I am being brave. I suffered postpartum depression after my third child and went to a mental health inpatient facility for help. It was one of the most disturbing and traumatic events of my life. I was so distressed over the experience there that I wrote a letter, which I never mailed. However, it gave me closure just writing it. These are very true and serious events. Mental health is nothing to laugh at and I am truly passionate about fighting the stigma towards mental health. I, myself, have suffered from OCD my entire life and am thankful to have finally found the proper medication. I had a terrible experience at this particular facility. Since I wrote about the event after the fact, I decided to share it since it is one of my life experiences. I was in the facility for postpartum depression. It did more harm than good for me, however. This post is about the improper way the facility was run and has nothing to do with judging the actions of patients. I have a passion for mental illness and how misunderstood it is. I even have a green bracelet that symbolizes the fight against the stigma towards mental illness. The post is about the facility and the lack of coordination and control in a sensitive environment.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I would like to inform you of some very important concerns I have regarding your inpatient mental health program. I am a healthcare administrator myself and only wish the best possible recovery for those with a mental illness. Unfortunately, we all have moments of distress in our lives at some point and I spent a few days in your facility. Please listen to my concerns with an open mind because I am writing this in hopes of improving the outcome of recovery among mentally ill patients, who are indeed, citizens of this county.
I understand that funding is an extremely important issue that affects how much one can do to improve a facility. However, to meet the goals and visions of your organization there are some changes that should be top priority before raising salaries of the staff when looking at the budget. People who are trying to recover from a mental illness are very delicate and if they do have underlying disorders that could be triggered by environmental factors this is the place that would be the trigger for the onset of more serious problems than one already has. Please have the respect to hear me out.
First, I will describe my experience of a place that the staff did not maintain control of and things were extremely out of hand.
1. A woman was constantly urinating on herself and the chairs that the patients sit in. This was a continuous thing. The smell of urine was so strong at times that one patient started gagging and he really wasn’t doing it to be funny. I know this because he told everyone to stop laughing because she could not help it. Not once, did I see the staff clean out one of those chairs. A staff member made her change and take a shower. However, sometimes they just ignored it for up to an hour before they had time to deal with her. Now, say someone has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (dealing with germs, handwashing, and contamination) and is trying to recover. How is that possible in an environment where a woman is urinating all over herself five times a day and doing it in all of the chairs. The woman was given diapers. However, she took the diaper off one time and put it in the trash and went and sat down and urinated in the chair. The diapers don’t hold much. In other words, they did not work. Not only is this unsanitary, but it can be debilitating to a patient trying to recover from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (that is focused on germs and contamination).
- I feel this type of patient should have been put in an area away from others if she could not stop urinating on herself and everything in the area of the general patient population. Others should not have to suffer trying to recover in an unsanitary environment with a situation that will not aid in the recovery of certain disorders, but aggravate them and worsen symptoms.
2. I understand that funding and the budget is an issue. However, if it is reflecting on the well being of the patients and defeating the purpose of you goal to provide a successful recovery to those who have mental illness there are some serious issues that need attention. There are many levels of mental illness. Some are only suffering depression, the loss of a loved one, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar, etc. However, more severe illnesses include schizophrenia, multiple personalities, delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, etc. The patient population should be separated based on the severity of their illness in order to provide the most effective treatment to the patients. Seeing someone suffering from an extreme mental illness is very disturbing, shocking, and sad. Patients with mild illness such as depression and the others I listed are in no state to witness the behavior of patients with more severe issues. I will now give examples that I personally witnessed.
- A patient was visiting ——— because her son passed away and she needed some guidance and help coping. Instead, she was punched in the face by another patient for no reason at all. The other patient just walked by her and hit her.
