In the run-up to Christmas, we've been thinking about what Christmas can be like for some young people who will spend it in psychiatric hospital.
Daisy spent the festive period on a CAMHS ward as a teenager. She describes the time as one of mixed emotion, and different from the Christmases many other teenagers experienced.
"I often think back to that time. I can still feel the fabric of the sofas in the lounge. I can still smell the damp cloth used to wipe the dining room table. I can hear the buzzer and the entry phone. I can even see the crumbs left from biscuits in the afternoon.
Christmas on the ward meant tatty tinsel pulled out of a beaten up box and the odd card from an ex-patient, safely stuck on an otherwise bare notice board.
The staff did try - old Christmas colouring books with pages missing would be spread across a table. A box of waxy crayons in the middle to share. Underneath our ill exterior, we were all grateful for their efforts but we all felt little motivation to celebrate. Stuck inside, days dragged and Christmas always approached with a heavy weight attached to it. So many emotions, so many fears. Dread and trepidation often littered a snowy sky.
Through the darkness however, we tried to see the light in each other. We used the blank backs of the colouring book pages to draw our own festive scenes. We made them into cards and posted them under each other’s bedroom doors at night. We drew all over the walls of the lounge area and graffitied our names on the backs of the wardrobes. We supported each other and created life long memories. It wasn’t Christmas as most people knew it, but it was ours and always will be."
The feelings of dread, trepidation and isolation are feelings often shared by those experiencing a mental health crisis. This can be especially difficult for those who need treatment in hospital, and even harder when that treatment takes place over Christmas.
At Deck the Wards we hear countless stories of the ways in which young people and members of hospital staff find light in the dark. So many of these stories involve coming together over something shared, like festive scenes in the backs of colouring book pages.
We know that presents at Christmas can't heal everything. But we also know that the crafts, games, books, musical instruments and more that we provide can help create those shared moments Daisy describes. They make it a little easier to find the light.
In the run-up to Christmas, we'll be thinking about all those who will be spending time on psychiatric wards. We extend our love and thoughts to all those staying in hospital, and we wish them all the best in their recovery. We express our thanks to the members of staff we work with who look after the young people in their care, and work tirelessly to bring everyone together over a game or an art project. We also hope all those temporarily separated from their loved ones are able to share precious moments together in person again as soon possible.
Last but not least, we want to thank everyone who supports us to reach as many wards as possible each year. We're extremely grateful for all the donations, social media support and to everyone who gifts us their time, energies and organisational skills. Because of you, we can provide the little things that make Christmas a little lighter.