GB basketball player takes own life after being discharged from psychiatric ward to a Travelodge
Updated: Apr 24
A great friend of mine sent me the link to an article that was published in The Mirror a couple of weeks ago, and last night we discussed it at length.
On reading it even for the first time, I was left shocked and saddened but after dissecting it with my (very knowledgeable) friend, I'm left with an even stronger feeling, this time of outrage and disgust.
The appalling circumstances and actions that ultimately led to the death of a young and talented basketball player, must never be allowed to happen again.
Morwenna Johnson, who was 22 at the time of her death, had suffered a spinal stroke four years earlier which had left her paralysed from the waist down. With the added complication of a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder she was clearly in an extremely vulnerable position.
Considering her combined physical and mental disabilities, one would have thought that she would have received extra care and attention, but instead she fell victim to a series of failings and poor decisions which ultimately resulted in her taking her own life.
After spending two months in Harplands Psychiatric Hospital at the end of October 2019, she was (questionably) discharged just before Christmas, to a Travelodge in the nearby town of Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire.
In January of 2020 she returned to the hospital voicing concerns about her mental health, was admitted for three days, then once again discharged to a Travelodge, this time in Talke, from where she hung herself on January 17th last year.
The psychiatrist in charge of her care is quoted as saying, 'because of her self-harming I was concerned about her becoming dependent on hospital staff' as well as adding; 'she would self harm more in hospital because she knew the staff were around to help, it was therefore important to discharge her to make her independent again'. Sorry but WTF??!!
I'm completely dumfounded by these, frankly insensitive and stupid comments. How can this psychiatrist think that sending a vulnerable, physically and mentally disabled person by themselves to a Travelodge is going to magically make them overcome their existing problems and become 'independent'? Appalling lack of thought and insight into mental health conditions quite frankly and that's from a psychiatrist!! Terrible.
It turns out that the hospital weren't even desperate for space either (they shouldn't be chucking people out to free up beds anyway,) because a housing manager had in fact found Morwenna somewhere to be safely discharged to. He told the inquest that he was, 'not given sufficient time to make the necessary adaptions to the property before she was discharged'.
There are more questions to be asked in the aftermath of this tragedy, principally those to do with the current mental health confidentiality laws. As it stands at the moment, from the age of eighteen you have a right to privacy, but is it really ok to not inform parents and families of a loved one's situation regarding a serious episode of mental illness?
Reading between the lines, Morwenna had abandoned her family and was trying to contend with all of this on her own, but shouldn't her mother at least have been given the chance to reach out to her daughter in some way? I think these issues need looking into.... Just another thing to add to an ever-growing list!
My 'survivor' friends and I, who have all been through the current mental health system several times, have all been victims of failings and miscommunications.
I was once discharged from hospital to an empty house after my father had expressly stated that in the unlikely event of my release, (during the time that they were out of the country) that he would pay for me to go somewhere safe, so that I could be properly cared for and looked after. None of this happened and the result was another hugely stressful sectioning with my friends Panda and Cindy having to race over to the house and take me back to the hospital.
These failings are not down to individuals (although education is needed desperately), it comes down to a system that is poorly funded and broken by a lack of focus and attention.
Again, I must emphasise the fact that I am not attacking the people that work in mental health, (they need commending and encouraging) but I think they would agree that things could be a lot better and HAVE GOT TO BE A LOT BETTER so that tragic cases like that of Morwenna Johnson's are never allowed to happen again.
Mental health messages that we're given in the media like 'get fresh air, and keep socialising' are as good as putting a plaster on a broken leg when it comes to serious mental illness. Can't we move past that now and start focusing on improving the psychiatric care that's currently available for the vulnerable and severely ill, so that they can be effectively treated and supported?
The system needs a tonne of money, focus and support and before you say it, YES I am prepared to offer my services in helping with that too!!
If you would like to read the full article in The Mirror, I have attached it here.
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Speak to you soon,