Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The saddest man I ever met

In a hospital cell at Dartmoor, where I was suffering a major bout of depression, I began talking to the man in the cell across the narrow corridor.
This was made simple by hatches fitted into our doors, allowing us to talk freely and quietly across the four feet that separated us. Pulling up a chair I balanced on the back of it, feet on the seat, and settled in for a long exchange.
After listening to my rather torpid tale, he shared his. He was there as being a suicide risk. His girlfriend has just been raped, they had lost their baby, and his mother was newly diagnosed with cancer.

It was such a litany of misery it almost - but not quite -sounded like a Country and Western song. He was in a terrible emotional state, incredibly and understandably fragile and all I could do was listen. And I was happy to just be there, being quite worried that without the meagre presence of another human being he may not survive the night.


  1. What a blessing that you were there to listen Ben, you may well have saved his life.

  2. As someone going through a difficult time at the moment myself, i have deep sympathy for him. At least out here i can do small things to cheer myself up, phone or meet a friend, treat myself to a CD, or someting, nothing worse than being in a cell, and nothing you can do about it. Still, at least neither of you have money worries like most of the rest of us out here.

  3. I dont wonder that you, in your situation suffer depression from time to time, and the overwhelming loneliness that can come from it . I have endured deep depression at various points in my life, and cant imagine how you cope with it in such closed conditions.

  4. It is something that I found most curious when I first had dealings with the psychiatric 'service', apart from give you somewhere to eat sleep and keep warm (ie an asylum of sorts) they actually do very little.

    Help is in the form of a tablet or an injection they administer, for the rest, counseling, companionship, out of hours service are all carried out by fellow service users or fellow sufferers.

    It took a while for me to understand this as initially I thought people were paid to do this work, but the best help I ever had when I was in mental hospitals and when I was in the community, was from other patients, or occasionally volunteers, student nurses and the cleaners, but never so it seemed any one whose job it was to help us.

    Recently things have got even worse, a friend of mine was extremely unwell with a long term psychiatric problem which had flared up again, he was violent and no-one, not even the CPN's who he had known for a long time would go near him. They wanted his family to get the police involved which they understandably would not do because he was ill and not a criminal. The community mental health team knew how ill he was and yet they all waited for him to hit someone (which he did) before giving him any help. The system is nuts.

  5. @ Jules...I have to agree with you, the system is nuts!! I mean if you had a broken leg they wouldnt take you to a student or cleaner, would they?

  6. a sad story, by what you had shared to us we cannot judge all the prisoners why they are there. They have different stories misery and sadness. Behind those prisoners eyes lies a different story to be heard.


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