Why have security guards in mental health hospital?

Shocked at security guards managing reception in a mental health hospital

Security guards manning reception at a mental health hospital

I was shocked to see that security guards managed the reception area of a London NHS Mental Health Unit. I saw this when I arrived for my first Mental Health placement on an NHS mixed (male and female) Acute In-patient ward in London.

I’m normally a bit of a snob about public transport but, unsure whether I’d find a parking space by the hospital, I headed towards the bus stop at an ungodly hour. However, I relaxed and actually enjoyed the ride, seeing places I’d not previously spotted when I was driving.

Your proverbial man in a not-so-grubby mac sauntered out of a  grimy massage parlour, picking his nose with his pinkie and eating the contents. Nail bars — and lots of them, a more upmarket Gentlemen’s Club next door to a greasy spoon, where two young girls stood brushing their long ponytails into place; right behind the counter from where they’d be plating up their full English soon.

The journey was over all too quickly, the hospital came in to view, and off I hopped, keeping my eye out for parking I could use tomorrow. Despite the brightly lit reception area just ahead, I could still feel the chill and the darkness in my bones. Sadly, it didn’t get any better.

Reception at an NHS mental health hospital

Security guard will remain anonymous
Security guards managed reception area— Pixaby

If the reception that greeted me on arrival was any indication of the day to come, I’d have turned on my heels. I arrived at the huge glass doors, where there were too many buzzers to comprehend this early in the day. I knocked my frozen knuckles on the icicled glass and waved frantically at the only person I could see — an obese gentleman who was wearing a white shirt that said Security.

Behind his flexiglass screened reception desk, the security guard appeared be asleep — with his eyes open. Still, I heard a click and the huge doors opened inwardly. The said gentleman nodded me in, urging me forward with another tip of the head and he barked “Yes!” while I was still half a dozen paces from him.

“Hello, Lavender Ward please, I’m a stu …….” Obese man (no longer gentle) with the bulbous nose, and full of serlf-importance harrumphs, “Sign in. Along the corridor, left and left, in the lift, first floor.” Ugh. This man was so rude, and scary, so I didn’t dare ask him to repeat it. I got the corridor bit so off I went, my trainers squeaking on the lino, loud and lonely in the silence that pervaded the building.

Even more depressing

Patients artwork adorns the corridors ---The Scream, Edvard Munch
Patient artwork adorns the corridors —The Scream, Edvard Munch

The scuffed mint green walls were adorned with patient artwork, some almost childlike though many screamed of fear and desperation. I wondered if this was the right place for the display. Others may think differently, but if I was being admitted during my psychotic state and taken along this corridor I think I might have felt a tad apprehensive. Distressed and more paranoid even.

Anyway — I found the lift and when the door opened, the acrid smell of pee nipped the inside of my nostrils, and I gagged at the the freshly gobbed phlegm slithering down towards the buttons. I pushed the first floor button with a spare pen and cheekily dropped it down the gap in the lift. Urrgghhh!

Outside the lift there were five wards and I eventually stood at the locked door to Lavender ward with its wire mesh glass window and yet another buzzer to press at the side. I’d arrived at my placement and took a moment to practice some deep breathing to calm my palpitations.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

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