Scary security guard at a mental health hospital?

This is it. This is what I was training for; my first Mental Health placement on a mixed Acute In-patient ward in East London.

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

Your proverbial man in a not-so-grubby mac sauntered out of a  grimy massage parlour, picking his nose with his pinky and devouring 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, as 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 surrounding me like a heavy black cloak. It didn’t get any better either!

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

However, after banging so hard that the icicles crackled and popped to the ground, behind his flexiglass screened reception desk, the man appeared be asleep – with his eyes open. Yet 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.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

“Hello, Lavender Ward please, I’m a stu …….” Obese man with the bulbous nose harrumphs “Sign in. Along the corridor, left and left, in the lift, first floor.” Ugh. This man was ignorant, 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.

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 paranoid even.

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 freshley gobbed phlegm slithering down towards the buttons. I pushed the first floor button with a spare pen and as there was now no place for it in my bag, I cheekily I dropped it down the gap in the lift.

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 just took a moment to do some deep breathing, which would calm my pounding heart.

Note to self: Must ask why the flexiglass reception and a rude security guard in a Mental Health Hospital? It certainly didn’t give off a welcoming environment.


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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