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Mandy, Sian and Frankie - Group Interview 11-13

Brief Outline: Mandy, Sian and Frankie are friends who met while they were staying on the same psychiatric ward. They say meeting each other was one of the most important things that helped them in hospital and through recovery. They have stayed friends ever since (White British).
Background: See 'Brief Outline'

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Mandy (20), Sian (18) and Frankie (19) are friends who met while they were staying on the same psychiatric ward. The girls developed a very close bond during the months they stayed in the unit and have stayed friends ever since. They stay in touch regularly and refer to each other as “sisters”. The girls all say that getting to know each other was the biggest help they got, both in and out of hospital. During their stay in the hospital, the girls got to know each other’s moods, knew when to support each other and when to leave each other have the space to have their own time. They say they “kept each other sane in the most insane ways”.
 
The girls say that having friends who’ve been through similar experiences has helped them come out of their shell, gain confidence and challenge other people’s misconceptions about mental health and self-harm.
 
You can either view their individual interviews (Interview 11, Interview 12 & Interview 13) or clips from their group interview.
 

Distracting the mind, like listening to music or reading a book can help Mandy not to focus on...

Distracting the mind, like listening to music or reading a book can help Mandy not to focus on...

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Frankie' You can’t control them [voices]. Managing them in a way so they don’t affect you in a bad way, could it be like from listening to music so for you it’s a distraction or you can’t hear them as clearly or basically as like if especially if you’ve had them for a few years you build up sort of an immunity, to what they’re saying. And because they repeat it and stuff basically getting used to what they’re saying, you expect it, but as Sian said, it depends on how good a day you’re having or how bad a day you’re having.
 
Mandy' Becomes like background noise doesn’t it?
 
Frankie' Yeah.
 
Mandy' ‘Cos if you’re focussing on like a book or something and you’ve got the telly on in the background, it’s like that, it’s like background noise.
 
Frankie' Yeah.
 
Mandy' Mostly, music’s the main one that they suggest even so,
 
Frankie' Yeah.
 
Mandy' Try and help distract among other things but the rest are a bit weird.
 
[Laughter] 
 

Mandy and Frankie say first they felt psychiatric diagnoses were just a way for the doctors to ...

Mandy and Frankie say first they felt psychiatric diagnoses were just a way for the doctors to ...

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Frankie' I’ve been able to accept them more if you know, it wouldn’t like, if I was getting help with them and stuff the way I’m supposed to having diagnoses wouldn’t bother me, but I don’t like, I don’t know, when I first got them I thought oh they’re labelling me, they put me into categories, now I’m just…
 
Mandy' We don’t fit. We actually don’t fit, we, we’re in that sort of broader ones,
 
Frankie' Yeah.
 
Mandy' Because they just, they can’t pinpoint stuff with us.
 
Frankie' That many, I mean I’ve got a hell of a lot and, disorders and you know, I’ve got depression, paranoia, I’ve got a hell of a lot. And basically you know, they do try and find, I’ve basically just been said, “Yeah you’ve got severe depression, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies.” They’ve just basically put it all into three.
 
Mandy' Self harm?
 
Frankie' Well they don’t say that anymore, ‘cos I don’t tend to do it, or they don’t know whether or not I do it. I could say, yeah I self harm, but they, I think they just put that down as severe depression category. They categorise us. Like filing cabinets.
 
Mandy' They categorised me as severe depression because of the self harm, and stuff like that. I used to have depression,
 
Frankie' I think it depends on who you see.
 
Mandy' Self harm, suicidal tendencies, unstable relationships, which I didn’t agree with, but then you know you find traits occasionally that kind of point that way. That’s ‘cos you’re looking.
 
Frankie' Exactly. If they tell you you’ve got something, you look for it.
 

Mandy, Sian and Frankie say you become so used to the diagnostic labels that they become ...

Mandy, Sian and Frankie say you become so used to the diagnostic labels that they become ...

