"I was in distress in a mental health facility, and the only person to show care and concern was a member of the public"

About: Inpatient mental health care (Lewisham)

(as the patient),

I was taken to an admissions unit under a section 136. I was there for a total of 6 hours. For the first 3 hours, I sat calmly causing no problems at all waiting to be assessed by a doctor and a social worker. Staff supervised me while I waited to be assessed and in my opinion, I gave no cause for concern.

After 3 hours, new staff started their shift. One of the senior members of staff on the unit came into the 136 suite and asked for my shoes which had laces and any property I had. I said I had caused no problems thus far but still handed over my property. They asked if I had a phone. I explained that I had an iPhone and that I didn't feel comfortable handing it over. I explained again that I had not caused any problems for the past 3 hours, that it was not possible to harm myself with a phone, and that, being a £600 phone, I would not even contemplate damaging it. They began shouting at me, and speaking down to me. At no point did I become violent towards them or raise my voice, which is not what I can say for them.

Because I would not hand over my phone, they called for the response team which consisted of three males and two female staff. Two men came from behind and held me down. They all held my legs and my arms while one person retrieved my phone. I began struggling, screaming at them that this was not necessary. Even after they had taken my phone, they still restrained me. I continued to struggle. They then began pulling at my trousers. I screamed "What are you doing?". My trousers were pulled down to just above my knees. I continued screaming, asking what they were doing. They said nothing. They then held me down to the floor, put my hands behind my back pointing upwards and held me there for a minute, my trousers still around my knees. Then a staff member said "are we finished?" and they all let go of me. I immediately pulled my trousers up. The whole restraint lasted about 5 minutes, though they had taken my phone within the first 30 seconds. In my opinion, they enjoyed restraining me and seeing me struggle.

As soon as the restraint had ended I immediately began to have a panic attack. I have a history of sexual assault and what they had just done, and the fact that my trousers had been pulled down, brought everything to the surface. I began to cry frantically, hyperventilating and shaking. I was cowering in the corner. The staff began to laugh out loud at me. They stayed there for a further 5 minutes watching me in distress and they were laughing. They left apart from two staff who stayed to supervise me.

After about 20 minutes I was still having a panic attack, my chest began to hurt, I was having difficulties breathing and hyperventilating, my heart was palpitating and I couldn't feel my hands or feet. I was terrified. I asked the two staff to get a doctor. They replied by saying that I was being silly, and that I was doing this to myself. I begged them to get a doctor.

They then said we'll take your blood pressure and vital signs. I screamed at them that I didn't want them to touch me, and asked them again to get a doctor. They didn't. They said I'd been sitting there quietly (which I clearly wasn't), and that I could wait for the psychiatrist. I told them I wanted a medical doctor and told them about the chest pains. I then heard one of them say they needed to cover their backs and they then got the a senior member of staff, the same one who called the response team earlier.

This member of staff came in and began shouting at me telling me to stop being silly and that the doctor (psychiatrist) was on their way.

I asked for a medical doctor. The member of staff then shouted that they weren't going to get a doctor for me. I was clearly in a state of distress, hyperventilating, shaking and I was clutching my chest as I was having chest pains. They didn't get anyone for me the whole time I was having a panic attack. Despite having two staff permanently with me for supervision, not one person attempted to calm me down. I am amazed that being a mental health facility, not one member of staff tried to minimise my distress or talk to me.

I was in a state of panic for a total of an hour before I began to calm down. A further hour later, I was seen by the psychiatrist still in distress and crying. I explained what the staff had done to me and the psychiatrist said they would investigate it. They knew about my history of sexual assault and understood the distress I was under. They apologised for what had happened.

I was then released from the section 136. When I left the Unit, I cried frantically in the middle of the street. It was a member of the public who actually stopped to ask if I was ok, the first person (apart from the psychiatrist) to show some concern for my distress. This person called a taxi for me and stayed with me until it arrived. The fact that I had just come from a facility which is supposed to help people in mental distress, and that it was a member of the public who showed the care and concern that should have come from the nurses at the Unit, I believe brings shame and disgrace to South London and Maudsley NHS trust.

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Responses

Response from Patrick Gillespie, Service Director, Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Betty123, Many thanks for this further feedback. As you're aware, we are concerned to hear about this and your earlier experiences and we're glad that you're in communication with us directly. We take your comments very seriously and we will be undergoing a thorough investigation. With all our best, Patrick
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