Public, private and religious?

This piece by Mercy Survivor Britt was originally published on her personal blog, Hits and Near Misses, and can be viewed here.

Okay so many of you reading this may have experienced the joys and/or horrors of one or more of the following…

  • Public Mental Health Treatment Centres

  • Private Mental Health Treatment Centres
  • Religious Rehabilitation Centres

I guess today I thought it’d be a good idea to write about my experiences in all three and let you know that you’re not alone if you’ve felt alone, confused or abused in one of these situations.

My first encounter with any kind of inpatient treatment was in a religious rehabilitation centre named Mercy Ministries.  (If you have a nagging feeling that you’ve heard of them before, you probably have).

I was 16 and stayed there for 13 months.

Now due to the fact that I had no other inpatient experience, I didn’t find it odd at all that bible college students were handing out medications, the counsellors weren’t qualified, and I wasn’t actually receiving any of the proper treatment that I was entitled to.

I remember the aftermath of one incident that should’ve been dealt with in a confined medical setting, but instead was dealt with via prayer and separation. 
 I was feeling quite high during the afternoon, and towards the early hours of the evening, things had escalated and I was literally climbing walls, dissociating and starting arguments.  The next parts of the event are a blur, I know I found myself outside up near the gates, in the veggie patch and in a laundry space. 
When a staff member was alerted to my behaviour I was taken into the office and made to recite my Godly Beliefs.  (Here’s a run down on what they are).

Recently, I caught up with the member of staff that saw to me that night and reminded her of the incident.  She apologised.  Now, I don’t blame her at all for how she dealt with it.  That’s how she was trained.  She was young and probably had the best intentions.
  But my case wasn’t the only one.

I can recall times when epileptic fits were treated as demonic encounters, self harm was addressed with locking the girl alone in a room and even the simplest of medical issues were not able to be seen by a proper non-religious general practitioner.

I left Mercy Ministries when I was 17, over a year later, and not one bit better.  All I could hold on to was my Godly Beliefs booklet and what was left of my faith.

For a place that prides themselves on healing the broken, I came out shattered.

A few months later, I found myself in the private mental health system, suffering from severe depression, psychosis and anorexia nervosa.

I have been in and out of these facilities for the past seven years after Mercy Ministries.  It was here that I learnt how mental health issues should really be dealt with.  Real nurses, real doctors and real psychiatrists.  Everyone had qualifications, everyone has knowledge and everyone cares.

The only downside of the private mental health system is that not everyone can afford it.  Some facilities can escalate up to $1,000 a day.

But if one can’t afford that, has no cover or finds themselves in a sudden crisis, you’ll be taken in to the public mental health system.

This is where I found myself four weeks ago.  Alone and in a crisis.  Taken by professionals to a cold sterile environment with other people that were as sick or sicker than me. 
 Concrete walls and lino floors, mushy food and no knowledge of what was happening to me or what I could do other than my Statement of Rights that was handed to me at 4 in the morning. 
 Screaming filled the hallways, the beds were thin and cold and I had to beg for the right medication.  This was not a familiar environment for me and I didn’t like it.  Unfortunately, this is the only option for many.

I am thankful for my experiences as they have opened up my eyes to all sides of the system.

I know more needs to be done. More people need access to the private system and the care inside.  The public system needs continuity, facilities need to be upgraded and more communication is needed between staff and patients.  
And religious rehabilitation programs need to be regulated.

Mercy Ministries has since been shut down in Australia, but that’s not to say there aren’t others operating out there without licences and qualifications.  Mentally ill people are succumbing to the temptation of a free and God-filled environment, but instead being led to give up their medication and values, leaving alone and worse off than before.

Do something.

Written By Brittany