Stephanie Metcalfe – Inside Bungalow 3 – A Psychoanalitical Perspective

THE LETTER 58 Spring 2015, Pages 71-78

This paper aims to look at the pressing question of how we care for vulnerable
members of our society. The shock and outrage that followed the airing of
a Prime Time investigation programme, portraying residents with severe disabilities
being routinely abused, has prompted questions in relation to what
light psychoanalysis can shine on scandals such as the one exposed in Aras
Attracta. When confronted with extreme vulnerability we are reminded of our
own helplessness, what Freud termed Hilflosigkeit and are therefore faced
with something of the Real. It seems essential to explore, from a psychoanalytic
perspective, the effect of this kind of work on the subjectivity of carers
and clinicians. The unconscious must be acknowledged in this area of work,
in order to inform the therapeutic position of clinicians and to examine more
closely the role that these so called ‘care homes’ and their inhabitants come
to have in society.
Keywords: intellectual disability, social care, the uncanny, Freud, Lacan,
Mannoni, psychoanalytic supervision
In December 2014 Prime Time2 aired a programme revealing widespread
abuse in one of the units of Aras Attracta, a residence for people with intellectual
disability in County Mayo. The programme, using undercover footage,
portrayed how the residents of Bungalow , who had profound intellectual
disabilities, were being beaten, force-fed, jeered at, and routinely neglected
by the staff who were entrusted with their care. The level of abuse meted out
to the residents and the culture of cruelty that had evolved in Bungalow 3 was,
to put it mildly, difficult to watch. The programme provoked public outrage
and a media furore which sparked widespread debate regarding the nature
of care in Ireland. Despite a previous HIQA3 investigation in Aras Attracta…

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