This is an authentic account of a professional's experience of the mental health industry beginning in the early nineteen seventies when, as a young man from a disturbed background, he fails to reach university and seeks employment as a porter in a mental hospital. The hospital community seems the equivalent of a sprawling, international family: culturally diverse, eccentric, benevolent and dysfunctional. The callow youth embraces this representation of a family and its inimitable characters, and the illuminating field of mental disorder, in what he comes to own as a personal sense of asylum. He embarks on a mental nurse training despite the controlled and impoverished conditions so detrimental to the patients' lives and recovery. He then experiences the evolving, civilising developments which slowly transform the staff-centred regime and which eventually leads to the closure of the hospital for good. Within the hospital's grounds, a modern forensic unit is built in its stead. He eventually, turns to the discipline of psychotherapy in order to work more therapeutically but this only accentuates the dilemmas in current mental health care.
Throughout the journey, the wild shrub of the Buddleia is a metaphor for the striving institutions, staff, patients and himself, trying to survive and thrive in an inhospitable world.
Stephen Burrow was born in Surrey, where he commenced a Mental Health Nursing career in 1973 in days when mental illness was speedily hospitalised. The majority of this career was spent in the public sector forensic specialism, with varying spells in medium security mental health units and high security hospitals, as well as Prison Service Health Care. After qualifying as a Registered Mental Nurse in a Surrey mental hospital, he gained most of his professional training, and academic and professional development, in London: a first degree in Sociology from the London School of Economics, University of London; a General Nurse training, and a Practitioner training in Cognitive Analytic Therapy, from St. Thomas' Hospital, London; and positions of Honorary Lecturer and Honorary Researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. A Masters Degree in Crime, Deviance and Social Policy was obtained from the University of Lancaster. He spent time as an Editorial Board Advisor to two professional journals and has, himself, published a number of editorials, articles and book chapters. Two pieces of published research constituted a brief survey of the self-harming behaviour of Special Hospital patients, then, a multi-disciplinary study of the treatment and security needs of the same client group. He has longed to write more creatively about the machinations of the mental health organisations which he experienced, and not least, to convey his strong nostalgia for them. Retiring early to the heart of Dorset, he now indulges his lifelong enthusiasm for the countryside, wildlife and rambling. He is devoted to his two daughters, Rachel and Heather.