These are important points about trauma to remember: how it is experienced by the individual matters more than the nature of the event. I would also like to point out to those who think that doctors and nurses cannot cause PTSD, trauma inflicted by caregivers, as seen above, tends to be the most severe, esp when repeated. So when psychiatric caregivers repeatedly seclude and restrain patients in abusive and brutal fashion, as they do and did me, trauma results inevitably in those who are prone to it…
I had a long talk with my psychiatrist yesterday about my ongoing anger on this issue,and i said to her that it was easier for a Mengele twin to forgive the Nazis than for me to forgive Michael Balkunas, MD because the whole world acknowledged (or most of it) the heinous deeds of Hitler and Mengele, and grieved for the slaughtered millions in WWII…they acknowledge that terrible wrongs were done. But who ever acknowledges that wrongs were done to me, or to other mental patients? NO ONE! Entire nations apologize to the Jews and even the violated catholic children get an apology from Pope Francis but american mental patients just get more forced Haldol shots and silencing! Am I angry, yes! And hurt and my heart races and i get tearful every time i even go to that place where i tHink about Manchester or Middlesex or Hallbrook, or st raphaels or Yale or new Britain General or so many other bad bad places i have been…but i am leaving Connecticut. I have to. i will be moving to Vermont on November first, whether they really want me, destitute or not, because i believe they have a kinder system towards both the people and the environment up there. And finally, as Rainer Maria Rilke’s wonderful poem “The Archaic torso of Apollo” ends, “Du must dein leben andern…” Or you must change your life….and that is what i am doing, in huge style. Changing everything. Ending one life and starting a brand new one in another place i have only once spent 6 weeks…i know no one there except two people i met there this summer. But i can do it. I survived rape and poverty and near murder. I can survive anything.
What do therapists mean when we talk about trauma?
One definition I like states that “psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event or enduring conditions in which: “The individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences (subjectively) a threat to life, bodily integrity, or sanity.” (Pearlman & Saakvitne, 1995, p. 60)
The important part of this definition in my practice is the emphasis on “unique individual experience”. You get to define which experiences are traumatic for you, whether or not it would impact others in the same manner. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your own emotional experience of the event.
Here is what I wrote in response to this amazing post on Taking the Mask Off. A difficult post to read but so very worthwhile: Dear CP,
I am crying as I write this, and trying not to wipe away my tears, because other people always hand me kleenex saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry!” when sometimes the world has sad stories to tell and crying is a good good good way to deal with this and their kleenex is just a way of telling me of THEIR discomfort with my feelings.
But I cry not only out of sadness but because you understood that 12 year old daughter’s undying loyalty and her love for her mother, and you also “got” her drunken abused mother so incredibly well. This has made you, Cortland, such an incredibly empathetic person, I feel honored and a bit safer in the world just knowing you are here in it with me.
Thank you for feeling safe enough to share this story with us. You amaze me, constantly. I was unable to read this for the longest time, as it brought up difficult feelings but I am so very glad I did…It is an astonishing and uplifting story fundamentally, largely because of your attitude and what you learned from it all. AND because of what you insist on teaching us from it.
Right on! and WRITE on, and fight the good fight because that is all any of us can do. And thank you Cortland, for being you. You give me hope beyond hope that there is good in the world.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”
Here we are one day in a meeting talking about patients. What I hear is “she just pops them out and then we end up paying for them.” What they are referring to is this patients 7 children that she has. The staff are upset…
Written months after my 4-week admission to the psychiatric unit, W-1, at New Britain General Hospital/ Hospital of Central Connecticut, in 2014 where I was “treated” and abused by Dr. Michael Balkunas, MD
Nine days after your worst hospital stay ever
you are still wearing the shades
that protect others from you
though no one else believes they are in danger
Those staff however wrote you up
as “assaultive” and dangerous to self
and others. But they didn’t mean it the way
you do now and their description of your
behavior was neither accurate nor truthful
Often they lied, as liars do,
just for the sake of convenience.
Now you are a week away from meeting new “cousins”
who await your vacation in northeastern Vermont,
a place magically named the Kingdom
and the recuperation your mind-body badly needs.
Still unable to let go, you perseverate over
the half-nelson grip of sadistic guards
bent on eliciting pain.
What happened to the nurses’
their concern for “the dignity, worth,
and uniqueness of every individual”,
or their “primary commitment
to the patient?”
When the guards forcibly stripped
then four-pointed you to an bare mattress
they were just replaying their favorite rape
yanking each limb wide
to expose, degrade, humiliate.
Never mind the nurses’ vow to protect
the vulnerable. The official hands-off policy
protected only their own asses.
