Are 'disturbing' TikTok videos exposing mental health hospital failures?

Cree-Summer Haughton reports on the trend of inpatients documenting their experiences inside mental health facilities

"Disturbing" videos of young people live streaming and posting from mental health hospitals are becoming increasingly common on TikTok.

Within a couple of minutes' searching it's not hard to find videos of young people documenting their bad treatment in inpatient units - the hashtag “sectioned” has had over 240 million views on the app.

Videos seen by ITV News show nurses falling asleep, chemical restraints being used and patients being locked up for 23 hours a day are just some of the experiences exposed on the app, with a high percentage of videos being posted in the UK.

Those who have been on the receiving end of substandard mental health treatment in the past can understand why young people are increasingly turning to social media to post their experiences.

Dan Miller was sectioned in 2017 after having a psychotic episode when he was at university, which put him in a state so manic he thought he was Jesus.

He was initially handcuffed and taken to A&E in a police van because there were no beds in any mental health inpatient units. From there he was able to walk out of the front doors and return to his accommodation. 

Dan now wants to help people with their recovery with his videos. Credit: Instagram: Danmiller1996

Within minutes of arriving back at his university house he was put in handcuffs and transported directly to a mental health facility.

"They pinned me down there and injected me twice in the bum to sedate me, and then I came around 25 hours later," he recalled.

"When I woke from this daze I didn't know where I was. It was a very bad room, with no particular furnishings. 

"And that, again, can become quite traumatic. I got attacked by someone who had been on a cocaine bender."

Now 26, Dan told ITV News he wishes he could have livestreamed his experience on a platform like TikTok so he could have held people to account for the treatment he received.

And yet he added that given the treatment experienced by other patients, he believes he was one of the lucky ones.

Following a series of high-profile recent cases, the government last week launched a full-scale investigation into mental health care across the country following years of failures of care. 

Among the incidents which sparked the investigation was the revelation of 2,000 people dying over a 21-year period at the Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, where misuse of restraint, staff falling asleep and ligature points - anything that could be used to attach a cord for the purpose of strangulation - were exposed.

Another series of failings at Huntercombe Hospital in Maidenhead, Berkshire, more than 1,600 sexual safety incidents occurred in four years.

And the Priory group of hospitals have recently seen three high-profile deaths where Beth Matthews, 26, Lauren Bridges, 20, and Deseree Fitzpatrick, 30, took their own lives.

As part of the government inquiry, Health Secretary Steve Barclay has vowed to investigate the treatment of young people, further illustrated in the deluge of TikTok videos being shared online. 

Mental health charity Mind, which campaigned for the inquiry, said the TikTok videos aren't surprising to them.

A spokesperson for the charity, Gemma Bryne said: "I applaud a lot of these young people for speaking about their experiences because that can be really difficult."

She said it’s good the videos are raising awareness but people should take care as some of the videos can be "disturbing". Gemma said whether it was right to post or not could only be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Following his own experience in a mental health facility, Dan agrees.

He said it’s good to see people share their experiences but he also believes care should be taken when posting on TikTok when unwell.

TikTok wouldn't comment directly on the videos but its policy states that it's a place where people can share their personal experiences of their mental health journey and support one another.

They say they take very seriously their responsibility to keep the platform a safe space for these important conversations.

But their community guidelines are clear that they do not allow content showing, promoting, or sharing plans for suicide or self-harm.

Nor do they allow content that shows or promotes disordered eating or any dangerous weight loss behaviours.