I was born on 30 June 1957. I was five when I was diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder, I couldn’t sit still and was just 11 years old when I was diagnosed with personality disorder. At 12 years old I had my first admission to hospital and at 13 years old my second admission where I had to stay in a ward full of adults. They didn’t have the right medications back then, and all we received was group therapy. We’ve come a long way since what happened then.
‘I have used all the hard things of my life to guide me forward.’
40 years ago we didn’t know about mental health issues like we know about it today. They always said “you have rights” but never told us what those rights were. Today you’re given a piece of paper with rights written down and someone will sit down and go through them with you and make sure you understand.
I was at Gladesville Hospital for two years when I was transferred there from other hospitals. There were some good things about Gladesville Hospital and some bad things. The bad things included electric shock therapy and they would get away with it. They would always say to us “there is no point reporting it, no one will believe you.” I remember getting kicked in the stomach, and if I tried to report it I would be more likely to be put in the lock-up ward.
Gladesville was different from some of the other hospitals. They believed in therapeutic things, they started art projects and I would help with serving afternoon tea and cooking for patients, which I loved. We were a bit more interactive - when we had ward meetings we would bring up suggestions and sometimes our suggestions were listened to. One of the patients suggested we had a social and they listened to us and the patients organised it. We also had a talent quest that was recorded. They also ran community integration education workshops like sex education to prepare us to transition back into society.
I think the memorial is really important to acknowledge that all those people who died when in hospital didn’t die in vain. Their stories and journey eventually helped the situation improve. It’s sad but it takes people to go through hard times for things to improve. I think it is important to observe a minute’s silence for all the patients that didn’t make it who were at Gladesville or similar hospitals in the Sydney region.
“We still have a long way to go, but also must acknowledge that we still have come a way too.”