Gift Shop

When I was a patient at the old hospital much of it was abandoned. It was able to accommodate 5000 but while I was there the few wards that existed housed less than 200 clients. As I wandered the long hallways I began to internalize the perception that I too was abandoned and forgotten. The fact that there was no gift shop in this hospital conveys the reality.

Why wouldn’t a hospital devoted to mental health have a gift shop? I don’t imagine hospitals profit much from gift shops but the patients do. If we all visited those with mental illness in the same fashion we do for “physical” illness there would be gift shops. If you don’t think stigma is a reality this would seem an almost physical manifestation of it. Our perceptions lead us physically away from those with mental illness. We know the value in visiting the sick but the whispers we grew up with keep us at a distance.

The new Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health has a gift shop. Maybe they gladly accept visitors and it’s not “as close as you want to get” but rather As Near As Your Beliefs Will Take You.

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