So how do Truth and Forgiveness Programs proceed
when so many refuse to acknowledge wrong?
The hospital broke every humane rule;
they only stopped short of murder
because you submitted,
nick of time. Yet they had the last word:
stuffing your screams
when they muted the intercom
and slammed the door between you
and the mandatory one-to-one observer.
No one ever is there to bear witness, is there?
That point has always been the point,
from Daddy to doctors.
and all the hairdressers and nurses in between.
They’ve made a religion of secrecy
and no one wants to know
what they don’t want to know.
Call it “our family’s business,”
call it “a private cut and shampoo,”
or just call it, discreetly, “treatment”–
but they can always do what they want to, to you. .
Some amazing musings on Borderline Personality “disorder” by taking the mask off. Beautiful post. I will comment later.
Later: one comment i did want to make is this: so far as i know, and despite current claims, RW never claimed to suffer from anything other than depression and drug and alcohol addiction. He never to my knowledge claimed to be “bipolar.” Now, if one of his drugs of choice in self-medicating his depression was cocaine, and i am not saying i know this to be a fact, only supposition, then that RW may have been using also Alcohol to reduce the manic frenetic highs of cocaine, not that he naturally experienced highs and lows.
But now certain website want to place Williams under their bipolar umbrella.
I frankly find it troubling this push to subsume everyone with depression under t he bipolar blanket.
If it produced fewer people suffering from longterm disability and mental illness as a result, then i would cheer it. But in point of fact, research has shown that even in strictly diagnosed Bipolar 1 in which mania, naturally has occurred, treatment with lithium has not in fact served people as well as they claim. In decades before lithium came on the market, before they claimed to be able to “treat” manic-deproession, sufferers largely were rarely seen in the large state hospitals and usually only on a temporary basis. They were not longterm or chronic patients. Usually they got better and if they occasionally suffered downs again, the manic episodes might never be seen again after the initial one. The point being that bipolar susceptibility was not the chronic and terribly disabling illness that it has suddenly become, and i blame the medications for that development. That and the huge expansion of the diagnosis into BipolarII so that everyone with depression, even bereavement, is now labelled bipolar with several devastating consequences.
one is that the person is told they have a chronic, severe incurable mental illness for which they must take meds the rest of their lives, which will end up being a vicious cycle. That mentality produces enormous disability, lifelong. Two is that it ruins lives that might have been productive had the verdict been less dire and the treatment less dire too. Instead of telling someone who is depressed that their occasionally periods of cheer or even anger are appropriate, doctors see them as symptoms of this new entity bipolar II and use new useless drugs on them, including antipsychotics, with terrible side effects and psychological effects that are even worse. I have literally never seen anyone once diagnosed with Bipolar II get better unless they rejected the dx entirely and left the labeling System altogether…how can anyone escape it otherwiThey want you to believe that your moods are an illnesss rather than a healthy way to fight back against depression, as if it is abnormal to feel anything other than sadness! It is, in a word Meshugas of the highest order.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein
Robin Williams didn’t kill himself, stigma killed him. It kills many people like him everyday. Here is how:
STIGMA, that is the reason people do not ask for help. STIGMA is the reason people do not go to the doctor and say I’m depressed, or I’m an addict, or I do not feel things like anyone else. Who wants to say that I feel all these intense emotions? When you know what the result is going to be. What we will do is we will give you medication. We will tell you to change, to just feel…
Re “When Cell Door Opens, Tough Tactics and Risk” (“Locked In” series, front page, July 29):
The events leading to Charles Jason Toll’s death highlight the dangers of prison procedures, especially for vulnerable inmates who suffer from mental illness. Particularly concerning is Mr. Toll’s solitary confinement, a disciplinary technique repeatedly identified as ineffective and counterproductive, and even as torture.
The Justice Department has found that solitary confinement of mentally ill people violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Solitary confinement worsens psychological symptoms and can trigger outbursts tied to the person’s feelings of hopelessness and loss of a sense of self through extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation.
Providing mentally ill people with appropriate and compassionate mental health care, including integration of psychiatric, psychological and psychoanalytically oriented treatments, is crucial in restoring a person’s identity, alleviating feelings of loss and distress and reducing violence.
Mr. Toll’s solitary confinement, suffering and death were avoidable, and again show that the mentally ill are more likely victims of violence, not the perpetrators.
Middletown, Conn., July 30, 2014
The writer is a psychiatrist.
When I was a patient in May and June 2014 at New Britain’s Hospital of Central Connecticut, Dr Michael Balkunas regularly imprisoned me in a horrific seclusion cell, without a single amenity but a concrete built-in bed and rubberized mattress, for nothing more than making too much noise for the approved hospital milieu. In fact, several nurses took it upon themselves, with Dr Balkunas approval, to do the same. This became literally routine. I was NOT, as is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, in IMMINENT danger of causing severe harm to myself or others. No, I was loud, disruptive and uncooperative, and I was rude. Period.
