More Madness In East London

Yesterday I mentioned having a similar job to the early morning 'madness' of my 68 year old man. It's partly why I asked you to keep in mind that opposites attract…
We were called to a fourth floor flat in one of the many housing blocks in the East of London where we found an unkempt man in his forties pacing back and forth along the access balcony to his flat.

He wasn't wearing any shoes, socks or a shirt, and his trousers and pants were falling off him.

While pacing he was muttering about God and the Devil. Next to him was another man and the next door neighbour of the patient.

The other man disappeared as soon as we arrived.

The patient obviously had mental health issues, but we also suspected something else was causing this change in behaviour. At one point he made to throw himself over the balcony – we stood in his way to prevent him doing this, and more importantly to stop him making us go through the, frankly hard, work of trying to save his life in the face of major trauma.

As we led him back into his flat to get some shoes/clothes we realised that the reason why he was behaving so strangely might have been exacerbated by drug use. We nearly tripped over an empty bottle of methadone.

The flat was – as I've mentioned before, exactly how you would expect a drug den to look. There was drug paraphenalia strewn around the place, mattresses on the floor and the heavy curtains looked like they had never been drawn.

The patient continued to pace around while occasionally becoming quite agitated. While we didn't think that he would become violent we were still rather wary of getting too close to him or letting our guard down.

After half an hour we had managed to get him dressed and were able to lead him downstairs where we *ahem* 'gently' got him into the ambulance.

While I drove us to the hospital my crewmate did his best to keep the patient calm. We pre-warned the hospital that they would need security and the secure room ready for us. Unfortunately the hospital switchboard wasn't picking up the phone so there was no-one there to meet us when we rolled up outside the A&E doors.

At one point he exposed his genitals to my crewmate – something that the patient I wrote about yesterday did to me.

A bit of a struggle began where the patient wanted to jump off the ambulance and run away, so my crewmate and I ended up restraining the patient until security arrived to help drag the patient into the department's 'padded room'.

So for two days on the trot I've been wrestling with patients in the back of the vehicle.

Once more (and this is with a different crewmate) we felt that it was this sort of job that you have to enjoy in order to remain as ambulance staff. While we like the little old ladies, and the two year olds wth runny noses, there is nothing quite like struggling with a 'mad' person in order to get them the care that they need.

What sturck me as amusing was that on consecutive days the first job of the shift was to someone with an altered mental state who was blaming their God and the Devil, and who would later go on to show us their genitals.

I wonder if it's something in the water?

I've been told by those 'in the know' that people with mental illness now prefer to be called 'mad', I think it's to do with reclaiming the term, much as homosexuals have with the word 'gay'.

24 thoughts on “More Madness In East London”

  1. Absolutely correct. It is Queer that has been reclaimed by the Gay community. It is generally used in a more political context.

  2. thanks for the offer, i may well take you up on it in the future :o) i think everyone i had in mind has got their cases sorted now though (after much wrangling, appeals, intervention from advocates and even local MPs – phew!). i dunno, i think the fact that the specialist mental health employment advice service in this area had its funding cut a couple of years ago left a lot of people up the swanney really – i don't know what kind of agency you were working for so you might not know this, but i'm not sure how much training DEAs receive in disability awareness? the feedback i've had isn't that great :o( (both from people with mental & physical health probs) it's heartening to know though that there's probably a few around who have been there & bought the t-shirt etc – if you need somone who has a true grasp of what disability is and how it's likely to affect you in the workplace, ask an expert! :o)

  3. Wasn't it queer that was reclaimed? Has “gay” ever been pejorative in the way “queer” has been? (Apart from when it was used to indicate (female) prostitution.)

  4. Don't worry about the ones who say they're mad. Watch out for the knife wielder who thinks he's OK, it's everyone else who's mad. Especially the ones who stick that knife in someone and next day forget they've done it.

  5. Psh. It's East London. We do have these occasional 'waves' of madness. Just ride it out and watch out for the flailing limbs!

  6. I've been told by those 'in the know' that people with mental illness now prefer to be called 'mad'It varies from person to person, depending on the nature of their illness. I'm bipolar myself, and I don't prefer to be called 'mad'; I'm a person with an illness – it's just not one that has physical symptoms.

    'Mad', to me, suggests a derangement of the senses in which one is no longer able to distinguish between what is reality and what is the product of a diseased mind; I just get very, very depressed with occasional manic spells in which I dont sleep for three days, am excessively bouncy and creative and occasionally do daft things like microwave lightbulbs for fun – but I never lose track of what is real and what is fantasy. Microwaving lightbulbs may seem like an insane thing to do – but even whilst doing it I'm well aware how daft it is, and I've never done anything truly dangerous whilst manic. I'm at more risk to myself when depressed.

