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The Locked Ward: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Orderly Audio Download – Unabridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Format: Paperback
This is an autobiographical account of life on a psychiatric ward, written by a Scottish nursing assistant and literature buff, who moved from caring for dementia patients onto Ward 25 of his local hospital after a little persuasion from his friend Charlie, the charge nurse for the Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit. He worked there for over seven years and wrote this book partly as a means of fighting the ignorance and fear that still surrounds mental illness for many people. As he writes in his introduction:

"I hope it will inform people about the nature of serious mental illness and how it is treated. I hope it will correct misconceptions, and show that people with serious mental illness can say or do funny things, sad things or bad things; be brave, resolute, irritating, selfish, generous, kind, cruel or petty just like everybody else. Mainly, though, I want it to celebrate a group of people who are misunderstood, mistrusted or viewed with apprehension - the patients."

I am a pretty devoted reader of anything to do with mental health problems, partially due to my own experiences and partially thanks to my interest in the social sciences generally, so this was a must-read for me. While there are many memoirs out there about the experience of depression, schizophrenia, addiction and any number of other issues, it's unusual to find a memoir by someone caring for those people in a professional sense.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am only half way through this book so far and Dennis O'Donnell has really captivated what life is like in a mental health ward. A true account from a mental health nurses point of view, this book will make an interesting read for anyone with a genuine interest in mental health.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dennis O'Donnell has hit upon a winner with this book, his memoir of seven years spent as a psychiatric orderly in central Scotland. Overall I think the book is superb. I found it intelligent, fluent and easy to read. O'Donnell is articulate (he has a degree in English) but also deeply compassionate, and writes with sensitivity about patients he clearly cared very much about. He also displays a sharp eye for the farcical when the occasion calls. For this reason the book is profoundly moving and laugh-out-loud funny by turns, though the humour is not cruel and the jokes are at no-one's expense so much as his own.
I think the book succeeds at all its tasks: it portrays the patients as humans, with their frailties and their strengths; it demystifies psychiatric illness effectively, and educates the reader in the basics of neurosis, psychosis and therapeutic strategies without condescension. And, as any memoir should, it gives great insight into the character of O'Donnell himself, since we see all the events through his particular lens.
If I could change just one thing, it would be to tone down the use of central Scotland vernacular. The book deserves a very wide readership, but non-Scottish readers may be perplexed by occasional unfamiliar expressions. That aside, the book is a triumph. I am really looking forward to his next one.
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Format: Hardcover
A friend who told me The Locked Ward was the best book they had read in years recommended this to me. I was sceptical at first, as I previously had no particular awareness or interest in psychiatric care or mental health issues and thought that it would be a book for those in the profession.

I quickly found that inside knowledge was not necessary and that it was actually a compassionate but very humorous read about folk; those who care and those who are cared for, some who are mad and some less so. The author provides insightful accounts of patients and their treatments as well as detailing some of their relationships with the nursing staff, making you realise that the kind of care that the author and his colleagues provide is very special indeed.

The book does take you through all the emotions. You do laugh, very hard at places, but you are most definitely not laughing at or conspiring against the patients. You may also shed a tear in sadness or anger, but the author does attempt to explain why the patients are how they are and intersperses the anecdotes with explanations of the different illnesses and psychoses which helps to provide a context to the patients' stories.

At the end of the memoir, I felt the common satisfaction derived from a thoroughly enjoyable read but also, and without trying to make it sound like a textbook, educated. Educated in the sense that it helped me overcome my own ignorance and in some cases prejudices about mental illness.

Although, I am sure this book will be pigeon holed in the health and/or biography sections of bookshops and Amazon, it is much more than that. I am now in agreement with my friend and can safely say this is the best book I've read in years.

I am eagerly anticipating a follow up by Dennis O'Donnell and surely a memoir of his teaching career is the obvious follow up.
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