- A young man in his very early twenties admits himself because he is strong enough to reach out for help regarding his depression, anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The first day he arrives he is in shock and feels it was a huge mistake to come to your facility. He says he just wanted help and he never imagined “….this would happen”. After his initial shock and regrets for admitting himself, his room mate wakes up in the middle of the night and stares at the wall. Then his roommate starts laughing hysterically. The boy is scared and sits up. His roommate then gets out of bed and stands up and looks at him. He says, Maybe we should kill you too and starts moving towards the other patient. The victim pushes him and runs out of the room for help. His roommate chases him. On top of this, the guy threatening him is completely naked. He tells the young man God told him to kill him because he is a vampire. The staff try to control the patient and it is too difficult to hold him down. They sound the alarms so more help can come to contain the patient and finally give him the famous shot and put him in seclusion. Everyone had woken up from sleep and was looking out their doors to see what was going on. The young man that was the victim was terrified. He said he didn’t even want to have to see the guy walking around in there. Of course, they let him back out into the patient population. He sat down outside and stated, “I guess five vampires wasn’t enough to hold me down”.
Within the next hour…..
- Another patient loses control and is tackled and given “the shot” and put in seclusion.
At the same time…..
- The patient who is suffering from incontinence refuses to shower and change. She is told to go to her room and she refuses. She starts cursing at the staff and they have to spend fifteen minutes dragging her down the hallway to her room covered in urine. They did mop the floor, but I never saw them clean a chair she urinated in. They locked her in her room because they ran out of seclusion rooms. One of the guys in seclusion was banging on his door very loudly while this was going on. The chaos alone was enough to push someone into a breakdown at a place where they are supposed to be recovering and getting help. Once locked in her room, the woman (who urinated on herself constantly) began banging on her door and cursing and yelling for over an hour. Everyone could hear her and see her. At one point she was steadily banging on the door looking through the window yelling, “ I’m hungry, I’m hungry, let me out, I want breakfast, I’m hungry. Im hungry”. It was a singsong type of yelling almost like a chant.
At the same time….. (I know, it is hard to believe more was going on)
- A woman was sitting in a chair laughing hysterically for no reason
- A man was walking around talking to himself with no indication of awareness that he had anyone around him at all.
- A man was citing bible scriptures.
- Another patient was walking around talking about Obama going to jail, nuclear powered submarines he swam in the ocean with off of the coast of Costa Rica, immigrants of Costa Rica being murdered instead of deported, Obama snorting cocaine and screwing hookers in the white house”. He says, “…I am RonaldRegan” and starts another crazy off the wall political rant. He then goes, “Dear Bill and Hillary”.. I know what you did. Hillary you killed people. F…ck you. Go to hell. Also, he is wearing a vine of thorns around his head every single day and he says, My mother’s name is Mary. I married a virgin.
3. During my visit I walked into the bathroom and smelled something strange. It smelled like urine but also dog poop. I looked around and realized someone had pooped on the floor right in front of the door and I stepped in it. I have OCD and that is when I shut it off for the first time. How can a person who is trying to recover from fear of contamination recover in such an environment?
- Most of the groups were cancelled because the staff was too busy tackling people and giving them shots to hold group.
- This facility does not give narcotics to patients. WHY??? The drugs were made for a reason and that is for mental patients to be sedated to a point of calmness so that they can control their behavior. Instead of treating them they waited until they got so out of control that they had to be stuck with a needled and put in seclusion. The medication is addictive. However, they must have it in some cases so the addiction needs to be avoided by making a plan that will benefit the patient while effectively treating them. My suggestion:
If someone is found to need an addictive medication, give it to them. Talk to their family. In most instances they will have someone in their household or that lives close enough to hold the medication and administer it to them as needed. If they become addicted and no one gives them the medicine properly it isn’t the doctors fault. However, the ones responsible for how that person behaves and how it affects other innocent patients is put on the staff, directors, and administrators of the facility.
THE ISSUE THAT SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED
– My point is that innocent patients with serious issues admit themselves voluntarily expecting help. They want to find someone to help them deal with the loss of a loved one and guide them in how to grieve. They want to come out of a depression that makes them feel so low they are on the edge to feeling suicidal. They have extreme anxiety that is impacting their life, work, family, etc. People that want to get better and recognize they need a little help are respectable and should be treated with dignity. They should not have their roommate try to kill them in the middle of the night being told they are a vampire and God told them to kill. A woman trying to receive help in dealing with the death of a child should not be punched in the face for no reason when she is just walking down the hall. A person who is trying to overcome obsessions should not have another patient following them and constantly telling them their worst fears are true and they are not obsessing because it is true. This is not recovery. This is an environment that has the potential to trigger worse psychiatric disorders that people would have otherwise been able to suppress in a normal environment.