Our daughter was in seclusion for five days over Christmas. Another patient made a spurious allegation against her and the staff decided to lock her in the solitary confinement seclusion cell.
On the Christmas Eve we called our daughter to say goodnight. The staff said we could not speak to her but wouldn’t explain why. This went on for another several days.
Imagine what it’s like on Christmas Day not being able to speak to your daughter. Imagine the worry at not knowing why,
Seclusion is only for patients that are exhibiting seriously disturbed behaviour. Our daughter isn’t prone to this. We were puzzled. How could she be experiencing such a dramatic turn that warranted seclusion for so long. She’s just not that crazy, just sometimes emotional. Not normally aggressive just anxious.
I asked a doctor what she was saying. He described the way she was shouting and being hostile. He described her state and how she was talking but avoided telling us what she was actually saying.
I asked what message was she trying to get across amid the shouting. Again all we were told was that she was suffering ‘an episode of heightened mental ill-health‘.
I pleaded with the doctor to somehow relay her actual message to me. I suggested letting our daughter to write in ketchup on a paper plate a message that the staff could read out to me over the phone.
It turns out that what she was actually saying was
‘Tell my Dad the staff are abusing me‘
Imagine how it feels after 5 days of isolation to be told that your daughter is afraid of the staff abusing her.
What was actually happening was that the staff had accused her of doing something and she had protested her innocence.
The more she protested, the longer they kept her in seclusion.
This stand-off lasted 5 days. The staff just medicalised her behaviour. She’s shouting that they are treating her unfairly and they keep her locked up with no access to an advocate or solicitor or a call home – no way to get a message out of that cell to someone impartial.
Her doctor had continuously invalidated her feelings and whenever she says staff have threatened her the doctor tells her that she is imagining it.
There is a difference between using seclusion for a mental health disturbance and secluding someone just because they are quite rationally responding to unfair treatment. One is prescribed by the Code of Practice the other is proscribed by Article 3 of the European Convention.
If one was detained by the police (outside of a hospital) based on an allegation there would be safeguards, a time limit and access to impartial advocacy or legal representation. The hospital take the law into their own hands bypassing those safeguards to which everyone else on the outside would be entitled.