Mostly in couples and sometimes alone, the students made their way to the Crime House door. This house is usually used by Forensic science students who find themselves quite literally at the scene of the crime. One after another over the course of this simulated weekend (that in reality lasted but one day) each group of students had to visit their patient, assess, advise and help. They would then have a meeting with their counterparts who would be the next people to visit the patient. So it was both an exercise in being the person at the cutting edge of the situation but also the ability to move forward as a team. It meant as an outsider I observed and sketched 3 unattached narratives, like jumping across random pages of a novel.
Alice is here in her house on a weekend pass, so this is a fleeting visit for her too. For the past five weeks she has been on a mental health ward. Alice hugs a child's toy, she rocks gently squeezing it's soft body with an intensity that would rid a lemon of not only its juice but its zest as well. Her voice wavers like a doll, it's as if someone had pulled the ringed cord at her back and her words rise and fall, changing in pitch and emotion.
|Student - Olawumi Olatunde|
Student Olawumi Olatunde asks if Alice has the 'urges' at the moment, and her colleague speaks honestly, helping Alice realise she is teetering on the verge of a 'manic phase'. Tears start to well in Alice's eyes and the most revealing words escape between her lips, "I'm worried they're going to find me out".
It is one of the finest interactions I have witnessed between student and patient. Martyn Keen thinks so too as he launches into a debrief, he tells the students "Alice was more honest with her nurses than she was with her husband or children". Alice is left alone and someone will be here to check on her progress in the days ahead.
The second visit is to see Julian (actor Nigel) who's numb bottom is aggravating him more than any mental rollercoaster. He has spent another night sleeping on the cold linoleum of his bedsit. Money is an issue and the support that he should be a receiving is a safety net which has more than one hole in it.
The impasse is best illustrated in this short exchange. Isaac asks "If we sorted out all your problems out would you feel better?" and Julian replies "Of course." Then after a long pause he adds "You can help me by helping me".
Harvey Wells is overseeing this exchange in his role as facilitator and the pursing of his lips is only interrupted by a pensive tap of his pen before it makes another note in his book. Time is the winner, the turgid second hand ticking variety. The minutes that stick in Julian's room barely escape the firmly shut door nor permeate the condensation that lines the window. It is not just the maze of mental health that makes Time move slower but also the inability to sit on a sofa or watch the TV. Small comforts that we take for granted.
Under the gaze of facilitator David Tracey it is David our student who makes the gesture that catches me by surprise. It is the difference between being on the ward and out here in suburban London. David needs to get Peter out of this environment, even it's only for a few hours, away from the addictive conspiracies and the volatile father son dynamic. Rather than a solution constructed of words David offers one made of actions. He will go with Peter himself, out there beyond the boundaries of this secure bedroom and into a world full of permutations which are ready to trip them both up. It is also a world that offers support and friendship, the first steps will be physical, taken together, while the latter ones will be navigated by Peter alone.