• A storyteller talks about their experience

A former fitter from a mental health hospital talks about their experience working in the role and their more recent experience volunteering with the Mental Health Museum at Field Head Hospital in Wakefield.

So we're here at Field Head Hospital, which is turning 50. What has been your experience of mental health care? Um, Well, in about 1974 I started at a large psychiatric unit down in Essex. And I worked there as a future there for 32 years. So I got to know almost everything that went on because as a fitter, you went to everywhere there was in the hospital and worked with all the different groups in the hospital and in the clinics outside

How has mental healthcare changed over those years? Well, when I started there, they were just starting to do personalised clothing. Up until that point, patients had no control over what they wore. They were given their underwear, and everything else came from a central pool

And they were just given whatever came out of the cupboard at the time. Um, and they just brought in. Then the patient's clothing would be marked for the individual patient, and the patient could go and buy their own clothing or get their own clothing in and marked up, and that would then be their own

That was That was the kind of start of the end of the institution, um, became much more, um, focused around an individual. The individual, Um, there was still a lot of chemical restraint. Um, but there was very little else to offer people you're going from the times when the hospital started in 1937 when there was really nothing they could offer in the way of any form of treatment

They were desperate to try anything. Um, through to the sixties seventies, when they were using, um they got hold of some chemicals that they could use as drugs, and they were much more effective than anything that had been before. And it was just starting to turn into the idea of, um, working more with individuals working more with a little bit of, um the, uh, creative people were coming in

One of the first art therapists was working in our hospital at the same time. The hospital was quite involved in research and, um, epilepsy. Quite a lot of episodes that perhaps this stuff and on dementia they were starting to look at people's brains

They've been looking at brains and what went on in people's brains for the last since, uh, the early fifties and they were starting to get some idea about dementia and what might be causing that. What's been your experience here at Field had, Um Well, I've been only been involved here mostly with Mental Health Museum over the last 10 years. So, um, the nitty gritty of what goes on in the walls I don't really know about except that I have done a couple of projects doing, uh, art and craft or our stuff during the weekends here

So there's much more of that involved. I've talked to people who've been in here who have had not necessarily good, um, ideas of what went on. But then again, they've been very ill

No one gets here unless they're ill. That's the problem. And people tend to dwell on the bad bits

Although people have worked with ex patients that run where where I worked, um all say there are good times as well. I've always had good times on wards and things like that and made friends and done all sorts of things that they've looked back on with a lot of a lot of fun. So I think the hospital here is, um, again much more into providing, uh, creative outlooks for people I know someone who's got a job here doing that kind of stuff

The wards seemed to have, uh, individual O. T s on the wards, whereas where I came from, there was a big ot block where people went and had there. Done there

Um, and so Yeah, very different. Yeah.

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