I’d wonder such things as whether the environment – a small ward, barred up windows, very little stimulatory activities, zero fresh air – was appropriate for good mental health. I’d often consider the more obviously ill men in my ward and wonder too if some of their problems weren’t brought about by over-prescribed medication.

Days ebbed and flowed around the dispensation of medicine. There was a brief window of time every evening when certain patients’ eyes sharpened and their tongues seemed to deflate. This window was quickly shut by a trip to the medicine dispensary. A tell-tale amphibious film went up over their eyes again shortly before bedtime. Of course, many of these people needed drugs for their respective illnesses, but one or two incidents made me wonder, such as the night an elderly man got caught short on his way to the ward toilet. He ended up sitting on the floor in his own excrement, sobbing in a tiny voice with a look of vulnerability so unusual to his typically taciturn countenance that I could only look at him for a brief moment. The first nurse to tend to him offered him something to calm him down. I couldn’t help but wonder if kindly and carefully deployed words alone might have been just as effective. I found out the next day that it wasn’t the first time this happened to him; it was a unfortunate side-effect of his medicine, treated by more medicine.

↳ Darragh McCausland: What I did on my summer holidays