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The first thing I noticed on the ward was a girl. She was tiny, no more than 4 feet 11 and very thin. She looked about 12 but I later found out she was nearly 19. Cheek bones protruded from her face and her hip bones protruded out from her hollowed waist. The white night dress she wore was buttoned all down the front, and came down past her knees. Her thin emaciated legs protruded from the bottom and her ankles looked as if they were going to snap, even her bare feet looked emaciated. Her arms were as bad, and her red chapped hands were large in proportion with very long fingers. Along her arms was a mass of scar tissue and a variety of fresh cuts. Her eyes were hollowed and sad looking. Long black thin hair fell down in front of her face and down to the small of her back. Her hair was dry and brittle but somehow it added a look of strange unhealthy beauty to this ill girl.

I must have been looking lost as a large lady wearing a matron’s uniform bustled up to me.

“Are you the assistant we’ve been sent” her voice was

“Yes” I timidly replied. It was my first time in a mental health ward and I was petrified.

“Ok, come into the office”

The office was small but tidy. There was no loose paperwork anywhere and all that sat on the large desk was a laptop computer. The matron told me her name was Tina and that she was to be my mentor. She said that all the girls on this ward were signed over as her legal wards and as such she may treat them in any way she saw fit, this may include the punishment of any girl that fails to respond to treatment. This seemed like a weird hospital but I signed my forms and then she lead me back on to the ward and straight towards the girl.

“This is Sally, you will be looking after her, if you need any assistance ask Katy over there, she’s Sally’s named nurse.”

Tina then left me with this strange girl.

“Hi, I’m Georgie”

“Take me out for a cigarette”

“ummm…let me just check with your nurse”

I looked over at the woman who was pointed out to be Katy and signalled that Sally wanted to smoke. Katy signalled back that it was fine.

Sally led me out of the building into a beautiful back garden, where she lighted up a cigarette. At first we sat there in silence then she started to talk.

“I suppose you wonder why I do this to my self.”

I said nothing in reply but she carried on regardless.

“I don’t really know my self, it just sort of happened and now I can’t stop. I used to be considered very pretty, though you probably wouldn’t know that to look at me now. My hair was my best feature, long and shiny, now it’s very thin but it’s the only thing I have left that keeps me looking hideous. They say if I don’t start eating they’ll punish me. You’ll probably be around to see it. I have a weigh in and check tomorrow. I’ve been punished before. They’ve hooked me up to tubes that have force fed me but I just pulled them out. I have no privileges, I’m not even allowed to wash and go to the toilet unaccompanied. One time they placed me in isolation. That was the worst; they hooked me up to a machine that did everything for me for two weeks. I had tubes to feed me and to remove all waste; I even had a machine that moved me. It was horrible. I expect I’ll get that again.”

She got up and we walked inside. Then Katy told me that I should take Sally through to the shower room and help her wash. Then to strap her into her bed so she could be fed as she had refused to eat during the day. While she was washing I could see the extent of her forced emaciation, though despite of this she still looked beautiful. When she was done we walked to her bed and she led down and I place the strong leather straps around her. Katy then came over and injected her with a sedative. Sally fell asleep and a tube was inserted down her throat in order to feed her.

The rest of my shift passed uneventfully and when I got home all I could think about was Sally. I wondered what punishment was in store for her the following day.

When I got in the following afternoon I was instructed again to take care of Sally and again we went outside for her to smoke. She informed me that she had not achieved what they had hoped and that at 7.00pm her punishment was to take place. At 6.45 Katy came out and requested that we come in as Sally needed to get ready. We walked in. She was slower than usual, scared of what was going to happen, for all her blasé manner of the day before.

Katy led the two of us into a mirrored room. She told me to help Sally undress and when she was done strap her into the chair in the centre of the room. I did as I was told and when she was in Sally looked frightened, and very vulnerable. Tina entered the room followed by Katy pushing a trolley that had on it various equipment for cutting and styling hair. Sally couldn’t see this trolley only Tina. I stood watching looking at the poor girl shrink further into the chair, and then Tina began to speak.

“You have not responded to any treatment, medication or therapy. You know the consequences. You will be placed in isolation and force fed for two weeks..but first we think you’re in need of a hair cut.”

There was a pop and a buzzing noise. There clippers moved swiftly over her head. The hairs fell to the floor creating a pile on the floor. As her hair was removed tears streamed down her face. When the buzzing had stopped Sally looked like a concentration camp victim. Her skeletal body was emphasised by her dome head with a short stubble covering it. She wasn’t attractive any more.

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