    I would get very upset if someone were to call me mad; I might occasionally joke about being mad as a hatter with someone else who shared my problem, but if a 'normal' person were to appropriate the term and refer to me as mad I would find that offensive. I think you will find the 'homosexuals and gay' analogy to be less apt than perhaps the 'blacks and nigger' one. We can use the term for ourselves, but anyone else using it would be doing so inappropriately and would risk offending the person concerned.

    Why make the distinction between physical illness and mental illness anyway? Mental illness is still biological in nature, even if you can't see physical symptoms or measure it with monitoring equipment in the back of an ambulance; it's an imbalance in brain chemistry that responds to medication. Just call us what we are: sick people. Ill people. Unwell people. Patients.

  7. given that you're more likely to get struck by lightning than be stabbed by a psychotic stranger, there's really nothing to worry about anyway …

  8. what she said ^^whilst i don't entirely agree with the brain chemistry thing (i think it's true for some but not for all people with mental health problems), i do agree that when someone's experiencing or exhibiting symptoms relating to mental illness rather than physical illness, they are still just *ill* and in need of care – no other label is needed, be it “mad” or anything else.

  9. I'm with Arkady too. When I'm in a crisis, I just want someone to accept that I am ill. Not dismiss it as me being mad. Unfortunately, its generally dismissed as me being mad.Though, mad is preferable to “attention seeking vampire sucking the resources out of the NHS..” as I have heard one leading professor of mad people describe people with my diagnoses..

  10. I think that the 'nigger/black' analogy is indeed closer to what I meant. Although I will direct your attention to the following book – sold on MIND's website.Mad Pride.

    Ultimately I think that it's how you treat people that is more important than keeping up with the current 'in vogue' terminology.

    And having a bit of the old 'bad brain chemistry' myself, I definately understand that it's an illness – not a lifestyle choice.

    I also agree that the key thing is the 'illness' (without going into all the baggage that that word entails. If someone wants/needs help then I'm going to do my best to get it for them – if it's the heart attack, the bellyache or the DSH showing me her latest cut.

  11. Agreed – I'm more worried about the slightly dotty little old lady with a confusion causing urine infection, who shoots me with her husband's service revolver while thinking I'm breaking into her house…That or my driving…

  12. I don't know about mad, but I do know that if two ambulance staff forced me into the back of their meat-wagon, I would be bloody LIVID!:-)

  13. The only real difference I've observed is that people with physical illnesses tend to be more determined to get better and prove to everyone that they can live a normal or near normal life, whereas people with mental illnesses (remember this is just in my experience) tend to try and convince everyone how ill they are first.In quite a few cases, although by no means all, mental health patients I have known have been going into shopping centres every day and going to pubs every night and making cross-country journeys by planes, trains and buses to see internet friends, but as soon as someone suggests they try getting a part-time job, or leaning less on the NHS resources like counsellors and so on, they start shouting about how ill they are compared to everyone else in the whole world ever.

    (I particularly remember the woman who said “you get Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance? God, you're so lucky!” Yeah, I feel lucky to be basically housebound or only able to go out for short times if I have available a carer who is physically strong enough to help me out if I get in trouble…)

    My point is that the patients have very different approaches, so it's only to be expected that everyone else will.

    I'm rambling. Sorry. It's half past five am, the baby in the next flat is ill and screaming, I'm not entirely awake.

  14. i'm glad that you acknowledge that your experience isn't representative (at all!!!) batsgirl! ;o) i could go on about how difficult it is to get people to acknowledge you're ill and not just a work-shy malingerer when your health problems are mental rather than physical, or about how hard it is to access mental health services and get adequate support from them, in particular accessing talking therapies like counselling, about how the benefits system is a trap that makes it too risky for people to give part-time work a go to see if it they can cope with it, or about how difficult it is to get an employer to take you on in the first place when you have a history of mental health problems …. i could, but i won't ;o)as for the woman who said you were “so lucky” to be getting IB and DLA – i doubt very much she meant that you were “lucky” to be disabled to the extent that you were receiving that level of benefits, more that you were lucky to have some form of financial stability! (which she probably didn't have as most of the questions on a dla form are geared towards physical disability like when my partner explained to his mum that because i have a disabled person's railcard he could get a discounted fare if he travelled with me, his mum said “oh, that's good” – she didn't mean it's good that i'm disabled ffs!!! not *everyone* is by nature an insensitive idiot, some people just have a poor tact-filter between mouth and brain …

