I was part of the forensic system for seven years. My first 10 months were spent in jail followed by a year on the Forensic Treatment Unit and another on the Forensic Rehabilitation Unit. The remainder of my rehabilitation took place in the community.
I’m no expert when it comes to rehabilitation and I don’t know the first thing about design but I know how accommodations make me feel. When I had no window and only a toilet for furniture, when the fluorescent was always and my company never I was convinced that not a soul in the world cared about me. When I see this building I am convinced that the individuals who will pass through here will be cared for on many levels. I hope these surroundings remind them that they are not abandoned or forgotten. When I see this building I know my community cares about mental illness. When I see this building I know society has compassion.
We are celebrating a new building and change. I am celebrating the dignity we are able to afford the staff and clients who will occupy this facility. Those who suffer from mental illness deserve no less. It has been my painful pleasure to come to know both clients and staff across the way. I have become friends with both. I am pleased that the staff will have surroundings befitting the fine care and expertise they measure. The responsibility we entrust them with deserves our respect.
This building fights stigma. When we can all come together and create such a space it allows us to all understand. We can have no doubt that these illnesses deserve our very best. The line I often saw between mental health and physical health treatment disappears on this site.
I have been a mental health consumer for 34 years and have experienced several institutions. Often my will was not to be there. One that sticks out in my mind I only spent a couple of days at but I can still remember the graffiti on the seclusion room walls, the tired old furniture, even the paint would send any person for the exit. For some of the occupants here, at times there really isn’t an exit. If they can look around themselves and see everything I see in this building I suspect they will be better able to embrace their rehabilitation.
Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care will further the welfare of those unfortunate enough to find themselves here. These premises are a remedy to preventable hardship. This hospital is more therapeutic than the old one for one simple reason. Patients will have their own rooms. To live in a dormitory every noise is common and privacy is extinct. Even the mentally ill need a space to call their own; even the mentally ill need privacy; even the mentally ill need solitude.
No one wants to find themselves in this building. It is only the staff who choose to be here. Mental illness is not a choice and these facilities should be about rehabilitation.
I am pleased for my neighbours and community. I am pleased for the many people I know who suffer from mental illness and for those who don’t. To be here is usually something that happens to someone else. There is no inoculation to exclusion from this building. Thankfully there is treatment so we can all take a path towards the exit.
We are All fortunate to have had this opportunity to consciously and deliberately plan for advancements in rehabilitation and to honour society’s shifting perception of mental illness.