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Psych Wards Today - Have not changed from the 1950s


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Hospitals are supposed to be places of compassion, kindness, and care.  In all wards that deal with physical illnesses patients will receive that kind of care, except in the psych ward.  The whole experience being checked into the psych ward to being admitted and staying in the psych ward can feel like going to jail.  Going to the psych ward was probably the most degrading and dehumanizing experience of my life.  I had since learned that psych wards in Minnesota and in most states are similar to the experience I faced.  The Supreme Court should get wind of the situation with psych wards in Minnesota, because I find it unconstitutional and discrimination.  

Back in 2013, I was feeling suicidal from being wrongfully evicted, having to leave the school I loved, and gaining weight from the medications I was on (I have bipolar ii), and from other medication problems.   My mom got worried and brought me into the psych ward.  I felt so embarrassed and scared being checked in.  Then the nurse took me back into a room with a window in it, made me put on these ugly looking brown scrubs, took my cell phone, and my clothing.  I was and am majorly put off and angry that they did that.  I didn’t want to put on the scrubs, but the nurse said the doctor wouldn’t come in unless I had them on.  It felt like going to jail.  I have since learned that they do that because they don’t want people to hurt themselves with their clothing, but as fair as I’m concerned it’s no excuse and its discrimination.  They can let people have on their own clothes on.  Also about the cell phone and laptops I think that’s discrimination as well.  If people are allowed in other wards to keep their cell phones and laptops, than people in psych wards should enjoy those same rights.  They say it’s because of privacy with cell phones having cameras on them, but people in other wards can still take pictures of people and they don’t take their cell phone away.   What really upset me and still does is that they wanted to take my weight.  I felt so invaded.  I wish I had just refused.

Then they left me in that room for hours by myself, while they talked to my parents in the waiting room, while I sat there by myself feeling scared.  They didn’t even talk to me.   I have also since learned that’s another procedure in Minnesota.  When a person goes to the ER for mental health problems, in Minnesota, the doctors and nurses don’t talk to the patient at all.  They talk to the caregivers.  I have heard this is because they think that the patient with a mental illness is not in a good frame of mine and the caregivers can provide the doctor with better information about the patient.  I think that’s wrong.  It’s treating people with mental illnesses like children.  In just so happened that I was lucid and coherent and I wasn’t four years old.  They could have and should have talked to me too, along with my parents.

Finally, I found out hours later that they were going to be admitting me.  I was scared.  Plus there was a woman, who was a drug addict, screaming a few doors down.  I asked to see my doctor.  I remember the doctor told me about the psych ward, and that the woman who was screaming was not going to be there nor were like people like that in the psych ward.  Then she talked about what she had talked about with my parents that I had gained all of this weight.  She acted like it was my fault and that it was because of my mental illness that I didn’t know how to control my diet.  She’s a doctor for crying out load.  She knew I had a mental illness and that I was talking medications.  It’s pretty simple, mental illness plus medications equals weight gain.   

So I voluntarily checked myself into the psych ward.  We were locked in ward and not allowed outside or out of the ward.  I think that’s wrong too and it’s also treating psychiatric patients like they are going to jail.  They should allow people to roam around like other patients in other wards, providing the patient is in decent enough shape.  By having them locked in it feels like going to jail and isolating.

After four days there, I was feeling better.  As a result of that, my psychiatrist, in the hospital wanted to discharge me into a homeless situation.  (The day that I was checked into the psych ward, my landlord decided to tell me he was not going to renew my lease.  The reason why was because I was having trouble with my mental in regards to sleeping and eating, which was because of the meds I was on, but that’s for another blog.)  My psychiatrist told me I had just a couple of days to find a place and if I couldn’t I would be discharged to a shelter. The psychiatrist in the hospital kept saying that they couldn’t help me find a place, that they weren’t a shelter. I called everyone I knew but no one could take me and I couldn’t go on craigslist and look for a new roommate because they wouldn’t let me use the internet, and I couldn’t get into a transitional housing place for weeks.   I got so scared that I was going to be homeless that I started feeling suicidal again.  It set back my recovery.  Luckily, my parents and my family doctor were able to advocate for me to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks until I could get into a treatment center.  I think that psychiatrist did was reprehensible.  To discharge a vulnerable suicidal patient, who has been through hell, into a homeless situation is dangerous.  It’s like giving a suicidal patient a gun so they can shot themselves.  Not to mention it’s just wrong.  Unfortunately I’ve heard this has happened a lot to people, and I feel bad for patients who don’t have parents and family doctors to advocate for them.

