People come here to receive treatment, to have surgery, to give birth and to die, in a building in the middle of a city block ring-barked by traffic. I work in an office that leads to another office that leads to a corridor that leads to a room where you walk past two beds to get to the window.
Once you get to the window you can’t open it. You can open the blinds between the double-glazing with a cord. Then you can look out onto a different section of the same building, at other glazed tinted windows. And way down below you can see a paved courtyard surrounded by high walls. It’s about as big as your kitchen with a garbage bin in the middle bolted to the pavement on legs and grey plastic chairs scattered around the edges.
This is for people with what society calls ‘mental’ illness to pace up and down in and have a cigarette.
I’ve been to that place where you go if you have an ‘acute’ or ‘psychotic’ episode of mental illness.
There is no window
You walk down a corridor and into an office that leads into a ‘lounge room’ that leads into an empty corridor that leads nowhere and is lined with doors. The person who is sick is led through one of the doors into a ‘bedroom’. There is a bed or rather a foam mould of a bed pushed up against the wall with no sharp edges or bits you can tie sheets to or shoe laces on. A foam mould of a chair is against the other wall – and a camera – high up in a corner.
There is no window.
Everything is grey – nothing stands out or is interesting.
If I was going mad I’d go mad in a room like this.
In this society the most common means of suicide are suffocation (hanging), poisoning (car exhaust) and firearms.
Watch as you curl up in a foetal position on your bed
In this society we implement suicide prevention. Nothing to hang yourself by, no pictures on the wall to stimulate ‘crazy’ thought processes. The camera high on the wall beams footage of you into an office where a group of strangers stand around a screen and watch as you curl up in the foetal position on your bed.
One morning I ran up an internal concrete staircase where I work in an effort to get some fresh air and pushed against the barred doors in a rage. They were deadlocked, a steel bar across them and a concrete wedge underneath to prevent anyone from accessing the roof. We know what people use the roof for – they jump.
In this society the Federal Government has encouraged a media blanket on the reporting of suicide.
In this society we suicide in secret, our families grief unrecognised and unsupported.
In this society we analyse suicide trends.
In this society we speak with dry lips and furry tongues and medicate children.
In this society anti-depressant use has increased 352 per cent over the past 10 years.
There are no windows where I work. From the street I’ve seen the big funnels on the top of my building. I think the air is sucked through them into the building. I’ve seen the fat silver foil tubes behind the cheap thin panels on the ceiling that feed the air-conditioned air through miniscule vents.
Where I work someone has shifted one of the panels about half a foot to allow more cool air to escape into the stale, still atmosphere of the ward. I wonder if the exhaust fumes from the traffic outside become part of the air we breathe inside.
’Patience’ comes from the Latin ‘Pati’, ‘Patere’: to sit in pain
There are no windows where I work but I learn patience as I tend to my patients.
A doctor friend told me that ‘patience” comes from the Latin ‘Pati’, ‘Patere’; meaning to sit in pain (hence medical ‘patients’). The opposite is ‘impatience’ the inability to sit in pain.
I started complaining about my workplace three years ago. I’ve been complaining ever since.
Apparently there’s another building full of workers who support me in my job. They are known as the Human Resource Department. I don’t know where this building is and I’ve never met anyone who works there. As a matter of fact their phone number is not listed on any of the internal directories I use where I work.
There’s a doctor where I work who is being sued by a man who’s made millions cutting down trees
I liken them to the constant industrial background hum in David Lynch’s film ‘Eraser Head’. They are omnipresent and all-powerful but unknown in their appearance or whereabouts.
There is a doctor where I work who is being sued by a man who’s made millions of dollars by cutting down trees and turning them into woodchips. I don’t work with the doctor but I’ve heard he is a man who cares about his patients. The doctor was worried about the possibility of unhealthy bacteria growing in the Woodchip Mountains on Burnie wharf. He went public with his concerns.
I’ve seen where the Premier works. It’s a building close to the waterfront and has beautiful, expensive artworks in a spacious, expansive foyer …
This is a man who cares for sick and dying people. He works in a place with no fresh air. He is being sued because he dared to complain and question the health implications associated with the practice of chopping down the trees that give us fresh air.
I’ve seen where the Premier works. It’s a building close to the waterfront and has beautiful, expensive artworks in a spacious, expansive foyer. His windows are tinted the darkest in Hobart.
I’ve been to the top floor. I arranged a meeting to air my complaints with the young woman who is now the Minister for Economic Development.
I was impressed with the top floor ambience. Soft carpet, lush seductive paintings and windows, lots of large windows. I look out of a wall of glass and see 360 degrees of Hobart.
I walk towards the meeting room and the Premier (Deputy Premier back then) walks towards me. He maintains eye contact and so do I – determined not to smile or ingratiate myself. I am surprised how different he looks. Healthier and younger then portrayed in the media. He walks past.
I am left with the smiling, vacuous young woman who makes clucking noises at my complaints and who, it becomes apparent, doesn’t give a shit.
I’m a complainer and a lover, a lover of humanity.
And I fear for us.