  15. … or someone else's driving… or one of those nasty hospital bugs

    … or avian flu

    … or (fill in the blank)

    crikey! makes me wonder how i've got through 20+ years of life still in one piece ;o)

  16. You're right on a lot of that, but I'll beg to differ with you on one itty-bitty little point. Benefits trap and employers.When I was a teenager an extremely traumatic and violent event occurred in my life, I won't broadcast the gory details but I'm sure you can guess the gist of it. I ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder, colloquially known as “shell-shock”, had to drop out of A levels and enter the mental health system and your so-called benefits “trap”.

    And you know what? I got back into college, then I got a voluntary job, that led to a paid part-time job, WITH financial incentives easily available from the JobCentre, Tax Credits enabled me to have a very comfortable life living on my own in my flat, then I increased my hours, and if I hadn't then had the sodding bad luck to be hit by physical disability I'd be going from strength to strength.

    I knew another woman, mental and physical health problems, was out of work for a decade, got out of the “trap” same time I did and is still doing 16 hours a week after three years because that's what she can manage.

    Conversely a man I know with bipolar who tried to start work under the Permitted Work Rules found, after a few months, that he couldn't handle it at that point. He claimed Twelve Months Benefits Protection and went straight back in at the level of benefits he had been on previously – one short form, no muss no fuss.

    I accept that there may be a few exceptions but on the whole: benefits trap my arse.

  17. There is a benefit trap though for some people.I do think it depends on attitude to what you are going to do if you have been (dis) abled.

    Like myself and Batsgirl, we are prepared to adapt, and actively do so.

    There are those though that want it on a plate with cheese on top.


  18. well, i'm starting to think that my friendship must be some kind of curse, because nobody i know's had an easy time getting back to work and/or getting back on benefits if it doesn't go well! – with the possible exception of our admin guy at work, but i think that has a lot to do with the fact that we're a service user led organisation so we tolerate, nay *embrace* his little quirks and the fact that he tells rude jokes in the morning before your brain's ready to process them. i'm not sure other employers would be so understanding – i could easily see him being labelled as “strange” and then completely marginalised or bullied in more conventional workplaces. i don't know if you ever saw the stuff on social exclusion and mental health from the office of the deputy pm, but the research for that revealed that employers were more likely to consider employing someone with a criminal record than someone with a mental health problem!access to work, work directions, tax credits etc are all really good ideas and i'm sure they help loads of people, but at the end of the day, these schemes are only as good as the people who are delivering them … get lumbered with a crap DEA and you're just as screwed as you would have been before all of that stuff was introduced, unfortunately.

  19. friendship curse my arse as well, so ner :)Look, cards on the table, I started out doing admin and then moved onto helping people with any kind of “social disadvantage” get back to work or to work for the first time. My specific remit was mentally or physically disabled people. And I was good at it.

    When I got sick we dropped my hours down and so on but the fact is that even on a good day (and I don't know in advance which days those will be) and with all the help in the world, I need to rest, as in lie back and snooze, every three hours tops. That time frame would get me up, bathed, dressed, into work and checking email before it was time to go home again. Not do-able. I've got to recover some more before I can get back on the horse of regular paid employment myself.

    But I still have my skills and knowledge and I'm still in contact with people I worked with, so if you have specific cases you want guidance on and there's any chance I can help via email, my address is in my profile, I think.

  20. “I want to do (X highly specific job). That's what my Degree is for.””Well, there isn't anything like that in this town, the nearest business that does that is fifteen miles away, I could try calling them and seeing if they'll take you on for a two week work trial, like work experience you did at school?”

    “I'm not doing two weeks work for nothing!”

    “You'll still get your benefit.”

    “But I'll be working and not getting paid!”

    “Well, how about we write a spec letter, send off your CV, try and set up an interview, then you can at least get an idea of what that industry is looking for nowadays?”

    “I can't travel fifteen miles!”

    “Not even as a one-off? Someone can come with you.”

    “No! It's fifteen miles!”

    “If you got a job there you'd have to travel, unless you moved house.”

    “I'm not moving house!”

    “Well, shall we look at jobs nearer to your home then?”

    “But my degree is for (X highly specific job)…”

    (a sadly not-uncommon conversation from my working days)

  21. Calling myself a service user and woman who has sex with women is just a heck of a lot more hassle than calling myself a mad dyke.PC euphemisms are more insulting than the slang terms they were invented to protect us from.


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