the Carer Meeting

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 53

they are mainly older people

making tea
getting the biscuits
familiar with one another
from months or years of Meetings
like the Lion’s Club
or Rotary

one or two
look a little startled
half afraid

new to the game


I am meeting with a group of Carers
have been asked to seek their views
about service provision
and they are ready to tell me
have rehearsed and repeated their stories
many many times

no longer expect to get a response
but are happy to speak anyway
being listened to is cathartic
even if nothing happens

the stages of a career in Caring
for the mentally ill
are transparently on show


the Newbies

look stunned
haven’t come to terms with what it means
this intrusion of Mental Illness
into previously unsuspecting lives
not yet comprehending the future that awaits them
only wanting to know
what is wrong
how to fix it
that help will be there for them

does anyone know what this is
this Schizophrenia
why has it happened
why now
did we do something wrong

will it happen again


the Middle Stagers are angry
but to say that doesn’t do them justice
rope-able is better
they know they won’t get service
when they need it
that no beds are available
unless a life is at stake
that you have to be half beaten up
or expecting to die before anyone gives a shit

the only way to get a response
only way mind you
is to park your car
in front of the Ambulance Entrance
at the Emergency Department
and not shift it
if you want to get them to do anything for you
you have to inconvenience them

those people are supposed to be Professionals
to help those that need them
but they just don’t care

not until it’s too late


the Old Hands have seen it all

they’re angry too
but they have gotten to know the system
over the years
understand that the staff do their best
some better than others
but generally they do what they can
to make it work

when you’ve been around
twenty or thirty years
as some of us have
you learn things
like that you’ll be managing and untangling
this bloody sickness for the rest of your life
the rest of your loved one’s life anyway
so you better adjust to that

you learn where to put your finger
to get at the pulse of influence
the Senior Doctor
the Executive Officer
the local Member of Parliament
you keep at them to change
but you plan it out
brace yourself for the long haul

you have to make sure you keep enough strength
to manage your own ups and downs
look after the Newbies
hose down the others
and keep the pressure on

be sure they don’t add any policies
or make stupid changes
they haven’t asked you about first

we rely on each other in the group
to keep going on

but never mind that
would you like a cup of tea
before we start

so young man
what is it that you
want to ask us about

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – and the hell with the papers



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