True Horror Stories From the Psych Ward
Revealed in an Anonymous Letter
The following letter was sent to me with the request that I post it publicly on behalf of the individual who wrote it. The letter-writer prefers to remain anonymous, so all potentially identifying information, no matter how minor, has been removed and replaced with "XXXXX."
Letter of Complaint from an Anonymous Psych Patient
I am writing to anonymously report my concerns about the quality of patient care at XXXXXX. Although I know that change is difficult and takes time, I believe it is both necessary and desirable for changes to be made in this situation as soon as possible. Doing so will improve outcomes for large numbers of people with mental illness, which will have a positive effect on the public in general.
I do not wish to provide any specific information about my situation (due to fear of losing my anonymity), but I will say that I was patient at XXXXXXXXXX.
My most general concern is that many of the staff members (in particular, many of the psychiatric technicians and at least two of the psychiatrists) are uncaring to the point of being rude. I understand that the job is very stressful, but that is no excuse for raising one’s voice and swearing at even the most well-behaved patients. In many cases, the rudeness was completely unjustified — motivated only by impatience at being disturbed by a request for assistance, as far as I could tell.
In addition, staff rarely took the opportunity to engage patients in therapeutic discussions. In fact, they seemed to dislike patients talking to them at all. The quality of staff support is, for me, the main thing that separates helpful behavioral health units from useless ones. Without staff support (or even just casual conversation!), being in a locked ward does a person about as much good as watching paint dry. I, for one, left XXXXX feeling worse than I did when I was admitted.
I also believe I witnessed a serious patient rights violation. In this incident, one of my fellow patients was restrained and given an IM injection (and I assume also taken into seclusion — although I did not witness that and so cannot say for sure) simply because she was lying on the floor. Yes, it is true that she a) was known to be “difficult” and noncompliant, b) was ignoring staff requests, and c) had chosen to lie down in a public area (the dayroom). HOWEVER: She a) was being perfectly quiet and still and was not bothering anyone (which was, to be honest, a pleasant change for the rest of us), b) was not in anyone’s way (it was easy enough to walk around her), and c) had nowhere better to be and nothing better to do. I firmly believe that it was unreasonable and unnecessary to XXXXX and give her chemical restraints (I assume against her will) in this situation.
In another case, I myself was the victim of one psychiatrist’s prejudice. When I reported I take a certain medication that is classified as a controlled substance, this psychiatrist immediately assumed that, because I was a patient in a mental health facility, I was taking this medication illegally and had a substance abuse problem. This was not at all the case, and I told her so and urged her to verify my prescription with the prescriber and/or my pharmacy. I assume she never did, because my discharge paperwork listed “XXXXX” (XXXXXXX) as one of my diagnoses. This concerns me greatly; I worry that it will affect my ability to obtain the medication I need in the future. I am guessing it is hard to fight a label of “suspected substance abuser” once a psychiatrist has stuck it on you.
The aforementioned psychiatrist also refused to answer a question I had about discharge XXXXXXXX. She simply said “You need to go” in a rather hostile tone, indicating that her interview of me was finished and I was to go away and leave her alone. I thought this quite rude of her; I certainly could not think of anything I had done to offend her.
My final complaint: I was discharged while feeling that I was at danger of harming myself. Further, I was still XXXXXXXXXX, AND the recommendation of XXXXX was that I NOT be discharged (because of the danger of harm to myself). In short: My safety was put at serious risk.
To summarize, I believe that the many experiences detailed above represent instances of violation of the following patient rights (rights which are guaranteed by XXXXX, XXXXX Statutes and XXXXX, XXXXX XXXXXX Code):
A Concerned Citizen and Former XXXXX Patient Who Wishes to Remain Anonymous