The Corston report, published in March 2007, showed dramatic change was needed in how women were treated in the criminal justice system: outlining the need for a more holistic, women-centred approach. Yet, more than ten years later, little progress has been made – with the government continuing to implement policies and practices that undermine rather than support women’s recovery.
Guest Post by Jennifer Richards
To anyone who’s ever doubted the power of female voices, where were you on Friday 8th June??
Because Wish were busy launching our Women’s Mental Health Network with our ‘Turn Up The Volume’ event that included an all-star female line-up of poets, comedians and singers!
Guest Post by Sarah Wilson
It was 2009 and I was erratically driving up the M1 in the midst of a psychotic episode. Everything was altered in my mind and I believed all sorts of things with bizarre religious connotations. I felt fear like no other. It was like being trapped awake in your own nightmares and you can’t leave them.
A bipolar disco was going off in my head by the time I reached Liverpool. How I got there alive, I will never know. I was driving but my eyes had been closed for a lot of the journey. I remember sitting in the car with all different colours dancing before me. It was certainly surreal in hindsight.
I then drove to Wales where I was sectioned, let go and re-sectioned in Warrington. It was when I was then taken to Herts that all my problems escalated.
In 2007, I’d received a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and now the health care professionals, including the Psychiatrist, took away all my bipolar drugs. This included my anti-psychotic medication, even though I was still very ill with psychosis. I was then also denied a comorbid bipolar diagnosis. The psychiatrist even said he would say I didn’t have psychosis and I was responsible for any crime I committed.
However, I was still very ill when they released me from hospital. I quickly got continually into trouble with the police as I was so hyped up and psychotic. I also ended up homeless and finally in prison as the hospital wouldn’t take me in.
The whole experience was harrowing and in prison they finally diagnosed me with bipolar and medicated me. But prison did have one positive aspect: I met Wish, and Penny would regularly come and see me. I was very grateful for her support, and I am still now. It was needed at such a hard time in my life and really helped me get through the experience.
There is no doubt that you can’t really imagine what prison is like until you experience it personally. All those nights and a lot of the day trapped behind a great steel door. Alone with your thoughts with a TV to distract you from going utterly mad.
It was the worst experience of my life and, worst of all, I wouldn’t have been there at all if the mental health team had done their jobs like they did in 2012. The sad thing is I never got any redress or compensation for my treatment at their hands. I feel cheated, especially when I heard that if I’d been given a diagnosis of bipolar, the charges would have been dropped against me and I wouldn’t have been in prison. Instead, I got fined and further taken to court for crimes I’d committed when psychotic and on a bipolar breakdown.
When I recovered from my acute mental illness and left prison, I went to work for Wish in a voluntary capacity. Now I’m a Peer Consultant for them, which is rewarding work. It is nice to give back to a charity who helped me when I literally felt like I had no-one in the world left there for me. The work that Wish does is vital for women like me – who else fights our corner?
It was also in 2009 that I met my DBT therapist. He worked with me for four and a half long years to get me to the position I’m in now. It was hard work, but ultimately it improved my life no end. I’m a completely different person in how I cope with regulating my emotions. ’m more confident, stable and self-assured. I learned mindfulness to help calm my mind and distress tolerance to self soothe. The module interpersonal effectiveness was also good in helping me interact with people.
I did have a disheartening bipolar psychosis relapse in 2012 when I tried to come off my medication, but it was more contained as I was kept in hospital and medicated. I never added to my criminal record and the right combination of drugs was found that kept my mood balanced.
It’s been a long journey but a worthy one. If I can do it so can you. Now I have a job a few days a week in a local shop. Things are looking up. And thank you Wish for all your support over the years. It means a lot.
Guest Post by Jennifer Richards
I’m from the generation that’s grown up with technology, where ‘Facebook me’ is a normal way to end conversations, and your friend will tell you Happy Birthday in person, by text, on your Facebook wall and maybe even direct message you on Instagram and Twitter too.
The rapid growth of social media that accompanied me into adulthood never really seemed too shocking, until I look back now and realise that the rise (and now possibly fall) of Facebook happened in just 15 years.
Guest Post by Joyce Kallevik, Director of Wish
Setting up and launching the Women’s Mental Health Network has been a long term aim of Wish, and we are almost there!!!
Wish, is the only national, user-led charity working with women with mental health needs in prison, hospital and the community. For 30 years we have been at the fore of providing long-term, gender-sensitive services, and supported women to have their voices heard at policy level.