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Sian' You get used to it [diagnosis]. So, so first of all when they plant the title on you, you’re like, “No, that’s not me,” and then you look for things you know like, well maybe it could be, and then eventually it just grows on you, and you think, well I am who I am, so.
 
Mandy' Yeah, it becomes more important,
 
Sian' I don’t care about the label really.
 
Mandy' It becomes like completely less than boring, it just doesn’t matter in the end, that you know you just sort of give it up as okay, you can decide what you want, I’m just gonna deal with how I’m feeling in the best way I can type of thing.
 
Frankie' As far as I’m concerned the diagnoses are basically just the way of, that’s what annoys me a diagnosis is a, is a way of the experts knowing what you’ve got and knowing how to deal with it. And what annoys me is they know what I’ve got, and they know how to deal with it, but they’re not dealing with it.
 

Mandy and Sian say that medication is not always the solution but on short term it can “boost...

Mandy and Sian say that medication is not always the solution but on short term it can “boost...

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Mandy' I think you know, you end up begrudging medication to a point. It, it seems to be generally the first response you know. I went, although I went from the doctor and the doctor referred me to the psychiatrist, and then the psychiatrist put me on meds, and from there it was a downward spiral. As I said you know, into the unit on so much meds that I couldn’t think, that was to stop me you know,
 
Sian' It’s generally a temporary fix isn’t it?
 
Mandy' It’s to stop you doing what they class as naughty stuff. You know, I was completely suicidal so they thought, “Let’s drug her up.” It’s like the only way she won’t be able to do anything. Which to a point was true [laughter]. It’s what they call it! But you know, you end up getting put on more and more stuff and they see it as the solution to the problem.
 
Sian' It’s not, it’s not always the solution. It’s not always the solution, but sometimes it can help just to boost yourself up, extra, a little bit.
 
It can give you a boost to help you deal with it yourself, if you can give yourself sort of motivation to help you deal with it yourself, I think it, it feels, you sort of resent it when you know that they’ve given it you to basically shut you up and they’re using that as a way to sort you out. And that’s not right because you’ve obviously got underlying issues. You know the medication isn’t going to be there forever and if it is, you, your body will get used to it, and you know it’ll stop having the same effect. But when you know that they’ve given it as a way of saying, “Yeah we’ll give you this, to give you a boost, to help you sort your own problems out, and then we’ll wean you off the different…”
 
It’s alright in short term, but I wouldn’t really advise it you know, for, long periods of time, I know that, I’ve probably been on mine since I was 10 [laughter]. And I’m 18 now so…
 
 

Sian, Frankie and Mandy met on a psychiatric unit and have been friends ever since.

Sian, Frankie and Mandy met on a psychiatric unit and have been friends ever since.

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How do you know each other?
 
Frankie' Psychiatric unit, we all went to the same one.
 
Sian' We did.
 
Mandy' That’s the short answer.
 
What happened, when?
 
Frankie' I went into the unit about what five months before Mandy came in, and then I was in there for two months while Mandy was there. I left and then Sian came in not long after.
 
Sian' I was in my room having a pretty hard time and Mandy just knocked on the door.
 
Mandy' Cheryl Crow blasting out on her radio. You could have shoved the music really.
 
Sian' And she sat down with me and she just, we had a good chat didn’t we.
 
Frankie' When Mandy came into the unit, like she said, you know she was totally doped up on meds, to the point where her reactions were like really, really slow, and I was sort of the only person to kind of like actually have the patience to talk to her. And I was like her mentor for the week, like showing her around and like making sure she was okay and stuff, and then we just became really good friends from that. Like we were inseparable.
 
Mandy' You were the only one I so I came in to like visit for…
 
Frankie' Yeah, and I was the only one who said, “Hi.”
 
Mandy' Yeah, you were the only one that said, “Hi.” And I mean like I remember that.
 
Frankie' The karaoke Frankie!
 