My first reaction when the double doors locked behind me was immediately to start screaming, at the top of my lungs, from the base of my lungs. But screaming brought no one. Okay, they did soon come in at me with three IM injections, but they came back every time with IM injections anyway, because as I took to calling it, these were part of the drill, they were “punishment injections.” I was pushed onto my stomach and shoved into the mattress so I couldn’t breathe and injected whether I liked it or not. I tried to say, “STOP! I will take the injections, just don’t hold me down.”
But sometimes they didn’t listen to me, and held me down anyway, and I got scared that they would kill me, because it didn’t matter that I didn’t struggle. There were four of them to the one of me, and they expected me to fight and so they forced my face into the mattress and held me tight, hard, and with all their weight….until I felt my breath go out of me. Did they have any idea that I was NOT struggling, that I felt I was going to die? Did they have any idea that they were killing me?
I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is that I felt in mortal danger when they wouldn’t let me just accept the injections on my own, in my arm, but insisted on giving them to me by force in the buttocks, even when I said I would take them voluntarily.
Then they would leave and lock the double doors. And I would scream, and NO ONE would respond, even though I eventually learned that they could not only hear me through the intercom hidden somewhere in the ceiling, they could also talk to me. They wouldn’t but they could have. When screaming brought no one, I would strip and urinate on the floor, and I would defecate too as much as i could, and smear everything on the walls and floor. I would even eat it and paint it on my body. I didn’t care, I DIDN’T CARE! I just wanted someone to come in and help me.
Several times I washed and colored my hair with urine, thoroughly. But no one came back for hours. The urine, which completely soaked my hair, had time to dry completely. Not that they cared or noticed. If they had, they said nothing. It was nothing to them. Only Barbara RN asked me what was in my hair, and insisted that she wash it out when finally they released me. I went with her to the shower-tub room and allowed her to do so, but only one other person was kind enough to notice and do that. Everyone else just released me and expected me to somehow be reformed and “better” after my hours of punishment.
Of course that wasn’t the case. I got worse, much worse. I started defecating in my bedroom, at any hour,for any reason, any time I was frustrated or angry. They decided I had “borderline personality disorder,” that I was simply manipulating them. They failed to see that they had traumatized and broken me. They failed to see their continuing role in my behaviors…which were getting worse and worse the more they punished me. Every time they secluded me, or four-pointed me, I regressed more.
Dr Balkunas actually decided to commit me to the State Hospital claiming it would help me “get better.” But really he was just in punishment mode. You could tell, because he wasn’t using any of the methods that you are supposed to use for REAL borderline patients….If he really believed I was BPD he wouldn’t have kept at it. But he knew from my brother, a psychiatrist too, and my own psychiatrist, that I do not have BPD, so that was bogus and just an excuse to torture me. He didn’t really think I had BPD. He just needed an excuse to use solitary confinement and he knew that schizophrenia was NOT a good reason. A very BAD reason in fact, so he invented a secondary diagnosis to use. But the thing is, there are other therapies you are supposed to use in BPD, and he never bothered to treat me with anything but punishment and then threw up his hands and said, Well, the antipsychotic drugs take time to work, so you will go to the SH until they do.
Bastard! He gave up on me without even trying to help…so-called saintly doctor. Just a bastard! Because torture doesn’t work to make me better, he decides that I am the one at fault????? Well GO FUCK HIM UP THE ASS WITH A BROKEN GLASS JAR!
1. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH AND BREATHE THROUGH YOUR NOSE.
This will make you realize you CAN breathe just fine and immediately stop the panic.
2. WHILE BREATHING THROUGH YOUR NOSE, gently try to push the food item back up into your mouth, or swallow it if you can.
I figured this out while living alone. I would panic when I felt myself choking. It works like a miracle, because it is usually a spasm in the upper throat, near your mouth, and not a closed off pharynx that causes coking sensationss. You just have to understand that you CAN still breathe through your nose and that will end the panic. Once the panicky feelings are over, everything is easier to deal with and you can usually spit out the food or even find a way to swallow it. But at least you realize that you are notimminently going to die, which is a good thing to know.
Hope this advice helps someone. If it does, I would love some feedback. I have offered it to friends, and they have loved it, found it useful too, so I know it works.
Actually I “deserved” four-point restraints. I was “violent.”
