Tuesday, April 17, 2012

dead quiet

A priest friend who used to be the chaplain to a large hospital for the mentally ill spoke to me about the dead quiet that pervaded the place. He said it was the silence of patient files sitting on endless shelves and of staff that had given up hope in a place of shuffling feet and lost people. I can readily imagine the mental energy of such a place, a kind of emptiness and lostness where the exercise of compassion might seem to fall forgotten in a place of profound forgetting.

How might the wider community bring to such places the silence of solidarity, of remembrance of holding in loving kindness.  How might a silence of deep listening and of deep presence in thought, prayer and appreciation change the energy of such places, underfunded, burdened by too much to accomplish. I imagine those endless rows of files waiting in a dusty sunlight through unwashed windows. I think of my priest friend seeking to live by the spirit of the Eucharist when so often asked why he bothered and 'we don't want religion here' comments by staff. I admire his perseverance and his noble silence as he sought to be present with a warm humanity and the light of faith in that void.

1 comment:

  1. I can only assume that the psychiatric hospital that your friend described was a public hospital.

    Over the years I have experienced as an in-patient both the private and the public psychiatric systems. The differences in treatment and conditions are incomparable. As with other aspects of our society, there is a yawning gap between those who can afford private medical cover and those who cannot possibly manage these exorbitant costs.

    Based on my own experiences, I would urge anyone who, like me, suffers with a mental health condition (bipolar) to do their utmost to manage private health cover. The difference in the treatment you will receive in the private psychiatric system, not to mention the quality of the food and the comfortable surroundings - is immeasurable.

    That said, as an old age pensioner, there is no way I can afford private cover and must therefore reluctantly ignore my own advice.

    I used to see myself as an advocate for others who, like me, had mental health problems. But these days, as the result of frequent stigma, I generally keep quiet on the subject. That approach, at least, should meet the approval of the Philisopher of Silence. My observation would be that, as with most issues, there is a downside to the culpability of Silence.