Mandy' Not that you’re easy to forget, but yeah.
 
Sian' And then we met, we met afterwards, after we’d all come out and like we, we were all meeting up.
 
Mandy' Yeah because we have like a group meet up sometimes.
 
Sian' Yeah we have group meet up.
 
Mandy' Yeah, meet ups, we’ve stayed friends.
 
Frankie' Yeah. That’s, we’ve been friends for three and a half years now haven’t we? 
 

Sian, Frankie and Mandy say that the staff on the ward were “crap” but they had each other and...

Sian, Frankie and Mandy say that the staff on the ward were “crap” but they had each other and...

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Mandy' It was quite good though; it was quite a good experience wasn’t it? It was nice to know you weren’t alone. Don’t you think?
 
Frankie' Yeah. The staff were crap though.
 
Sian' The staff were crap.
 
Frankie' The staff were crap. It got to the point where basically like the really close, close friends you made in there you’d have to call on them, like, your staff nurse. She was staff nurse, Mandy for me, and another girl.
 
Mandy' I did everything but not have keys.
 
Frankie' Yeah. Pretty much. I was Staff Nurse Frankie.
 
Mandy' It got to the point where the staff asked us if the person was okay and where they were. we were supposed to do obs every fifteen minutes, it got to about 6, 5, 6 o’clock, and we were going, “Where were you at 10 o’clock this morning?”
 
Frankie' Yeah. They were supposed, they were supposed to come in your room every half an hour for general obs, and you know we used to be awakened most of the night, and they’d come in,
 
Mandy' Asleep, asleep. Yeah, “you slept the whole night through”. No I didn’t, I was awake till 4am.
 
Frankie' Yeah. You could have been doing anything in your room at night, and they came in twice a night, if that, to check on you. 
 

Sian, Frankie and Mandy describe what it was like to be “under observation” on the ward.

Sian, Frankie and Mandy describe what it was like to be “under observation” on the ward.

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Sian' I had to have door open and someone sat there, like two people sat there weren’t they? Go to toilet, someone follows you.
 
Mandy' Never had that pressure.
 
Sian' It was horrible.
 
Frankie' Were you not on visual obs?
 
Mandy' 1 in 5.
 
Sian' Oh you lucky cow.
 
Mandy' In the shower, I got to have a 15 minute shower before they knocked on the door.
 
Sian' Now?
 
Mandy' They were convinced I answered, I didn’t.
 
Frankie' When I got a shower, they tried to get into one of the, one of the HDA’s called [nurse name], a dude, they were like, “Ah [nurse name] gonna be in your obs.” I was like “No, I’m having a shower.”
 
Mandy' They can’t have that.
 
Frankie' I know.
 
Sian' It’s not allowed.
 
Mandy' To the point of, if you’re on visual obs you would literally get watched in the shower.
 
Frankie' And on the toilet.
 
Sian' It’s horrible.
 
What’s “obs”?
 
All' Observations.
 
Mandy' Visual obs was someone who was within arms reach of you. At all times.
 
Sian' Yeah, so they could basically just grab you.
 
Mandy' They would sit by your bed while you slept.
 
Frankie' Yeah, or just outside the room if you’re lucky.
 
Sian' It was just as scary.
 
Mandy' One in five was had to be in the same room with you, one in fifteen was actually pretty much being in the next room, if they had to be elsewhere they had to be in the next room. And then it was, it was one in…
 
Frankie' Half hour, which was general observation.
 
Mandy' But you get to walk around and do what you want most of the time.
 
Sian' I never got that chance [laughs].
 
Mandy' lucky! 
 
 
 

“Do it for yourself, not other people.”

“Do it for yourself, not other people.”

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Mandy' You’ve got to learn to love yourself. You know,
 
Frankie' I’m still in that process.
 
Sian' If you don’t know how to love yourself then no-one, no-one’s going to love you.
 
