ASYLUM and BEDLAM: The Anti-Psychiatric Strain in Some Recent American Novels

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Both are examples, over two hundred years apart, of user-led participation in the construction of caring institutions.

Wellcome Collection: Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond

Leadbitter is the instigator of MadLove, a project funded initially by Unlimited, and his 3-D multi-coloured model of his user-designed asylum is a splash of vivid and vibrant energy in the rather dully lit and gloomy exhibition overall. But some exhibits clanged. Four books by Foucault, Laing, Szasz, and Goffman in a glass case? A bottle of Largactil?

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A prospectus for Princess Park Manor — Friern transformed into a gated community for twenty-first century metropolitans? Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond offers a space in which to contemplate what has gone before and what could come again, namely the better aspects of care the best of the old asylums aspired to alongside input from the people who could end up using them. Podcast, writer, visual and performance artist, gobscure talks to Disability Arts Online's Editor, Colin Hambrook about psychiatry through the lens of the social model of disability.


  1. Antares - Episode 1: 01;
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They discuss the power of language, the languages around mental health and how gobscure's writing has been Laura Miles interviews Project Coordinator, Rachel Johnston, to tell the story of how the archive came Agree with you, Richard, although there were some good bits, such as Madlove Project, I found most of it lacklustre and am so angry to see nothing about the survivor movement in the exhibition. Who he? But yes — there was the Hearing Voices Cafe, but I think as you say Dolly that whole history of patients reclaiming their experiences, highlighting abuses, agitating for change, was largely left out.

Perhaps you and I need to pitch Wellcome and curate an exhibition that tells this story?

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Very happy to pitch the idea to Wellcome and curate it with you. John, Dolly — I think you must have missed the Core Arts audio installation! You had to collect headphone from the front desk to hear it. Search the DAO website. Podcast ep. Most reacted comment. Hottest comment thread. He had missed a critical heart check-up.

She convinced him to start taking his medication, but could not get any more help for him. Twenty percent of prisoners have four of the five major mental health disorders depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia and autism. Despite thousands of prisoners needing mental health treatment, there are huge bed shortages. New figures from NHS England show just high-security and 3, medium-security beds are available. Most patients will stay in mainstream prisons, where their medication regimes are unsupervised and over-stretched nursing units are their only hope of treatment.

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And for those unlucky enough to share a cell with someone who should be hospitalised, a jail term can turn into a death sentence. By any account, it was a mismatch: McNally, 34, was a petty criminal and convicted killer starting a life sentence, while Hesketh, 37, was serving four months for driving while disqualified.

They would have spent upwards of 20 hours a day in each other's company. But there was a further difference: McNally was psychopathic and deeply paranoid; he believed himself to be "Satan's hands and eyes". One night, Hesketh was sitting on his bed rolling a cigarette when McNally approached him from behind and, using a torn T-shirt, began to garrott him. Hesketh fell to the floor. McNally knelt on his back until he stopped breathing. A year later, McNally admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was given a second life term. He told investigators the killing was "exciting, better than sex", and that he would kill again if given the chance.

At the inquest into Hesketh's death, the jury heard that McNally had been diagnosed as having an "emotionally unstable personality disorder", with symptoms leading to outbursts of anger and violence. In the weeks before the killing, he had daubed the walls of their cell with satanic sayings, and frequently lost his temper. Prisoners told the jury that everyone was aware of how unstable he was becoming. All prisons are required to carry out a risk assessment before placing inmates in shared cells. This was not the first homicide by an inmate with mental health problems. His killer, Robert Stewart, also 19, was found to have a deep-rooted personality disorder.

Our investigation has found that, of 18 resolved prison homicides since then, half were committed by people suffering from a serious mental illness. In two cases, the murderers disembowelled their victims. Untreated mentally disturbed prisoners are also a danger to themselves. According to figures released by the Ministry of Justice in January, suicide rates in men's prisons in England and Wales have reached their highest levels in years. In , there were 70 suicides, more than at any time since In women's prisons, the rate is dropping, largely due to safer custody measures recommended by Baroness Corston in a report published in The report was commissioned following a steep rise in the female prisoner suicide rate, including six deaths in a year at Styal prison in Cheshire in Self-harm levels in women's prisons, however, remain high.

Some women slip through the new safety nets, too. In January, an inquest jury recorded a verdict of suicide for year-old Amy Friar , found hanged at Downview prison, Surrey in The jury heard she had a history of mental ill-health, depression and self-harm.

'We are recreating Bedlam': the crisis in prison mental health services

She was also a victim of rape and domestic violence. Later, that was reduced to nighttime only, despite an objection from a senior prison officer who thought she still posed a risk to herself. There were no observations in place on the day she killed herself. The situation is not helped by the fact that mental disorders are often viewed by management as a discipline problem rather than a health issue. Woodhill prison in Buckinghamshire houses a Close Supervision Centre CSC , one of three set up in to hold the most disruptive and violent prisoners — not, supposedly, those with mental health issues.

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But in a letter seen by the Guardian in , the unit's manager noted that "the presence of a mental disorder or personality disorder is not uncommon within this population". In , one prisoner in the unit sliced off both his ears in two separate incidents, and last October, another inmate cut off his ear. Inmates at Woodhill CSC, past and present, told us mental health support is "virtually non-existent".

Most prisons employ mental-health teams, but numerous reports bear witness to the strain they are under, with a handful of specialists often responsible for the entire prison. A critical point was "to facilitate the earliest possible diversion of offenders with mental disorders from the criminal justice system," through dedicated psychiatric staff at police stations.

Last January, a national inspection report showed that little progress has been made on that front. Only one of the police forces that inspectors visited had such a mechanism in place. Most mentally ill prisoners are still sent to prison, not to hospital. There are slight signs that this might be changing. In January, the government announced a pilot scheme in which mental health specialists were employed at 10 police stations.

But it could be years before any effective change to the system occurs. But even if prisoners do reach secure units and are given treatment, problems then arise due to bed shortages. Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health , however, dismisses this statistic: "These low-security beds are never used by the prison service.

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