Hafan y Coed psychiatric hospital
Today is one of those days you think will never actually come. But it is here and Hafan y Coed has been officially opened. This is the transcript of what I said at the opening:
A few years ago I heard a presenter on local radio make a joke about loonies. Then he said, ‘Ha! I hope no-one’s listening in Whitchurch … actually do they have radios in Whitchurch?’ He put a song on then and that was that.
I think we’d all like to educate him … but it shows just how scary that building is even at a distance. It looks like an old-fashioned ‘loony bin’.
Inside, it’s layered with a century of grime and rusty bolted doors. Staff have been going upwards on a downwards escalator trying to make it into a hospital rather than a haunted house.
And now, here, at long, long last, we have a replacement. Hafan y Coed is clean, fresh, light and airy. At times of mental distress, patients will find physical comfort.
Compassion has gone into the design of the building and it shows that people care. That you will be looked after, cared for, actively engaged with. Psychiatric patients needn’t feel invisible or inconvenient.
The design means patients can go outside for fresh air whenever they need it – without waiting hours for a member of staff to be available. In fact the times when you least feel like going for a walk are the times when you most need to, so the added barrier of asking and waiting can mean you get very stuck. Here, it can work the other way round: staff can encourage you to go outside. Fresh air. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to wellbeing. If you are stuck inside your head with confusing thoughts then being stuck inside makes you worse.
And here, the food will be served in a separate room so that the ward will not be permeated with the smell of a million meals.
Hafan y Coed has been designed to protect dignity and privacy. There is a system for unobtrusive night checks. There is a system to prevent patients going into other bedrooms. Here, you can feel safe.
Jane Hutt A.M said at the Art opening that this must be “more than just a building”. This powerful new start is a chance to build a place of optimism and strength, and staff and patients could really respond to that.
For those of us with mental illness, Cardiff could now be a very hopeful place to be. Hafan y Coed could be an asylum in the full sense of the word. On arrival here, instead of feeling that you have hit rock bottom, you could feel that you have found the way up.