Prior to having my own struggles with mental health, upon hearing that someone had been sectioned, I, like many people, immediately conjured up the stereotypical image of someone being restrained by the police and taken away to a secure psychiatric hospital. Whilst this is what happens to some people, it is an extreme and certainly does not represent the way sectioning works for the majority of people who require it.
How do I know?
Because I, at the age of 16, was sectioned.
Depsite the way sectioning is portrayed by the media, I wasn’t taken away in a police car like a criminal, chained to a hospital bed to never see the light of day again, I was taken to hospital in an ambulance, the same way any ill person would be. There was no trying to escape, banging on walls and screaming, as the media often tries to portray, there was just support and kindness.
Whilst I can’t deny the fact that being sectioned was hard, traumatic even, without that having happened to me, I genuinely don’t think I would be here today. I think I would be dead, for time and time again, I was told that my illness was getting out of control and that I needed more intensive treatment, but time and time again, I refused to accept help.
Eventually, however, the decision to be admitted to hospital was taken out of my hands when a team were sent to my house to assess me under the mental health act.
I can remember the day of the assessment like it was yesterday. Finishing sixth form early, I arrived home to be greeted by strangers in my living room who were about to tell me my fate.
Despite saying what I thought were ‘all the right things’, I ended up being sectioned, as when the weighing scales came out, my attempts to prove that I was perfectly fine fell onto deaf ears.
I wasn’t expecting to be weighed, and so when I heard that I had to be, I panicked. I hadn’t water-loaded, so I knew that by standing on those scales, I might as well have been walking straight into the back of an ambulance.
And so, that was it.
I was sectioned- detained under section 3 of the mental health act.
An Ambulance was called and I had approximately 10 minutes to pack a bag (which, I hadn’t done in advance because I was so confident I wouldn’t be going anywhere), and say goodbye to my Dog.
Upon my admission, I tried to push the fact that being on a section 3,as I were, meant that I could be forced to stay in hospital for up to 6 months, to the back of my mind.
I just had to stay positive, and hold out for my 3 weekly reviews.
Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunatey now I look back, my section wasn’t to be lifted any time soon, regardless of the fact that I was doing everything I was asked (a.ka. I was, ‘eating to get out.’) But still, week after week I clung on to the hope that tomorrow would be the day when I would be free again- free to live my life like any other 17 year old. I had to cling on to that hope, or I don’t think I would’ve coped in there. It wasn’t just the treatment that was hard, it was the being away from my family too. Since being a little girl I have always very much been a ‘home bird.’ I used to hate going on school trips and would avoid them at all costs if it meant spending a night away from home. So being in hospital for so long, for what turned out to be 7 months (including my stay in general hospital), was so, so hard.
But, it was worth it, because being sectioned saved my life, helping me to get to the place I am at now, a place where I can use my past experiences to help others.
So, if this post has taught you anything, I hope its that there is no stigma in being sectioned. You shouldn’t feel ashamed,or embarassed, you should feel grateful that there is so much help and support out there, even for when you don’t think that you need it.
But,most importantly, I hope that this post has taught you a very important fact;