I gave it a lot of thought before posting this reply, then decided to put my money where my mouth is as I thought the perspective of a former patient (not inmate please - it has such a horrible ring to it) might be of interest.
I went to Kestrel Ward, Oakwood Hospital at the age of seventeen with severe depression, caused in part by my wretched home life. I was there about eight weeks. The ward was light and airy, pleasantly decorated and carpeted, and there were coffee tables and easy chairs dotted about. The staff were caring and professional especially the charge nurse, Ken. There was one exception to this rule, a little b*tch of a staff nurse, given to tearing junior staff to shreds in front of patients. She threatened me that if I didn't eat my supper (a cold and slimy vegetarian "dish") she would "see you get transferred to a LOCKED WARD" (the caps is the bit where she shouted). An idle threat, and we both knew it as she wasn't the charge nurse. I despised her. Ken once sent me for a walk round the farm and grounds with another nurse, a very sweet enrolled nurse. I enjoyed her company, the fresh air and exercise very much.
I became well and stayed that way until the age of forty, when my marriage came to an end. I was misdiagnosed for nine years after that and had two stays in Priority House as an informal patient. One of the outer circles of hell. If I told you what it was like you wouldn't believe me, nor would you believe what was done to me. The kindest person there was a nursing assistant who had been at Oakwood.
She said she regretted not being able to spend time with the patients including trips to town to help with anxiety/agoraphobia. Not enough time or money.
I was correctly diagnosed eight years ago and now lead a normal life including full time work and a social life.
It's true that there were some horrible abuses in the old days, especially on the "back wards" where the patients were just locked up and counted, being considered hopeless cases. It was all too easy to get sucked into the system, even for highly treatable illness such as depression, anxiety or post-natal illness, and stay there for years. But there was good work being done too, such as therapeutic communities to help patients learn to take responsibility again and have some control over their lives and one to one work with patients on the ward.I think we have lost our way with regard to mental health treatment - not enough money, little time and no provision outside the private sector for people who just can't hack it on their own.
I hope you won't look down on me or be wary of me - I was never violent or even horrible, just bewildered. My family found it hard to accept and to this day I feel shame.
By the way - the powers-that-be have decided we are to be called "service users". What boll....nonsense! You don't hear of heart service users, or cancer service users. Feels like a ghetto to me!