devil’s got my soul’, people in a really strong state of distress talking about this stuff. And we got all the way around the circle with people saying ‘They’re trying to kill me’ or ‘my family is going to be murdered’ and we got round to the very last woman, the very last person, she said ‘The worst thing that is happening in my life at the moment is, when my husband goes to the toilet, he doesn’t put the seat back down when he has finished.’
Okay, so I didn’t end up in Bootham I ended up in The Retreat. And I know I was very lucky to end up there. They ended up saving my life. I also know I was lucky to get in there because technically I’m not from York. So, I was out of area. But I would never have needed my admission into The Retreat if the NHS hospital back home hadn’t made my mental health condition worse by the way they treated me. I’m thinking about my experiences of two very different hospitals and two very different ways of treating people and hearing what some people have to say about Bootham makes me wonder why is there no centralised way of dealing with people with mental health issues? Have we actually progressed in the way we deal with them or have we not at all? And if people exerted some more compassionmight we get further and somewhere. If we talked more about mental health issues would people who don’t have lived experience of mental health issues fight more to keep places like Bootham open? And would they fight against places that don’t treat people humanely?
Neither Here Nor There
I was there for a short time. I always felt that the place was quite awesome. The fact that it was so old and people had been going there for such a long time really inspired me. I felt perfectly safe thereand I thought the staff did a very good job to help me recover. Also, the people I met there were part of the community of York and they were coming in and out of the place all the time and I thought it was a very good thing. That it was very well connected to the city. I thought to myself if I was shunted off somewhere off to Middlesborough I don’t know how I would have managed or coped. So I think it’s a great tragedy that Bootham is closing and it really speaks volumes about how the place has just been mismanaged . They haven’t put the money into the place where it should have gone. They’ve wasted money and obviously what’s happening now just beggars belief. I think there is some kind of big corruption going on. I think the place is going to get sold and someone’s going to make an awful lot of money at our expense.
I take my kids to play in Bootham pretty much every weekend. We just go by and we get conkers except they knocked down one of the trees so there’s less conkers now. But the thing I like about that, I’ve never been inside, but the thing I like about it is that my kids can walk around Bootham and feel safe and feel like it’s completely normal. It’s not anywhere different from Museum Garden or Dean’s Park. There’s a community of people. People are in there. People are on the outside. People are in and out and there’s no difference between us. But I do recognise what’s special about Bootham, whether it’s run badly or well, is that it is a haven and there needs to be a haven. I think the current government would like to just let everyone get on with it and fall through the cracks so that the strong will survive. So it’s very encouraging that Jeremy Corbyn has appointed a shadow minister for mental health.
I suppose it’s a bit of a shock because it got me thinking that if I was ill now, if I had a diagnosis and wanted help that would be the place that I would go to. And that would happen pretty quickly once I had seen my G.P. I do kind of wonder what people are going to do now. They already struggling to deal with the patients they currently have. I think there is a fear that people get lost in the system, that care would be more sporadic now there isn’t a central place. The way I was at the time and the help they gave was much needed and now there isn’t a central place to go to.
My son, when he was ill at one point and Bootham was full, he had to go to Middlesborough. He was very vulnerable there because he didn’t know Middlesborough. So it wasn’t like he could walk into town and go to the shops. It was difficult for me because I have serious breathing problems and I don’t drive a car. Well, I managed to get someone to help me and drive me to Middlesborough and there was lots of traffic and it was two and a half hours getting there. I arrived thereand the woman said to me, ‘You can’t see him. it’s dinner time.’ So i says, ‘well, it’s taken me two and half hours to get here and probably another 2 and half hours getting back. I want to see my son!’ So she says’ Well, I suppose you can see him for a short while.’ So I saw him for twenty minutes and he was more upset then ever when I went because when he was in Bootham I used to go and seem three or four times a week and I just think it took him longer to get better because of that. Because of that lack of support.
When I was first ill. I was very, very paranoid. I thought at any moment I was going to be tortured to death by anybody - the postman, the taxi driver, the milkman, the IRA, the KGB, MI5, anybody. But I found as soon as I went into hospital that fear almost halved. I was very suicidal, very paranoid, and very frightened. I felt that I might as well get it over with and just kill myself rather than being mutilated to death or whatever. I found that the last time I was in Bootham they were in the process of putting up a bullet proof plastic screen over the gate by the yard where you smoke. And I thought they’ve done that deliberately for me. It’s going to protect me from the Mafia! I just felt very safe there. And without a safe haven you just have the home treatment team which is not enough. They only come for half an hour. I am very vulnerable when i am ill and I don’t want to die by my own hands at home. I need a safe haven.
There are a number of articles in the press on the closure of Bootham. Below are a few links.
Petition to save Bootham Park Hospital
There is also a petition on change.org to save Bootham. You can find it here.
If you have a Bootham story please add them in the comment boxes below. If you would like us to consider using your story in our theatre work please email the converge office with your contact details.