Nobody wants to be on a psychiatric ward, and this is especially true for the patients. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to escaping. If you are ever sectioned, just follow one of the three methods below and you’ll be back in the “community” in no time, enjoying such freedoms as being able to smoke a cigarette without asking for permission, and expressing your emotions without somebody with a clip-board noting down how they relate to your “illness”.
Method One: The Runner
What You Will Need: Some running shoes, a good hiding place
If you are on a ward with only one door between you and freedom, simply hang around by the door. You should try to look innocent, maybe pretend to read some of the posters on the wall about “recovery”, or whatever other patronising crap they have up. You get a lot of traffic in and out of psychiatric wards, mostly due to the ridiculous number of “professionals” in the system. Sooner or later a social worker, nurse, doctor, advocate, health visitor, psychologist, student, ward manager, solicitor, occupational therapist, pharmacist, or some other pointless bureaucrat will open the door – that’s your chance to make a run for! Most of the time they won’t even bother to chase you, just mark you down as AWOL on the notice-board and carry on with their paperwork and tea-drinking.
If you have some leave, this method is even easier. If you are being escorted just make sure it is by a fat nurse who smokes a lot of cigarettes (there are plenty of these on the wards) so you’ll be able to outrun them no problem, even if the combination of high-dose medications they’ll no doubt have you on has slowed you down a bit. If you have unescorted leave, even better! Especially if it is a few hours as you’ll have time to get pretty far away before they notice you are gone.
Once you’ve escaped they may come looking for you, and they can involve the police. However it isn’t likely they are going to launch a nation-wide manhunt for one escaped psychiatric patient (unless you conform to the media stereotype of a mentally ill person who likes running down the street, naked, with a meat-cleaver while screaming that they are the only true prophet of god). Also, don’t do anything silly like return to your home address, or stay with a relative who is likely to be in agreement with the mental health team that you do indeed need to be locked up.
Advantages: This is an exciting method of escape that gives a real sense of empowerment. If you stay away for long enough, or leave the country they’ll give up looking for you eventually.
Disadvantages: If the police do pick you up and bring you back to the ward, the doctor will no doubt place a huge amount of restrictions on you to prevent you from trying it again. It will also give them an excuse to detain you for longer. Some people find being a fugitive from the law a bit stressful, so if you are not a Bonnie or a Clyde type of person then this method is not for you.
Method Two: Play The Game
What You Will Need: Good acting skills, some knowledge of psychiatry
This method is based on understanding how mental health professionals think. What you have to remember is that they really believe that the patients are suffering from some kind of biological illness and need medication in order to be “well”. As ridiculous as these ideas may sound, they really believe this, and have often had many years of training to back this up. Obviously the more training they’ve had the more they believe this stuff. For example a fairly new student nurse may still see the patients as distressed human beings who need somebody to listen to them non-judgementally and offer emotional support – but a consultant psychiatrist will be certain that the patients are “unwell” and need drugging to the max (some of them even believe this so much that they have even written books on the subject!). So you are never going to have any luck convincing these people that their views are wrong and yours are right (especially on the ward where you are the raving psychiatric patient and they are the highly trained professionals).
An important psychiatric concept to understand is “insight” – if a patient does not believe they are ill and need medication then they are said to lack ”insight” into their condition; the cleverest part of this concept is that psychiatrists say that this lack of “insight” is actually caused by your “illness”. So basically if you don’t agree with them that is just more proof that you are ill!
So for this method to work, you have to pretend that believe that you have an illness, and that the medication is helping you. In ward rounds or any meetings with professionals it is important to say things like:
“I was unwell when I came in, but I’m feeling a lot better thanks to the medication”
“I would be happy to stay in hospital if I wasn’t on a section”
And NOT to say things like:
“This medication is just turning me into a fucking zombie, I’m not taking it!”
“I’m not mentally ill, I’m possessed by evil spirits, get me a priest immediately!”
If you keep saying the right stuff, you’ll be out in no time. If you have actually been possessed by evil spirits please keep this to yourself.
This is one of the most popular methods of escape, in fact it has been estimated that 95% of patients who manage to leave the wards do so using this method. I once read a quote from a patient who that said they kept giving her ECT (that’s seizure inducing electric shocks to the brain, widely used in the UK in-spite of people thinking it is some horrible relic of history that was banned along with public executions and badger-baiting). Every time after they had electro-shocked her brain they asked if she felt better. She kept on saying “No”, so they kept on giving her more ECT. Eventually she figured out if that if she said “Yes” they would stop giving her ECT, and it worked! This was of course recorded as a successful outcome and used to prove that ECT works; but the main thing is she was able to escape using this method.
Note: some patients, especially those who have had psychotherapy, make the mistake of trying to convince their psychiatrist that what they are experiencing is a result of some childhood abuse or other trauma rather than an illness. This will not work. Even if you spent the first 18 years of your life locked in a damp cellar, eating nothing but fish-heads, this will at best be seen as a “factor” contributing to your illness or at worst a delusion created by your illness. It is much better just stick to the mantra: “I have an illness, the medication is helping” and you’ll back living amongst us “normals” in no time.
Advantages: This is a tried and tested method which yields good results.
Disadvantages: This method sometimes can take a long time, and requires some skill (if the staff feel that you are just telling them what they want to hear they won’t have it – you really have to convince them you believe their nonsense). There is also a very real risk that you’ll take the acting too far and actually convince yourself that you are ill and need medication – many patients have fallen victim to this (the psychiatric profession calls them “successful outcomes”) so be careful!
Method Three: The Tribunal
What You Will Need: A solicitor
In the UK, if you are detained under the mental health act, you have the right to have your case heard by an independent tribunal. In reality this normally means you’ll have to sit in-front of three old men for an hour listening to all the reasons you need to be locked up for your own safety, before being told 5 minutes after the tribunal that they have decided, on careful consideration, that you do indeed need to be locked up for your own safety. Still, sometimes people do actually get discharged by a tribunal, especially if they have a good solicitor. While some mental health solicitors are passionate about fighting for patients’ rights, a lot of them are just going through the motions while dreaming they were earning a 6 figure salary sat behind a great big swanky desk like their friends from law school instead of having to scrape the legal aid barrel.
Still, going for the tribunal is definitely worth a try while you are honing your acting skills for “Method Two”, or plucking up the courage for “Method One” above. Preparing for a tribunal may also give you something to occupy your mind on the ward (that is if you don’t find the fortnightly patronising pottery classes stimulating enough). In the tribunal you will have a chance to speak and give your reasons why you think you should be discharged from hospital – but you are not allowed to shout “objection” like you see on the telly.
Tribunals can be extremely boring, but one way to stay awake during the proceedings is to play a game called “Mental Health Tribunal Bingo (MHTB)”. Write the following words on a 3 * 3 grid:
RISK, CONCERNS, NATURE, DEGREE, INSIGHT, UNWELL, MEDICATION, ENGAGEMENT, COMMUNITY. Every time you hear one of the words mentioned, circle it. Try to make a line across the grid, or fill the whole thing. (Note: if you win, don’t actually jump up and shout “bingo” like you would do at a real bingo hall as this is not likely to help your case).
Advantages: Definitely worth a shot. Even if your tribunal is unsuccessful, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made the bastards do a load of extra paper-work.
Disadvantages: Mental health professionals are experts in making it look like they know what they are doing (in-fact around 95% of their job involves doing this) so most of the time they’ll convince the tribunal that you need to be sectioned.
So please do go ahead and give these methods a go, and let us know how you get on. Also we’ll love to hear about any other methods that are out there. Take care everybody and remember, RECOVERY BEGINS WITH NON-COMPLIANCE!