The second psychiatrist I saw in the hospital was worse.  He had the most horrible bedside manner.  They were going to do some psychological testing on me and I was scared.  At one point the second psychiatrist was talking at me about the possibility of me having all of these horrible diagnoses (I was later tested and they were negative).  I was scared when he was talking about it to me so abruptly.  At that point he asked me if I was every tested for Asperger’s syndrome.  I was scared and completely taken aback.  I asked him why he was asking me that.  He said it was because I had an intense stare.  I was looking right at him, plus he was talking at me about the possibility of my having these deliberating disorders.  Also, people who have Asperger’s syndrome don’t have good eye contact with people, whereas I was looking right at him.  He was cold and inappropriate by asking me that.  (I tested negative for Asperger’s)  Later on when he was talking about the testing and the diagnoses, and he said I wasn’t like most people my age given the fact that I didn’t have a career or a job, was still in school, didn’t have a romantic relationship and that my parents were really involved in my life.  He said that he noticed that from my chart that he was just a few years older than I was and he only talked to his mother every other two weeks.  I was incredibly offended and hurt by that.  At one point in that conversation he made me cry and he just left the room.   After dealing with that second doctor I felt very insecure about myself, especially what he said about me about not being like most people my age.  I had trouble trusting people in the medical and helping professions, after I left the hospital, wondering what they were thinking about me.  The second psychiatrist also set back my recovery.  

Another thing that the psychiatrists and the neuropsychiatrist who tested me kept asking me was ‘has making friends always been a struggle for you?’  It was like they assumed just because I have a mental illness that I couldn’t make friends.  It just so happened that I have friends and I did at that time, who were there for me during that ordeal.  I was the kid in class who was bullied when I was younger, but that had changed when I became an adult.   That’s another sad fact about the mental health professionals, they assume things based on stereotypes of people with mental illnesses.

Another thing about being suicidal and in the hospital is that no one really talked to me about what I was feeling.  If I told them that I was feeling suicidal it was all about getting me to a safe place, not able listening to how I felt.   Also what didn’t like about the hospital is that they act like suicidal patients are crazy, having a distorted view of reality and don’t know how to cope.  That is so not true.  When people are suicidal it’s not that they don’t know how to cope, but rather they have reached their limit.  It’s wrong to treat people with mental illness like that.

Hospitals need to be about care and compassion and doctors need to realize that every patient is a human being who is sick and scared.   My doctors in the hospital didn’t make me better, they made me worse by their coldness, and their stigmatization of me.  That is unacceptable.  No one should be subjected to what I went through in the hospital.  I deserved to be treated like a human being.  

However, I know if I had been hospitalized for kidney treatments I would have been treated better.  It’s not right to treat people with mental illnesses like this in hospitals.  We deserve the same dignity and respect that people in other wards do.  To have psych wards set up the way they do in Minnesota is discriminatory, dehumanizing, unequal, and unconstitutional.

I am going to work on a bill in Minnesota that will reform psych wards.  Basically, the bill would;

-would not require people to wear those ugly scrubs, but would instead put patients in a room with a window so they could see them.

-require that during ER admittance that the nurses and the doctors talk to the caregivers and the patient.

-allow cell phones and laptops.

-would require that the government give more money for beds in psych wards.

-require that doctors have better bedside manner.

-require that patients not be discharged into homeless situations and provide safe places to be discharged

-provide equality in atmosphere between psych wards and other wards

-no one be lock in unless it’s absolutely necessary


What were your experience like in the psych ward?  What are your thoughts on this?

Edited by scrobin
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Sorry you had such a terrible experience. My own experience was actually good--yes, it was like going to jail, and at one point I was stuck in a single room with no windows for 12 hours, but the doctors and nurses were very compassionate and I had the most peaceful time in my life there. I guess it really varies from hospital to hospital and it depends on where you are and how you feel when you are hospitalized.

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I've been admitted a number of times.  Can get kind of loud sometimes.  I went in on two occasions in December.  Got out the second time on Christmas day.  They can be pretty different from each other.  The VA takes mental health pretty serious nowadays.  Can get pretty good care there if you want it.  Seems like the city institutions can get pretty wild.  I don't care, as long as I get my juice box yo.

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i went into a outpatient group so I wasn,t there against my will,but they also had the no using your phone poilcy there to,I think it was a good idea,because people use snap chat Instagram,facebook and could put your picture up to humiliate you.i got threatened with in patient a few times when I threatened suicide but I told i would like going because i would like the attention and I could just **** myself after I left so what would be the point ,they stop talking about it after that.It would not go over well with me at all,i would be like jack Nicholson in one flew over the cuckoos nest.I hated my psychiatrist he seemed cold or depressed himself I loved all the therapists there though they were so nice to me.

Im very sorry that happened to you,your psychiatrist seemed like very condescending jerk.

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I was admitted against my will. I didn't have to change clothes but but I did have to give up my belongings and shoe laces. I was on suicidal watch for the first 24 hrs, which meant that a nurse/aide came and checked on me every 10 minutes.

the ward I was in, I was housed with detoxing patients and I think that was probably the scariest part. they were so angry and hostile. the outbursts were scary.

my time there was useless, although I got to escape life and be cut off from it all, it was rather unpleasant. nothing happened there that was beneficial. the aides were polite (except one), I saw a doctor for a whole 5 minutes. I had to go to craft classes and learned if I went thru the motions of everything that was asked of me, I would get out in 3 days (5 in my case cause weekends don't count).

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