But I want to explain what “deserving” restraints and being “violent” at New Britain General Hospital (Hospital of Central Connecticut) means in 2014. I also want to tell you something else even more important: In Connecticut, the staff at almost every psychiatric unit or hospital will insist that “we only use seclusion and restraints when essential, when a patient is absolutely out of control and extremely violent, and cannot be controlled in any other way.” Trust me, I know, because they have said this to me. But what you need to know is that they are NOT talking about some 300 pound man hopped up on PCP, waving a machete. For one thing, that person, whom I believe to be largely mythical at least in ordinary psych units, or if real now largely confined to correctional and law enforcement settings, the person they are talking about, the rule, not the exception to the rule of the “extremely violent” person whom they claim must be restrained due to lack of any other method of control, is, to put it grammatically correctly, I. And let me tell you about me. I will turn 62 years of age in November. I am 5 feet 3 inches tall, weigh, maybe 110 pounds on a good day, and have been consistently described as “poorly muscled.” I am also unable to use my left arm for much of anything, due to injuries sustained at the Institute of Living in 2013, including a small tear in my rotator cuff and possibly more than that– a fact the HOCC nurses/security guards knew and used to their advantage when subduing me. I also want you to know that I am a decades-long vegetarian on the principle of non-violence — to people as well as to animals. I have opposed the death penalty since I was a nine year old child (when I first learned of it) and do not even believe in the principle of prisons, or in treating our convicted “criminals” the way we do now. Yet in every single hospital I have been in since 2000, and of course for years before then (“before they knew better”) I have been brutally secluded and restrained multiple times as “OOC” — out of control — and “violent.” In addition to either physically holding me down by brute force, two people to each limb and one to my torso (this was at the only 2 hospitals that did not actually resort to mechanical four-point restraints– compared to the dozen others that did), they would routinely inject me with one to three drugs as chemical restraints. I am the rule, not the exception to it, of their supposedly “extremely violent mental patient” who is so OOC that Connecticut hospitals refuse to eliminate the use of restraints and seclusion, because they “might need them.” I am the typical example of the person they claim they absolutely must have the right to resort to violence against, for their own safety and mine. Okay, so am I truly violent? What did I do to deserve their brutality? Or should we say, their “protective measures?” Well, at HOCC, in the Emergency Department, this is what happened, and I kid you not: I came in by ambulance, involuntarily, in the sense that I did not want to go but was brought in by EMTs and given the “either the easy way or the hard way” choice by police. But I did not resist it or fight. I was not restrained in the ambulance. in fact, I was mute and merely handed them my med sheet and my detailed Advanced Directive, on the first 2 pages of which is the important information about my trauma history and the critical need to know points about how to deal with me. When I arrived I was quickly shunted to the psych crisis section and into a curtained off cubicle. No one took my cell phone from me, or the single book of my artwork that I had managed to bring with me. So I texted everyone I could for as long as I could. For a while I tried to obtain a crayon to communicate with, eventually and in desperation, writing with ketchup on the outer carton of my dinner container, begging for something to write with. Instead of helping me out, the head ER nurse penned me a note saying that I would not get anything to write with, that either I spoke out loud or she would not listen to me. How very odd and evil that she wrote this to me! She didn’t speak to me, she wrote it, as if I were deaf, even while saying that she knew I could speak and would not talk with me unless I did so… The idiocy of that act just sends sparks of rage through my brain even now. She later spied my art book next to me on the gurney, and suddenly rushed me, snatched it out from under my thigh and raced away with it, holding it triumphantly as if she had won a prize. I was incensed. Why hadn’t she just asked me for it? And how did I know what she was going to do with it? Would she keep it safe and sound? Actually, though, I mostly just reacted instinctively: Someone had stolen the only thing I had of my own in my possession, and she had simply snatched it away from me, without a word or even a polite request. So I did as anyone would do, I think. I raced up behind her and snatched it back! Well, that was a mistake. That was bad, that was bad bad bad. I heard people groan and swear. I was grabbed from behind by two security guards and the book was wrenched from me again. Remember, I was mute so I couldn’t say anything, but I tried to resist, tried to gesture that the book was mine and she had no right too take it from me. Instead of explaining that she would protect it and take care of my things, people started talking about how I had attacked the nurse, had assaulted her…She told them to put me in seclusion. The guards dragged me, resisting in panic, towards this hidden room, and I heard another nurse warn them of my medical history with a torn left rotator cuff. Hearing this, the guard on my left side, grabbed my shoulder and wrenched it higher until I let out a blood curdling scream, wordless but vocal. “Aha! I thought you could make sounds!” he said in triumph, wrenching me again until I sobbed in agony. Then they dumped me in the seclusion room, with only a hospital johnnie on me, and locked the door behind them. Even though I had no words to speak my rage and panic, I screamed and screamed. They came through the door with needles, held me down and injected me. Then, when in a rage reaction, I disrobed, they decided to four-point