Care not custody
Written by "Ant", a "365 Support" Tenant.
When I was 10 my mum was diagnosed with schizophrenia and my life at home was hectic.
At around age 11 I began getting into trouble with the police for fighting at school. I continued getting into trouble up until 5 years ago when I too was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
I reckon that I was about age 6 or 7 when I first started hearing voices, I used to call them night terrors. I never told anyone about this as my mum was already going through a lot with her own mental illness. I also used to get paranoid and have delusions, I would see things that weren’t there, it was scary, but I just had to deal with it by myself.
When I was 13/14 I did my first stint in custody, which lasted about 3 months, this was for theft. When I came out I was given a bus pass and told to go to a referral unit – a school for naughty kids. No one checked up on me and my mum was in and out of hospital, so I never really went in.
All together I have spent about 12 years of my life in prison. One time I came out of prison in Ireland and I was so paranoid that I took a boat and made my way to Northern Scotland and hid out for 3 months living in a tent. I had a stove and used to eat what I could find in the farmers fields near by.
During my time in jail I was occasionally treated with medication. This was because I would become violent as I was frustrated. The medication would stop though; no body spoke to me about mental illness and I was never seen by a psychiatrist. Eventually whilst I was serving my last sentence I was assessed to see if I had a mental illness and I was given a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and was taken into hospital for treatment. That turned out to be my last ever prison sentence.
When I look back I believe that all my sentences were due to the fact that I was mentally ill and it was the only way that I knew to survive. I think that being in prison did not help my mental health, I spent a lot of time alone and when I was with others they were often bad people who perhaps would never get out.
I think that if I had received my treatment earlier my life would have been very different and I wouldn’t have been in and out of jail. At the time though people working in the prisons weren’t trained to identify people who maybe mentally unwell. When you come out, there’s no support, no one helps you to get your life back – and this is very difficult to do especially when you have a mental illness.