The excerpt below is part of this interesting story from the Guardian. I should imagine that, even if you had no mental disorder, this experience might make you question whether it was time to throw in the towel. George Orwell, eat your heart out!
Even the begonias are puritans now.
When even flowerbeds start to order us around, the guardians of our well-being have lost the plot.
Nick Cohen Sunday August 19, 2007 The Observer
Last week, a young NHS psychiatrist, who blogs under the pseudonym Shiny Happy Person, described how she 'was just taking five minutes out, enjoying the sunshine in the surprisingly pleasant grounds of my new hospital, when the flowerbed spoke to me'.
She went on to reassure her readers: 'No, I'm not neuroleptic-deficient. Other people heard it too. One moment, all was quiet and the next a disembodied voice was bellowing from somewhere in the vicinity of the begonias. Strictly speaking, it wasn't actually addressing me and I know this because it said, "This is a no-smoking area. Please put your cigarette out. A member of staff has been informed." I gave up smoking six weeks ago. But, really, how Orwellian is that?
'The smokers looked understandably alarmed, glanced furtively around and then scarpered. I can't help questioning the wisdom of installing a talking flowerbed to tell people off in the grounds of a psychiatric hospital, of all places.'
One of the many difficulties in reporting on the NHS is that doctors cannot speak freely about the idiocies of their managers. Threats of dismissal mean I can't identify the junior psychiatrist or say where she works. But it is on the record that hospitals have banned smoking and some, such as the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust, have put smoke alarms outdoors to catch patients who nip outside for a quick fag.
The makers of a new generation of alarms say their trade doesn't stop with the NHS. They are doing good business with local authorities, drug rehabilitation centres and government departments. Their Cig-Arrete (geddit?) detector provides 'a visual and audible re-enforcement of your commitment to creating a smoke-free environment'.
Sensors pick up the whiff of illicit smoke and a voice cries: 'This is a no- smoking area. Please extinguish your cigarette. A member of staff has been contacted.' Which sounds very like what Shiny Happy Person said she heard.
You might think there's nothing wrong with alarms blaring out threats when smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death. But then it's not illegal to smoke in hospital grounds or any other open space. NHS managers are going way beyond the law and not thinking about the likely effects on the mentally ill of having flowerbeds shout at them when they do it.