restrain me. I heard a guard say, “we really have no reason to restrain her, you know.” But the other said, “It doesn’t matter, we will find a reason.” So they did . Terrified, I did not resist, because they held me down by the left shoulder causing me so much pain I was afraid they would hurt me permanently. I also hoped upon hope that if I didn’t resist, they would let me out quickly. Believe me, I had been through this routine enough to know what to try to do to minimize the consequences and the damage… Fast forward to my being sent to the psych unit, about which I no longer had any choice, being labelled violent now and OOC as well as mute and schizophrenic (I hate that word but they used it). When the doctor who admitted me, Dr. Michael Balkunas, came to see me the next day, I was still mute. He asked me how I was and I gestured my need for a writing implement to answer his questions. He coldly told me that he would not speak with me if I would not talk out loud. Then he got up and walked out the door, with nothing more to say. I was by then so upset and outraged that I got up off the bed, which was the only furniture in the room, and slammed the door after him. I meant only to make a noise to express my frustration, but unfortunately it caught him in the shoulder. This was not intentional, not that I recall, though I confess I was so enraged by his dismissal of me, especially after the violence inflicted on me not once but twice the night before in the ER on his orders, that it is possible I wanted the door to make contact with him. What I know is that I most certainly did not intend to injure him. I only wanted him to know, before he walked away from me, that I was angry and “speaking” to him the only way I could. Dr. Balkunas’s reaction was itself swift and violent in the extreme, and extremely personal. Enraged, his face beet-red, he bellowed at the nurses to order guards to force me into “Seclusion! Seclusion! Restraints! Restraints!” Before I could do anything or even assent to walk there, I was bodily dragged down the hall by my injured shoulder, to one of the most horrifying seclusion suites I have ever seen. A set of two cells, each lockable from the outside, completely barren and cold except for a concrete bed set into the concrete wall, with a plastic mattress on it. Nothing else. No commode, no bed pan, nothing but two obvious cameras in the ceiling, but no obvious way for me to communicate with anyone. They locked me in, locked the second door a room away, so I was thoroughly alone and soundproofed from the rest of the unit, and walked away. I panicked immediately, and urinated on the floor in my panic. I took off my clothes. I screamed — wanting someone to talk to me, I wanted warm dry clothing to wear, but there was no response. I screamed and screamed. Nothing. Not a word. I did not even understand at that time that there was an intercom they could hear me through. I thought I was completely alone and abandoned, but for the eye of the camera. So I did what I had to. I KNEW what would happen, I knew this because it was SOP. But I was freezing in there, with the A/C on full bore and at 110 pounds and a history of frost bite I cannot tolerate being cold. I also had NO inkling as to how long they would keep me there, one hour or sixteen. All I knew was that I could not tolerate the isolation, one, and I would not survive the freezing temperature, two. So I took the urine-wet johnnie I had taken off and I rolled it into a rope and tied it around my neck. I pulled on it as if to strangle myself. It was useless of course, because I couldn’t keep pulling it without letting go and then I would breathe. And I didn’t want to die, I just wanted it to LOOK as if I were strangling myself so someone would come in and I could explain that I was COLD! Well, finally the intercom crackled to life and someone said, “Pamela, take that away from your neck now.” I gestured something that clearly indicated, “I’m freezing cold!” The voice spoke again, “If you don’t remove that from your neck, we will restrain you.” I answered silently but in clear gestures, “I need something warm to wear!” Well, this was a battle I was destined to lose, of course. And eventually but not so quickly as to indicate that they were seriously concerned about my safety, guards and nurses entered the room, along with a gurney, and they did as they had threatened, injuring me in the process. They grabbed me and hoisted me onto the gurney and locked me into leather restraint cuffs, in a painful and illegal spread-eagle position, despite my groans of pain and protest, then they refused even to cover me with a blanket. Someone threw a small towel over my lower torso and that was all. They they positioned an aide at the door and trooped out. I screamed my lungs out, and gestured my desperate need for water and warmth, but the aide simply ignored me, saying she wasn’t permitted to talk to me, and couldn’t get me what I needed. That was how violent I was. And that is how the most violent patients are treated and why they MUST be restrained, for their own safety and the safety of others…Right? NOT! ALL the other times I was secluded it was because i was disturbing the peace of the unit. I was loud and complaining, or simply “agitated” because i walked the halls too much. That was it. That is the rule not the exception, and if you read my posts about my incarceration at the Hartford Hospital Institute of Living in the winter of 2013 you will get a similar picture. I am not the 300 pound crazed man on PCP wielding a weapon, no, I am a small, elderly woman who is non-compliant with the unit milieu and wants only to be warm…that is about it. But each and every hospital claimed that I had to be restrained, that they had NO alternative, that I was so violent that they had no choice, even though it often took only one or two people to do so, because I didn’t resist or say a word, just lay there while they pinioned me to the bed. Now you tell me that restraints and seclusion are necessary ‘modalities of treatment” that cannot be done away with because they might be needed in an emergency. Emergency schmergency. I am that emergency and they were and are NEVER needed, EVER.