Mandy' And if you can’t love, learn to accept yourself. Because that, that’s a heck of a step closer to living for other people because then you’ll always be like stuck on what they want.
 
Sian' Do it for yourself really. Do it for yourself. Don’t do it for anyone else.
 
Frankie' And if you end up losing the person you’re living for then you’re stuck. So you do need to live for yourself, not other people. 
 

Frankie and Sian say that you can get used to hearing voices but that on bad days they get louder...

Frankie and Sian say that you can get used to hearing voices but that on bad days they get louder...

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Frankie' They [voices] keep telling me to hurt myself, I tend to just like make sure I ring someone or I’ve got like music on as a distraction so I can’t hear them as much. but yeah it can be quite scary at times. They can be quite, it, it, you’re like, with paranoia’s fine but you feel like someone’s controlling you, you feel like someone’s in your head and it’s really not a nice feeling. When, especially when you’re not thinking rationally. It’s a case of, “Oh God” you know, “Someone’s controlling me, I’m not in control of myself.” But other than that when I’m a rational person I’m just, yeah I can pretty much ignore them. You know I’m sort of used to them now, I’ve basically had to accept the fact that.
 
Sian' You get used to them don’t you?
 
Frankie' Yeah.
 
Sian' You get used to them but sometimes it can be hard to, to, you have days, good days and bad days where they sometimes they’re louder than others. Like most of the time they’re always there but sometimes they’re just a bit louder and,
 
Frankie' yeah. And basically I’ve just have to accept the fact that I’m gonna have them for the rest of my life. Because that’s a, you know a physical manifestation of my stress and my depression. So anytime I get stressed I’m gonna hear voices pretty much, ‘cos my body loves me, and it likes scaring me. So yeah pretty much it can be really scary.
 
Sian' Can be scary, but at times, sometimes it feels like, to me, my voices sometimes give me advice on things, it’s like sometimes they tell me to do things that does help me out, but other times like they tell me to do things that really not going to help me out at all it’s stuff that’s going to get me into loads of trouble. And it’s just try and figure out what are the good times and what are the bad times. You have to like control yourself.
 

Mandy, Sian and Frankie have learnt to accept self-harm as a part of their past and are now able...

Mandy, Sian and Frankie have learnt to accept self-harm as a part of their past and are now able...

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Mandy' There was this thing on one of the forums this summer, we were going to a music festival, and they said, you know, “Oh you can see all these Emos with like cuts and scars on their arms.” And I just replied going you know, not everybody who has cuts and scars on their arms are gonna be Emo, you know, I don’t like that sort of music, am I Emo? I don’t have hair like that, am I Emo? I don’t you know wear this, does that make me Emo? So I got quite a healthy reply actually from a couple of other people who said well, “I didn’t have the courage to say that, but I’m exactly the same you know. I was, I was just going to go round in long sleeves so people didn’t mock me,” But you know that’s the whole point is, they’ve got all these stereotypical views, that we challenge because we’ve now got the confidence to do so.
 
It’s why we let people ask and why we’re so open. ‘Cos you know we’re just, we’ve learned to accept it, so, if we introduce people to it they might not be as sort of forward and aggressive with people that might not be at that same stage.
 
Frankie' But most people who seem like to tend judge us like are really depressed, sort of boring like morbid person which we are, but [laughs] we’re a little bit, but it’s a case of you know, if you like if you actually get to know us you should probably see we’re actually quite random sort of bubbly kind of crazy, crazy in a nice way girls. You know.
 
Sian' Definitely.
 
Frankie' That, that’s just the way it is. Yeah we’ve got issues but that doesn’t affect our personality, you know we just get like this…
 
Sian' We all have good days and we all have bad days don’t we? Like everyone. Really isn’t it?
 
Mandy' Averages out in the end.
 
Why do you think, or where have you got that confidence to be quite challenging of the stereotypes, and people’s preconceptions and all that?
 
