The Womens Ward


SKU paperback Category

100 in stock


By Ruth Carter

ISBN: 9781847475923
Published: 2007
Pages: 121
Key Themes: women, companionship, search for independence, mental health services for women, autobiographical fiction


The story begins as R is dumped at the door of the psychiatric hospital by her husband and is totally disorientated by alcohol and by the residue of the tablets she has taken that night.

The story revolves around the strong bonds the women in the psychiatric hospital forge and their support for each other.
It is seen through the eyes of R who becomes something of an observer.

It deals with a variety of mental health issues and the treatment on offer, which generally consists of enforced medication and nicotine therapy.
No counselling or rehabilitation is provided and the exercise bike is kept in bubble wrap in a cupboard.

It also poses questions of human rights abuses, especially for the majority who are sectioned. No right to vote. Small violations of hospital rules can result in a patient being confined to the ward for several weeks, although none of them are a threat to the public. In addition, visiting rights can be curtailed.

The whole story is seen through Rs eyes. She is the only voluntary patient so is allowed out but when she comes back, she is body searched, and her shopping is emptied onto the bed and rummaged through. She expresses a feeling of humiliation but is reminded that if she complains she too can be sectioned.

Two women have ECT. One, Thelma, recovers her ability to speak coherently within weeks, but Kit, who also undergoes the treatment, has trouble with even the smallest recollections, deteriorates with each treatment and eventually has to be reminded of her name. She doesnt recover.

Nicky, a huge woman with livid tattoo, a history of self harm and a foul mouth, becomes the matriarch, looking after the weaker members of the enclosed society.

The book also looks at the standard of care offered. Some staff are supportive and able to relate to their patients while others verge on the sadistic. As an example, a young Filipino is sexually assaulted by a fellow inmate in full view of staff who merely monitor the situation. Two of the patients intervene but are rebuked for interfering and have their home leave cancelled.

The womens time is concentrated on the weekly review meetings which decide whether they can have home leave or even a walk in the garden. There are no set appointments so a six hour wait is not unusual.

When two of the girls are accepted into a halfway house, the others throw a party for them and a collection is made. However, when R returns with the food, most of it is put in the bin because of Health and safety issues. The girls rally round and organise a dance, being only allowed to eat crisps and nuts.

At the end of the story, R is eventually allowed home but has now become aware of the destructive nature of her marriage. Her husband is patronising, tactless and belittles her. But now R has gathered enough strength to leave him.

This story is about the heroism of women who make it through their personal traumas only to be met by the gates of the system.

It is about those who have no voice.

About the Author

I was born on a small farm in the Lake District but left to do teacher training in Birmingham. I taught for many years as a Special Needs Co-ordinator but left to write.

I have a daughter, a son, a dog, two cats and a husband.

All that I write is the truth, nothing is just from my imagination. I hope it might change peoples minds about how it really is.

1 review for The Womens Ward

  1. John Harley (verified owner)

    A realistic and honest story of how women cope together in mental health hospitals, an excellent story of campanionship

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