When I was at New Britain General Hospital in the spring of 2014, the security guards stripped me naked and left me in the freezing and barren seclusion room…This is a depiction of a younger woman largely because no one gives a damn about what happens to a 61 year old woman anywhere..but the seclusion room is pretty danged accurate.
I want to reblog this brilliant post by Anne C. Woodlen and then i will add my own editorial comments if i can in a later post or edit. In the meantime, i think it speaks for itself and says just about what i would want to tell a lot of young people newly diagnosed with bpd or did or add or even bipolar disorder and getting on disability, preparing for a life “in the system” – it sucks and it isn’t worth it unless you are floridly psychotic. And even then, don’t believe what they tell you about antipsychotic drugs. There ain’t no such medication, only sedatives that may or may not quiet things down temporarily. The only way out is through, if you can do it with a wise and caring guide and community. Don’t get stuck as i am, on multiple antipsychotic drugs, addicted to them so that getting off them only means you get more psychotic than ever. Psychosis need not be a lifelong problem, but it certainly will be if you keep taking high doses of the drugs and never explore other options.
My name is Dustin and I live in Michigan. When I was seventeen years old my mother put me in a psychiatric hospital called Forest View. The abuse I felt violated me to the core! I felt like I was being raped having to submit to all the rules, the bullying and the emotional abuse. To have your dignity removed when you are an innocent patient and just want genuine, kind, gentle care, and get unprofessional jerks who you can tell are fake and just care about getting paid is a horrible experience. If anything it only caused me more traumas with the trauma that I already had. I am now twenty-two years old and live on disability while also living my life as a hermit because now I am afraid of people due to the awful treatment I endured. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder by a REAL…
As my time here comes to an end, I will miss it and my neighbors terribly., I don’t know what I will do without them, and Lydia my wonderful companion. Returning to Connecticut with its horrible hospitals and indifferent treatment just feels like a disaster waiting to happen. I want to move to Vermont but I don’t know how I can make that happen. I have felt amongst friends everywhere here, but isolated completely for years in CT, despite my lovely dear friends there, I wish I could bring them all up to VT with me!
This video is pretty sickening and difficult to watch. However it is brief and necessary, if you care about what the police are doing tp everyday citizens in this country… (Need I mention that Eric happens to be African American, which I believe was significant in his treatment, just as a mental illness would have been or other supposedly extraneous factors…
Connecticut Hospitals Responding to Psychiatric Restraint Numbers
By DAVIS DUNAVIN
“They don’t want you to get out. They pull [restraints] as tight as possible to the sides of the bed.” Pamela Spiro Wagner
Pamela Spiro Wagner’s apartment is full of art she’s made while in psychiatric care. One piece dominates the room. It looks like a painting at first. It shows a threadbare seclusion room and a restraining bed.
“That’s made of Vogue magazines. If you look at it, you’ll see there’s a little label of Prada leather on the leather restraints, which was done on purpose,” Wagner said. She made it while alone in a hospital seclusion room. The magazines were the only art supplies she had.
Wagner has schizophrenia. She’s been in and out of Connecticut hospitals for decades, and she knows what it’s like to be restrained. “They use leather, or rubber, or plastic, or whatever restraints that they wrap around your wrists, usually tight because they don’t want you to get out. They pull them as tight as possible to the sides of the bed,” she said.
Wagner was put in four-point restraints. That means each limb is bolted to the bed, and she said she’s stayed there for nearly a day at a time. “I would just scream from the base of my lungs,” she said, “like the screams that if you had any heart, your heart would break if you heard me scream.”
“Restraint is Pretty Traumatic”
Patricia Rehmer, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the department has cut down on restraint since receiving a federal grant in 2008. “We know,” she said. “The literature is clear; the clients are clear. Seclusion and restraint is usually a pretty traumatic event. If we had our way, there would be no seclusion and restraint. We’d love to get to zero, but that’s not always possible.”
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services oversees state hospitals in Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, and Middletown. Rehmer said that because patients stay longer at state hospitals, doctors and nurses have more time to work with them on ways to avoid restraint. “Frankly, there are differences between our hospitals, our hospital beds, and general hospital beds, for example,” she said.