Sian' Probably because we know each other and because we’ve gone through things the same, so that whereas before we went into the units and things, we probably all thought we were alone, but when we met other people the same and you did and you go…
 
Mandy'  “Oh okay, I’m not alone.”
 
Sian' Think, “Oh there is other people out there.”
 
Mandy' You kind of just try and go, “I’m not a freak. I can, I can live with that,” you know? And as I said we haven’t really got an option but to live with what we’ve done.
 
Frankie' If people can’t accept you for the way you are then screw them, pretty much.
 
Sian' I agree. 
 

Mandy and Sian point out that self-harming is 'anger directed at yourself', not at others.

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Mandy and Sian point out that self-harming is 'anger directed at yourself', not at others.

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Sian' I went swimming, and it’s really hard to go swimming when you’ve got scars on your arms and hands,
 
Mandy' And your legs.
 
Sian' Yeah and stomach and everywhere. And I’ve had people pull their kids away from me. And it just feels so bad to have someone pull their kids away from you, as if to say you gonna hurt my kid, I mean I wouldn’t even dream of hurting a kid you know, I work with children, and
 
Mandy' You wouldn’t dream of hurting anybody else.
 
Sian' I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, no.
 
Mandy' You know it’s not even anger directed at people, it’s anger directed at yourself; it’s a form of a drug. 
 

Being involved in your care helps you learn to trust yourself, gives you control and an ...

Being involved in your care helps you learn to trust yourself, gives you control and an ...

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Mandy' That they’ll [professionals] take the time to stop and go, “Well, this might help. But you know I want you to try it,” not, “This will help, go away and do this.” type thing. ‘Cos I found that even with the good ones to begin with. He gave me this thing of, he wrote it up, a sort of a care plan of what I’d do if I felt really, really bad, and I didn’t even, I didn’t do any of it really, I was you know, “I’m not doing what you tell me to. You know I’ve only just met you, I walk in and you give me this. You’re having a laugh.” But then you, he re-did it, and he re-did it with me, and he involved me in the process of it, and like I was a lot more open to actually using it then, which I found was helpful. So being involved I think helped. And you know since I’ve been a lot more involved in my care I’ve come a lot further.
 
Sian' Definitely. I think if they involve you in the meetings rather than talk behind your back, you feel. I mean, they haven’t been, they have like big case meetings and things about you and it’s all done behind your back and it’s all hush, hush. And you’re not allowed to know anything about it basically. That, that’s not good but when they do start thinking well, yeah, let her come in, let her sit down, have her opinion, and, but that’s what helps really, letting you, letting you have own opinion.
 
Mandy' And it helps you learn to trust yourself again. That you can make decisions, that you’ve got some control. Which is what a lot of people with the depression and sort of the similar illnesses feel they don’t have, they feel they’ve lost that.
 
Sian' Control, yeah.
 
Mandy' It makes you sort of, if you’re involved in trying to fix your life really, ‘cos that’s what it is, then you’ve got the opportunity to build a better one, you’ve got the opportunity to actually wanna live.
 

Mandy and Sian say sometimes you get that “special person” who will treat you not as a number or...

Mandy and Sian say sometimes you get that “special person” who will treat you not as a number or...

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Sian' Some things do help. Some things don’t help. It’s about getting used to them really. It’s about getting, sometimes you do get that special person in the authorities that will make it happen for you.
 
Mandy' Or go that extra mile to make sure that you’re safe.
 
Sian' And when that’s there you do feel safer, and you feel a lot better for it.
 
Mandy' Yeah I know that someone is going to take the time to you know bend the rules and…
 
Sian' Yeah definitely.
 
Mandy' And break them occasionally just to make sure that you know, you’re safe. That they actually do care, rather than it’s not just a job, and…
 
Sian' Not just for a job.
 
Mandy' Not just a 9 to 5. You know that they’ll work with you and not talk at you, that you know, it’s respect I think, respecting that you’re a person and not an illness.
 
Sian' Yeah.
 
