Mental Health Abolitionism

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I can read about a new tragedy every day in the newspaper without batting an eye. I can respond to the latest political scandal with utter nonchalance. But show me an abuse in the mental health field and my blood starts to boil. Now, I do not have personal experience nor did I have family members struggling with mental health issues growing up, but something about the way God has wired me and my ten years working in almost every facet of the mental health field makes me rage against the system when I see injustice, when I see the blind leading the blind down paths of perpetual human misery.

Anti-Psychiatry is a well-known term and a label that would not be inaccurate to affix to me. However, it is too narrow. Psych Reform is broader and more positive in connotation. Still, I consider myself first and foremost to be a Mental Health Abolitionist (abolitionism being defined as a movement to end slavery, whether formal or informal). Those suffering from so-called mental illness are not only captive to intense emotional pain, distorted thinking, spiritual malaise, and personality dysfunction, but often to the very “treatments” deemed necessary to reduce their symptoms, control their behaviors, and protect society at large from experiencing discomfort or danger.

The unifying of rigorous Christian theology with evidence-based psychology, compassionately applied to benefit the mental health population is essentially THE cause I have dedicated my life to – call it “Applied Psychotheology.” In case I ever lose sight of my mission, I carry around with me the following letter written by a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Names and identifying details have been removed for the sake of confidentiality. I can personally vouch that none of the statements in this letter are exaggerated.

To Whom It May Concern:

               This letter is to inform you of the gross mistreatment of the patients in the ___ hall in ____ Hospital. I have been a patient since ____ at 10:15am. The lack of organization & compassion by most (not all) of the staff is horrendous.

               Most of the nurses have attitudes, they will not answer medication questions, they slam the doors in your face when you have the nerve to question the medication that they are trying to give you.

               Sometimes when the doctor comes on the unit, he either wakes you up @ 5:30am when you are half asleep, groggy off of medication, and asks you a series of questions, which is hard to even remember what you have been waiting to ask him all day/night. Other times, he pulls you into the hallway in a 3 min interview (if that) at the nurses station in front of other patients which is a direction violation of HIPAA privacy laws.

               The weekend doctors make promises of discharge and then the weekday doctors immediately come in and dash all hopes of leaving. How is that supposed to NOT cause agitation in a patient with an already fragile mental state.

               Some of the technicians (mostly on afternoons & evenings) look down on the patients as if we are sub-par human beings. We have a disease! Just like someone with diabetes or cancer, it is a constant battle everyday. These people are here to TREAT US, not leave us in a room trapped like caged animals. Since I have been here, there have been maybe 4-5 groups ran. Nothing at all dealing with coping skills or how to deal with our illness, just karaoke, coloring & arts & crafts.

               We are GROWN WOMEN! Some of us here voluntary for treatment & some involuntary, but all here for the same thing: to get medicine, therapy & to get healthy. What goes on in this ward can be considered GROSS NEGLIGENCE and abuse.

               I hope that someone actually takes the time & reads this letter, so the higher-ups know what goes on in the day-to-day activities in ___ hall … we have girls sleeping in the HALLWAYS! Women have psychiatric breakdowns every 3 hours and staff ignoring her! Nurses who refuse to explain medication & when we ask questions, noting we “refused” medication. As I write this the evening medication nurse just scolded me for refusing the very same medication that I “overdosed” on 3 days ago. Stating that I should know what I’m taking and to tell her what I want. Why should I tell you what medications I am prescribed especially when you have my chart? I AM NOT AN R.N.!! and this was done with 4 patients standing behind me hearing the entire thing, and I still had to remind her about a medication. Then she proceeded to slam drawers & throw down pills and slam water in what I can only describe as a tantrum.

               So, in conclusion, I hope that this letter brings these issues to your attention. We all feel that that this an environment not conducive to our recovery. We actually feel that this program is hindering our recovery.

               It may be too late for me to see a change but hopefully helps the next set of females that pass through ___ hall.

               Thanks in advance for reading, _____________________.

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