Restraining or secluding patients used to be commonplace in psychiatric facilities, but ten years after a series of deaths nationwide, there’s been a push to lessen the time patients spend restrained. Federal data released earlier this month showed that Connecticut’s rates of restraint are still high compared to most of the country – more than double the national average. The state ranks eleventh nationwide, and third for use of restraints among the elderly.
Connecticut Institutions Adapt
Bridgeport Hospital topped the list statewide. The hospital has a large geriatric unit, and the numbers were high for elderly patients.
“We realized about a year and a half ago that we were really having a problem,” said Ryan O’Connell, Bridgeport Hospital’s vice president of performance and risk management. He pointed out that the numbers only go up to the middle of 2013, and said that the hospital started changing its practices since then. “It was much more common for us to go to some type of restraint,” he said.
O’Connell said the image of the barren room and four leather straps is all wrong at Bridgeport. They’re mostly trying to keep patients with dementia from wandering off and into danger. “I think it’s really important,” he said, “that nobody thinks that we were tying people down [by their] hands and feet.”
Bridgeport is moving toward something called comfort rooms, with colorful wallpaper, toys, games, or comfortable furniture. They’re becoming common alternatives in a lot of institutions, like Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown — a state hospital that cut back on using restraints by about 88 percent in the past decade.
In 2002, a patient died after being restrained at CVH. The hospital conducted investigations after the death, but Director Charles Dike said they’d already decided to make a change before it happened. “Our target is to make sure we use it as sparingly as possible, only when it is absolutely necessary, and that we discontinue it as quickly as possible,” he said.
CVH started using comfort rooms years ago. Dike said that instead of putting a patient in restraints, they try to encourage a patient to spend a little time alone doing something relaxing. He said, “If somebody says to me, when I’m not doing so well, I like to go into my room and play music, and that helps me calm down…” He said that nurses will remember, and bring it up if the patient starts to lose control.
Dike doesn’t expect to stop using restraints. He said there will always be outliers — patients who come straight from emergency rooms and prisons.
Ellen Blair is the nurse director at Hartford’s Institute of Living, which is part of the Hartford Hospital system. Figures for 2013 show Hartford Hospital restrains patients at a little over the state average, but she said they’ve cut back since then thanks to new training programs and more comfort rooms.
Blair said that when a patient does go into restraints, they’re looked after. “I personally go and make sure I know that patient,” she said. “We all talk about it at least every couple of hours, because we don’t want to keep it going any longer than we have to.” She said patients aren’t left alone, and that restraint is only used as a last resort when patients are dangerous to themselves or others.
“Every day,” Blair said, “we come here thinking, okay, we’re going to have a good day. We’re going to prevent people from getting agitated and having to go to that level.” Restraint, however, remains a last resort these hospitals said they don’t plan to take off the table entirely.
Pamela Spiro Wagner:
Dear John Dankosky,
Thanks for posting both my earlier comments.
I must tell you that I still think your piece assiduously avoided saying anything that implicated Hartford Healthcare, and ultimately portrayed all the hospitals (NPR sponsors naturally) in a golden light. When Ellen Blair, the IOL nurse manager, stated that “every two hours” the Hartford Hospital Institute of Living nurses discuss any patient in restraints did you really recognize that this means a given patient remains in restraints? NO patient should still be in restraints after two hours, it just isn’t necessary. You should be aware that when a patient is mechanically restrained it also means that he or she has been injected in the buttocks with chemical restraints or emergency medications (though staff will never call the forcibly injected drugs by such a name as a “chemical restraint”). This is a given, but it means that the patient is almost always asleep after two hours or most certainly calm, if they were indeed truly and emergently dangerous in the first place. At the IOL, however, if he or she has not spoken the verbal “Uncle!” that is required, the nurses will not take restraints off. How can you say “I promise to stay calm…” yadda yadda if you are asleep? Nevertheless, the strict CMS guidelines are that restraints must be removed as soon as a patient is calm and no longer a danger to self or others. It should be obvious that once a drug has sedated a patient the patient is not an imminent danger to anyone. (It might be argued that both “emergency medication” and restraints are overkill and that one OR the other should be used, never both.)
“Imminent” is the operative word in the criteria for restraints: a person must pose an “IMMINENT danger to self or others.” In my case I was never really a danger to anyone. I was simply a PIA…and the staff as much as said so. If you have read my other comments below, you will have understood that even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) as well as SAMHSA understand that seclusion and restraints are almost never necessary, despite what the doctors and nurses told your reporter and what you summarily reported as true. As I quoted from the document put out by SAMHSA in my comments, both restraints and seclusion are usually used in retribution or as the result of a power struggle which the institution necessarily “wins” when these methods are chosen…but are rarely used as the result of emergency situations.
