Saturday, June 21, 2014


‘It’s called Euphoria. I took it yesterday. Someone’s been following me around ever since.’
‘Have you had that feeling before?’
He sticks out his bottom lip, studies me a moment, then says: ‘He wants to cut my throat.’
A short-legged, thick-set man in his mid-twenties, Michael has the look of a taller man that’s been beaten into the ground like a tent peg. He has a gloomy, fidgety air about him, dividing his attention between us, the front door and the staircase behind him.
‘Maybe we should run you up the hospital so you can talk to someone there about how you’re feeling.’
‘I’ve got to get my fags first.’
‘Okay then. We’ll wait here.’
He turns on the spot and trudges robotically tread to tread up the stairs, his left hand sliding up the rail, until he disappears round the corner. He doesn’t look back, even at the turn.
‘Can I have a word?’
The hostel manager holds the door of her office open. When we’re both inside, she shuts it carefully behind us.
‘Michael’s been with us about six months,’ she says, the computer chair squeaking as she settles.
‘His substance abuse has been getting a bit out of hand lately, but this is a new development. Are you taking him to hospital?’
‘I think it’s probably the safest option.’
‘Fine. I’ll just let our team leader know what’s happening, then I’ll give you a sheet with his personal information.’
She swings round and calls a number.
I tell Rae that I’ll wait back outside in the lobby, just in case Michael comes back down and wonders where we are. In fact, it’s a few minutes before he arrives, puffing on a joint.
‘Where’s your friend?’ he says.
‘She’s just getting some more information from the manager.’
‘What information?’
‘The usual – you know. Date of birth, medication, how long you’ve been here. That kind of thing. Which means I won’t have to bother you by going through it all.’
He doesn’t react at all, but takes another drag on his joint, which crackles audibly.
‘One thing I have to ask you, Michael. Have you got any weapons on  you? Any knives or sharp objects?’
He looks over my shoulder, like he expects someone at the door any moment, then back to me.
‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘It’s my throat he wants to cut. Not yours.’


TomVee said...

Sheesh. Not only paranoid and out of his head on drugs, and now doesn't e en want to share his knives with you. What is the world coming to?
BTW I guess I know who's following him: His dealer.

Spence Kennedy said...

We had to take comfort from the fact that the hostel manager said he didn't have a history of violence or self-harm, and was thought a low risk. Still, not a comfortable ride in.

On a wider note, I have to say that as things stand currently, Mental Health patients often have a difficult reception at hospital. We have to wait with them in the triage area for the initial assessment - an open area that's often as busy as a coach station, sometimes with quite distressed patients. For someone suffering from anguished feelings of one kind or another, it's far from ideal!

Anyway, cheers for the comment, Tom!

TomVee said...

My guess is that your average hospital is not really equipped to handle MH patients? These cuts in financing MH that have gone through the UK in the recent years now come back to bite you. And I bet it is even more expensive dealing with MH patients in A&E that in a dedicated setting. yes I know you have MH clinics but it seeems to be increasingly difficult to get a patient admitted.

Spence Kennedy said...

You're right, Tom. It'd be great if we could take MH patients straight to a dedicated facility, but it won't happen anytime soon. Hospitals do their very best to cope, but at busy times (which is most times), they struggle. There should be better community support, too, of course, but in these austere times that support is rather thin on the ground. When you consider how many people are affected - directly or indirectly - it's a shockingly under resourced area.

Cassandra said...

"‘Don’t worry,’ he says. ‘It’s my throat he wants to cut. Not yours.’"

Still didn't answer the question, kid.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

My thoughts went the same direction that Cassandra's did: he adroitly sidestepped answering, didn't he ?~!

Spence Kennedy said...

I know! Actually, I think I did press the point (so to speak) and he denied having anything on him.I couldn't pat him down like the police, and the manager didn't think he was a risk, so we had to leave it at that. He was fine en route, though - a bit edgy, but that was all. I did feel sorry for him at the hospital. It was so busy it couldn't have helped his paranoid feelings.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Lynda

He was a bit evasive. I couldn't decide whether there was premeditation & an instinct for the dramatic about it, or whether he was an actual risk. In the end we were guided by the manager, and our gut instinct (which was that he was probably okay). :/

petrolhead said...

I suffer from MH problems, and have recently been diagnosed with autism and ADHD and have always had a tough time when I go to A&E. The staff are distant, not as friendly when I go with MH problems than medical ones. Sometimes they just don't know how to deal with me. The psychiatric hospital is absolute hell too!

Spence Kennedy said...

Sorry to hear that, PH.

You'll know better than me, but I think when the pressure's on at hospital, one of the first things to go is the amount of time & energy the nurses feel able to give each patient - which, for someone presenting with a MH problem, is bad news. It's a little better once you're through the initial triage, when you might actually have a chance of talking to a specialist, but that can be quite a while. I don't know what the prognosis is nationally for these things. Austerity-wise, not so great, I would think... :/

Hope you're getting the help you need now, though! :)