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Nasty Pieces of Work

August 1, 2017

It’s 7 years now since Steven was in the unit but he can still come up with a story from his time there that leaves me wanting to commit acts of unspeakable violence.

This morning we were watching a programme about Classic Number Ones. It came to Blondie and Heart of Glass. During the interview Debbie Harry and Chris Stein said that the song was “a deliberate strategy to move away from our earlier sound”.

Steven jumped off the sofa and ran into his bedroom and I could hear him repeating “deliberate” over and over to himself.

Eventually he reappeared and called me into the kitchen. When any of the support workers are around, the kitchen is Steven’s preferred place for a quiet chat with me.

He started the tale with: “P and M was in the office at M House”. (It pisses me off that I still have to adhere to the court order and not name people or places).

Then the killer line:

“That SN is always deliberate. He’s a nasty piece of work”.

This was two senior officers discussing Steven and he must have heard what they said. Or perhaps he was in the room with them and they spoke about him as if he wasn’t there.

Everything about the sentence makes me fume.

“SN” – I asked him and Steven knew that he was “SN”. It’s one thing to write about someone using their initials but to talk about him in initials? Step one of the dehumanising process.

“Deliberate” – Steven understands “deliberate” in the context of, he deliberately broke that cup. It wasn’t an accident. I’m sure P and M didn’t mean that. I’m sure they were referring to his behaviour in general. But then they spent all year trying to deny Steven his autism diagnosis.

“Nasty piece of work” – he was a distressed, vulnerable man in your care, you cunts.

In fairness, this story had more effect on me today than it did on Steven. He wasn’t upset when he told me and as soon as he’d finished the story, he was beckoning me back into the living room because by now the programme was up to The Supremes and Baby Love.

It was me that was floored. It’s me, who five hours later, can’t get the mental picture of those two people out of my head.

This is the attitude that allows people to spend years in ATUs.

This is the attitude that allows people to die preventable deaths in ATUs.

This is the attitude of an army of nasty pieces of work.


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  1. Marie Strawberry permalink

    Having been a mental health inpatient, I’ll tell you that it’s certainly a thing for staff to have unpleasant discussions about you right across your head while you’re in front of them. Probably meant to be deniable after the fact, they will all swear you head by accident. Also a good way I suppose to get you to kick off in some way they can play off of.

    Might interest you that it’s also a thing for services to employ moonlighting prison officers as, well something. Consultants themselves don’t even seem to be aware of it, only found out much later when it was mentioned by some prison officers who worked at secure children’s accommodation who I met with re a volunteer placement. Explains some things, though I still maintain that actual nurses are the worst.

    Baiting is a cushy gig for a nasty nurse as they’re usually not the ones who have to clean up what they started.

  2. judyb permalink

    Why work with people if you don’t like people? Saw report in today’s paper about a young woman who died of an overdose while a paramedic told her to stop faking it. Same attitude…if you are paid to look after people why is it ever acceptable not to look after them?.

  3. Marie Strawberry permalink

    It goes well beyond simply not not looking after people… well into complete and utter dereliction of duty 😦

  4. Pauline Thomas permalink

    It’s always the past horrors of the things that were done or said to my son that still come and haunt me today. Like you Mark I want to punish the bastards that did this to my son.

    One incident that actually changed my son forever happened 18 years ago. He was being sexually abused by another service user This older man was creeping up behind him in the dining hall and fondling his genitals. The worst of it was that the day centre staff and many other clients thought this was hilarious. They were laughing. My son was being humiliated in front of his peers by people who should have been protecting him. They did not stop his man abusing my son, instead they became my son’s tormenters too.

    My son became withdrawn and would not eat. My next door neighbour said to me that she thought he had ‘lost his sparkle’. . I was unaware what was happening at the day centre at the time and I was getting worried by his sad moods. I am still at a loss to know why he did not tell me what was going on. However it was another service user who blew the whistle. He told my husband what was happening one friday night at the Gateway club. My son said that it was true and started to cry.

    The Police were called, but everyone involved were deemed unreliable witnesses and nothing was ever done to punish the staff. We, at the time, felt sorry for the parents of the man who had done this to my son (he was after all a man with LD).

    To this very day my son cannot bear anyone to be laughing or talking at the dinner table. Family meals were never the same after that. He still cannot bear anyone tapping him on the shoulder. He had flashbacks for along time after. Unfortunately many professionals do not believe that anyone with a learning disability are capable of having flashbacks because they believe they do not have feelings or emotions like the rest of society.

    I wish we had been more assertive at the time and it still hurts me today to think what distress my son went through at the hands of these so called ‘caring staff’.

    • I know professionals who recognise trauma and flashbacks in people with LD, with no question.
      I’d keep repeating what you observe, and putting it on record, or say you want a second opinion if professionals have this attitude.
      Sorry to sound as if I know better when it’s you that’s been through this.
      My son still relives the trauma of leaving home if he hears certain words. We both have flashbacks.

  5. Caz permalink

    Pauline I wish too that your son had
    never had to experience any of what you have written about.
    It s so heartbreaking. I hope today and all days in the future there are events to smile about and be happy for.
    I focus on the present and the future, putting in place legal requirements for future good quality of life.But there are no guarantees!!!!
    But how do you safeguard against this abhorrent crime.
    Mark what does the death plan say in this regard?

    • The death plan was written to stop the same thing happening again. It covers pretty much, everything that’s needed for Steven to remain in his own home. However, it is totally reliant on the professionals who pick it up after my death, whether it holds any weight.

    • Pauline Thomas permalink

      Thank you Caz for your kind words.

      My post gave the impression that no one was punished. The perpetrator was punished. He was banned from the centre.. However in reality he was let down too by the day centre staff. He had a learning disability and it was up to them to stop him from doing this to my son. They owed him a duty of care too. They should not have encouraged him. It was they who should have been sent packing.

  6. weary mother permalink

    Pauline you are right. The staff had full responsibility for the man’s abusive behaviour in the day centre.

    When I worked in a learning disability institution as part of a small team employed to move the long stay residents into the community, one resident – who had Downs – masturbated continually. When I saw this – I told him quietly and kindly that this offended me and it made people think less of him.

    I got to know this young man very well over the year I was with him – and after my first objection he never masturbated again in front of me. If he had gone into the community doing this – his life would have been miserable. I hope he did not.

    In another ward a bed bound young – seriously physically learning disabled man got hold of my hair and pulled it hard, and would not let go, I did the same (very gently) to him. He smiled – and let go – and he never did it again. From then on I visited him every morning that I worked in this hospital – and we had a one way verbal chat – he never pulled my hair – and I believe we got to know each other pretty well. I got to know his lovely parents and I visited them at their home where I learned more about him. When I could, I helped staff wash him and he always knew me.

    Some staff were institutionalised – and/or they just did not care, enough.

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