Trigger Warning: Suicide
This is my room window.
It’s the lined frosted window that I look through before falling asleep at night and it’s the window I peer through when I wake up in the morning. I see ward life. Staff see my life.
This is the window staff use every 10 minutes during the day/night to complete patient observation. Many patients are on longer observing intervals. Since coming off the 1 to 1 24/7 (Status 3 Obs) I have been on 10-minute checks.
On blue days, they will see me curled up in bed under my light blue blanket, head towards the wall – existing through pain but continuing to breathe. On better days, I’ll acknowledge staff presence through waving, deliberately moving my body or turning my head towards the window so they can swiftly move on with checks.
At nighttime 10-minute Obs, they will shine a torch through the window – but most of the time they’ll also come in to complete observation and ensure that I’m safe.
This is also the window I nervously stare through when contemplating a suicide attempt in my room. I will ask myself, how long do I have? When did the 10 minutes start? When will it end? Will anyone else come in in the meantime? Will I get caught? Is it worth it?
Sometimes, it feels like the window between life and death, between myself and the rest of the world, between me and them (ward staff).
Sometimes, my room door will open and staff members will walk in and talk or sit with me for a while. They will gently hold space as I spill.
They will offer something much greater than a tick by my name on the Obs clipboard. They will give me time and hope.
They will try to convince me that I have something to offer society and the world and that I shall once again exist productively outside these walls I’ve called home for 6 weeks going on 7.
These conversations lift my spirit to places that seem a lot less dark, places pills can’t access but voices can. But, places where I as a person could probably dwell.
I can’t stress how valuable these conversations can be. Sometimes, I feel 5 years old again, petrified of riding on 2 wheels – sure that the removal of the stabilizer will see myself forever doomed, wounded and weak. Destroyed.
Staff builds us up here compassionately and gently. When we have nothing, they give us dignity and reassurance that we shall glide when those stabilizers are taken off.
Windows are great for their purpose, but open doors and engagement – that’s a whole different thing – something that has the potential to make a huge difference to mental health care and patient well-being in a psychiatric clinical environment.
Let’s get serious about talking. Perhaps in turn that those windows shall then become a lot less needed and used.