Jenny’s Experience of Life in a Secure Inpatient Mental Health Unit

In 2019, Healthwatch Essex released a report following a study conducted in a secure inpatient mental health unit which worked with young people in Essex. SWEET!3, which can be read here, found that young people often felt ignored and powerless as they received treatment. One of these young people was Jenny, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. Jenny’s experience is described below:

“Even though I’m 15 I feel like I’m five.” – Jenny

Jenny recalled a long history of struggling with anxiety in which she had spoken to many mental health professionals across a range of services. She told us she found these experiences repetitive, and that she often had to repeat her story to each new professional she encountered. Jenny also felt that each professional had used the same counselling techniques, which did not improve her mental health. Jenny felt disempowered by these experiences, and rarely knew which services she had been using, or why.

Jenny told us she eventually encountered a mental health professional who realised Jenny’s previous counselling had not been working and referred her to Poplar Adolescent Unit. However, Jenny told us she had not been told why she was being admitted until after she had arrived, so the admission had been a shock.

Jenny felt that staff at Poplar Adolescent Unit listened to her, which had finally enabled her to make progress in her recovery. Her previous experiences of mental health services had made her feel passive, explaining she felt like a much younger child. Jenny’s previous experience of services made her feel anxious about returning to the community care setting.

Jenny told us she did not feel she had been taken seriously in the past, and felt that if she had been seen by one consistent professional who listened to her she might have received the help she needed sooner, without having to be admitted to hospital.