Mandy' ‘Cos what we find is a few people I think that they see past that, and that’s all that anybody ever wants is to be treated as a person and not a number or an illness.
 

“Make it so you’re there to help and they can come to you”.

“Make it so you’re there to help and they can come to you”.

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Mandy' Just be open, just say to them you know, I don’t like you doing it, I know that’s your way of coping at the moment.
 
Sian' I’d rather you come and talk to me if you’re doing but if you are going to do it then,
 
Mandy' You know I’m here if you need help sort of thing. Make it so you’re there to help them, and not to judge them, that if they need help they can come to you.
 

“Shouting or judging is not going to help.”

“Shouting or judging is not going to help.”

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Mandy' I think yeah, parents be supportive. don’t try and put too much pressure on them, they can’t snap out of it.
 
Frankie' Don’t judge them. Don’t judge child.
 
Mandy' Don’t shout at them, or say you’re disappointed if you discover they self harm because that that,
 
Frankie' that’s not gonna help.
 
Sian' Doesn’t help it just makes you feel ten times worse.
 
Mandy' Yeah, just be supportive. 
 
 

“Find out why we do certain things”, don’t assume. Be prepared to go that extra mile.

“Find out why we do certain things”, don’t assume. Be prepared to go that extra mile.

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Frankie' Advice, Advice to professionals would just be, “Do your bloody job.”
 
[Laughter]
 
Frankie' Do your job. Don’t pass us off.
 
Sian' Don’t just do the job though, because…
 
Mandy' Remember a person,
 
Sian' Yeah, remember they’re a person, don’t just do your job, go that extra mile for them, do that, twist things just slightly just to help,
 
Frankie' What they tend to do is once you’ve got a diagnosis they treat you as a diagnosis not as an individual. So they don’t find out why you do certain things, or why you, they don’t tend to look at your background, they just tend to say, “Well you’ve got this, this is how we’re going to deal with it.”
 

“Treat us like people, not patients”.

“Treat us like people, not patients”.

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Mandy' Another patient number. We, you know there is a person behind that illness. You can’t just treat the illness, or you’re not gonna see the person, you’re not going to help the person back, especially when it comes to depression, because the illness takes over that person, and takes over that person’s personality. And you’re not going to discover the best way to treat them unless you actually talk to them, and take the time to try and see what’s going on there behind there and who’s the one that’s struggling to survive inside type thing. So you know…
 
Sian' Just be there really,
 
Frankie' Treat us like people, not patients.
 
Mandy' Treat us like you’d like to be treated if you were in the same situation. Because you know we’re not an illness and we’re not a patient number.
 

“Hang in there!”

“Hang in there!”

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Mandy' Hang in there. It gets better.
 
Frankie' That’s pretty much all I can say.
 
Mandy' It’s the cliché, it takes time, and we used to get so angry when people said that ‘cos it’s so hypocritical, it’s so rubbish, I don’t want it to take time, I don’t have time to spare type thing.
 
Sian' It does. Sometimes you think you can, you just want to snap your fingers and be all over with but it’s not like that, it is a long working process and you do have to, I think you have to wanna be helped because at first if you don’t want to be helped then you’re not gonna accept it.
 
Mandy' You’re not going to get better.
 
Sian' You’ve got to accept things so. Like at first before, for me it was like I wasn’t accepting things were this is the way it goes, whereas like when you finally do accept it things are a whole lot easier.
 
Mandy' Stay involved still over your care. Because that is the way you will come out of this. The way you, you know, you’ll build the confidence and you really will feel you’ve achieved something, if you stick at it. You know you can just, it sounds really, really clichéd but just hang in there and stick with it, ‘cos you know we were all at the point where we were drugged up and in a psychiatric unit and you know, we’re sat here now able to talk about it with confidence, smiles and wanting to live, a lot of the time. Most of the time. You know, you’re still going to have your bad days; we’re not going to say its all hunky dory. You’ll have good and bad days.
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