Today’s post is in honor of mental health awareness day.
As our society’s religious attitudes evolve, it seems that psychiatry has found a way to cross the boundary between evidence-based science to a faith-based institution. Instead of “thoughts & prayers” our new mantra is “get help”, “go see a therapist”, or “tell someone.” Every time another celebrity commits suicide, mental health becomes all the rage again. Every time we need to divert blame for another mass shooting by a self-proclaimed believer in a violent religion or political ideology, we are told to watch others for any sign of mental instability. While I certainly appreciate the idea that we need to be more open about mental health, I’ve also realized that our system for actually addressing mental health issues in this country is incredibly, incredibly broken. It is entirely possible it is broken beyond repair & evil to the core. And yet, the system to which we tell the mentally ill to turn does nothing more exploit them for profit & brutalize them for pleasure.
Last spring I made the biggest mistake of my life. I trusted “the system,” against all my better instincts. In a friends’s lowest moment, I betrayed their trust. I turned them over to a system that chews people up, spits them out, claims they are healed, when in reality the intent was to make them even more broken in the name of maximizing profit.
This friend has suffered from severe depression for basically their entire life. One weekend they got drunk & admitted to me that they often have intense suicidal thoughts. As a new mom, I was obviously a bit overwhelmed hearing this. Against my better judgment, I did what “the system” says you should do: I called 911 & told the cops my friend was suicidal. My hope was that 24 hrs “drying out” in the ER would wake them up to the fact that they needed help. What really happened was that within barely two hours, a secret court to which the accused was not notified or represented at convened & stripped my friend of their human rights, making them property of the state. The police arrived to violently threaten my friend & lamented they were not able to send in the SWAT team, all while my friend was paraded in public handcuffed behind their back. My friend was taken to REX hospital where blood was drawn without their consent, they were denied access to outside communication & legal counsel, then IVC’d for almost 2 weeks straight by a doctor who made their full decision without speaking to the patient. Most of the two weeks were spent in a hell-hole called Holly Hill Hospital where the only “treatment” was having all the “patients” sat in front of TV for about 12 hrs a day & seeing a useless doctor who literally gave every single patient the exact same diagnosis & the exact same medication, regardless of symptoms or history, & kept them there for at least a week for “monitoring.” Attempts to speak to legal representation were met with threat of retaliation. Therapy/counseling to address issues? Non-existent!
It was made abundantly clear throughout the process that the only treatment available was to maximize days billable to insurance. My friend was finally released on the last day possible before their imprisonment would have automatically triggered a court review. They were then subject to an inquisition by their employer, conducted with blatant disregard for HIPAA, as my actions had resulted in them being flagged as a threat to society despite no wrongdoing on their part.
The sad truth is I should have known that this was the worst possible thing I could have done to someone who values their independence & strongly supports human rights. I should have known “the system” would see someone with great health insurance & decide to milk it for all if was worth. But being the naive person I was I trusted that those in the mental health field would do what was right & actually try to help someone.
Instead it turns out that our mental health system is even more woefully inadequate than I had thought. It turns out that trapping people in a place where they have no human rights does absolutely NOTHING to help those who are suffering from depression. It turns out it usually makes things WORSE. It turns out taking people away from their entire support system, demonizing them with half truths in front of that support system in their absence, & making them feel like they’re nothing but an unwanted animal makes it impossible for them to ever trust anyone ever again. And makes them extremely unlikely to ever seek “help” again. Furthermore it marks them for life as somehow less than human. In the age of electronic records & big data, every action must now be weighed in light of this record. Do future employers know? Would going to the hospital for any non-psych treatment result in another imprisonment as long as they have insurance willing to pay? If they are ever pulled over in the future, is their scarlet letter of a psych history flagged to a potentially violent police officer?
As a healthcare professional myself, it scares me to know that I am technically part of this system. It scares me to know that the “help” that’s out there is basically just a newer version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It disgusts me to know that there are psychiatrists who make a fortune abusing the human rights of a vulnerable population, deny them their right to a lawyer, provide laughable “medical” care, & then go to bed knowing the world thinks they’re modern day saviors.
It’s terrifying to know that police officers can hold two mental health patients hostage, literally chained in a vehicle, during a hurricane. That those two women can be forcefully drowned & the world barely blinks an eye. Yeah, most of you probably haven’t heard about that, have you?
One of the worst parts of this whole broken system is those who have been victims of it can’t speak out against it without being dubbed “crazy.” Attempts by these victims to speak out are immediately met with threat of violent retaliation, knowing that their medical record means they can be IVC’d anytime, anywhere, without any chance of a defense. That is one reason I’m writing this, to try to give a voice to those whose voices will never be given a chance. I am writing this to warn anyone willing to read this far that IVC’ing someone to our current healthcare system is tantamount to attempted murder & kidnapping. I am warning those suffering to be extremely cautious who they ask for help, as there are predators with medical degrees out there hunting for their next victim.
I know this isn’t what you WANT to read for mental health awareness day. You want to hear something warm & fuzzy about “just get help.” But this is the sad truth.