07/10/11 Albert Haines – I’m a celebrity, get me out of here

Catch 22. Anyone remember it? The film? The book?

The Catch 22, as so beautifully described by Joseph Heller back in the day was simple. His book was centred around American pilots and support crews in, I believe, world war 2.

Going on bombing mission after bombing mission was a risky and stressful business for all concerned – so many of the central characters were keen to be invalided out. Yossarian – the main character – wanted to demonstrate that he was crazy to the medics. No matter what symptoms he came up with the doctors’ responses were consistent –

No matter how crazy he appeared, it was clearly the act of a sane man to try to get out of the war. In short, the madder he acted, the saner they believed him to be.

Fact is every bit as weird as the fiction above.

Imagine you had a bit of a mental spin out some 25 years ago. You go off brandishing a machete, making threats to those around you. You are easily disarmed and no-one was harmed during your moment of lunacy.

Imagine, instead of going to prison, you are sent off to Broadmoor – a high security hospital – where you remain for the next 25 years.

This is the case for Albert Haines, the first ever UK patient to have an appeal against his detention heard in public.
Last week the hearing began…

Arguing for his continued detention Dr Jose Romero-Urcelay, his senior clinician, said Haines was “delusional”, believed he was a “victim of the system” and that staff were out to “sabotage” his hearing.

Social worker, Anne White states, “Mr Haines is the most difficult patient I have had in 10 years.”

Can you see the Catch 22 link yet?

Combine this with other bits of information like –

The variety of different diagnoses he has received over the years – ranging from psychosis to personality disorder.
The psychiatrists claim that psychiatry is an art where mental illness cannot be found under an MRI scanner.

Jonathan Watkins, an independent social worker speaking for Haines’ counsel, believes that Mr Haines does not have a mental illness and that the underlying causes of his anti-social behaviour – childhood neglect and abuse – have remained unaddressed in his 25 years of, er, treatment at Broadmoor.

Haines wants to be released into the community to live with his brother.
Google ‘Albert Haines’ – make up your own mind.

My thoughts…

After 25 years in any hospital, one is going to end up more than a little institutionalised.

His challenging behaviour towards staff…his delusional beliefs that he is a victim of the system, that they are out to sabotage his hearing….

What would you do? What would you believe?

What is the correct response to all this?


He has withdrawn from treatment – I’m guessing that’s a bit to do with him and a bit to do with the attitudes of the staff.
As an ex-senior social worker, the statement made by Anne White left me cold.

“He is the most difficult patient I have had in 10 years.”

Sounds ok? He’s anti-social.
Aggressive toward staff. Reportedly racist.

Sure, throw away the key.

She is blaming him for her inability to engage with him.

Training anyone?

Instead of saying she lacks the skills, she’s saying this whole situation is down to him. A man with, in her opinion, a mental illness.

Remember mental illness cannot be found under an MRI scanner? Has anyone looked? Properly?

I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and on the 31st of this month I will be placed under such a scanner where they will look for my particular type of mental malady.
Mentally Ill? Loony? Well something ain’t right.

The whole definition thing – mentally Ill or not – I believe, in this situation only serves to cloud the situation.

I bet that Mr Haines had something of a malady about him 25 years ago when he started waving his machete about.
I bet after 25 years he’ll need more than a little help to reintegrate to society.

This transcends the over simplified

“He’s mental – no I’m not.” argument.

He’s refusing medication, presumably to show his lack of lunacy.

Here I am, out in the community, I take medication to alleviate my symptoms.
His well-meaning defence team may ultimately be as destructive towards him as the system that had him incarcerated.

Imagine, you had a mental malady, you were admitted to a hospital that not only failed to treat that but served to make it worse.

The only choices here seem to be back to Broadmoor or freedom.

If he does indeed have some manner of personality disorder (whether or not that’s a mental illness will just have to be left on a dusty shelf somewhere), after 25 years he is going to require some manner of professional, properly trained, support for him to make the most out of his life.

From the information available it would appear that a gross miscarriage of justice has taken place here. The most important thing now is to make amends and provide this man with real support.

As a footnote, consider this, the annual cost of keeping a patient in Broadmoor, according to a report here

– is £200 thousand. As a social worker, I’m pretty sure I could cobble together a package of care in the community that was a little cheaper and more effective.

Whereas Catch 22 was an amusing fictional tale, the story of Albert Haines is anything but.

It’s good to see this in the public eye.

Walk a mile


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