I suspected that this was the sort of report that you would do. Yes, you gave me a kind of voice, or at least two sentences worth, about the trauma of restraints, but you never named the institutions that restrained me so viciously, though I did name them over and over in my interview. And you gave a much greater voice to those institutions attempting to whitewash their current practices… You did not actually investigate whether or not they do as they say. Or even whether what they say they do is in fact as benign as it is cracked up to be.
Think, think, think…Ellen Blair casually mentioned ”every two hours a person remains in restraints.” What, for four hours, six hours, 19 hours as she and her cronies kept me in restraints???…WHAT IS SHE THINKING???? NO ONE SHOULD BE IN RESTRAINTS SO LONG unless something brutal is going on. Even at New Britain General I was always taken out of restraints after 2 or 3 hours. Why? Because under the influence of the medications, I got sleepy and did as I was told…Yes, even though they were brutal they never kept me restrained longer than that. As soon as the requisite hours of punishment were up, I was allowed out. Period.
Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living should be ashamed of itself, restraining and keeping someone in restraints when asleep and then re-injecting them with medication in order to put them BACK to sleep while still in restraints as they did to me time and time again.
You know, I would give you permission to see my entire chart from my 2013 Hartford Hospital stay, if you ever wanted to investigate these charges and find out whether what I say is true. I believe in fact that they do this sort of thing regularly at the IOL Donnelly building. I do not believe I am the only one. That is the problem, you see. This is a practice of theirs. I am NOT unique and was NOT singled out but rather treated brutally because this is how they do things at the Institute of Living and from what I gather from Ellen Blair, they are still doing it.
Whether NPR cares enough to hear or report what is really being said beneath the pretty words, or to find out the truth about what goes on inside these hospitals, I do not know…I tried to inform Davis Dunavin. I do know what happens because I have been inside many times, and it has happened to me. But you did not report even a smidgen of what I told him. So much for reporting the facts or even a portion of the whole truth.
I was restrained at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living in January 2013 for 19 hours at a time several times during a mere 3 week stay. And why? They told me repeatedly it was because “You do not follow directions.” The SAMHSA and CMS knows that restraints and seclusion are almost NEVER necessary. I quote from a SAMHSA publication: “Studies suggest that restraints and
seclusion can be harmful and is often re-traumatizing for an individual who has
suffered previous trauma…
“Further, there is a common misconception that seclusion and restraint are used only when absolutely necessary as crisis response techniques. In fact, seclusion and restraint are most commonly used to address loud, disruptive, noncompliant behavior and generally originate from a power struggle between consumer and staff. The decision to apply seclusion or restraint techniques is often arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and generally avoidable.
“Moreover, some studies indicate that seclusion and restraint use leads to an increase in the behaviors that staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.”
When restraints and seclusion are used, certainly in my case, as my Psychiatric Advance Directive CLEARLY indicated, my symptoms always get worse, I regress to primitive behaviors and things go from a situation that might have been ameliorated with ease to something that only traumatizes me terribly (I already have PTSD on top of schizophrenia) and should traumatize any nurse who still has a heart.
When I heard via this broadcast Ellen Blair APRN say how much care they take at the IOL to avoid restraints there, I could have laughed. If so, why then would they restrain me for hours day after day for as little as tossing half a graham cracker at the wall in frustration. Indeed, if it took as few as a single nurse to put me, passive and non-resisting, into four point restraints, how could it possibly be “necessary,” except to teach me a lesson or punish me? But in fact, it was punishment most of the time, and nothing more. There was a power struggle that developed between meand Amy Taylor
MD, and she was determined to show me who was in charge. That was the problem. The only way I got out was because she took two days off, and a kindly substitute doctor took me out of restraints and asked me if I wanted to go home. I said yes,PLEASE, and that was that.
I would like to add that the image of the concrete barren seclusion room and leather restraint cuffs rather than being “dead” is alive and well in many CT hospitals. I was at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, the former New Britain General Hospital in May and June of this year, 2014, and their seclusion rooms were worse than a supermax prison cell. Literally. There were NO amenities there as there are in a supermax cell, no toilet, not even a bedpan. Just a concrete bed, with a rubberized mattress. And when they considered me “dangerous” to myself, they stripped me of all my clothing and left me naked, despite my desperate pleas for a blanket for protection against the air-conditioning which was always on full-bore.
Even the doctor, who put me there time after time, told me that “the nurses would never leave you without covering or a blanket.” He did not believe me when I told him that in fact this was their regular practice. Moreover, hospital security guards were the ones to strip me forcibly and then four-pont me still naked to a bare mattress, only covering me with a sheet when I begged for one.
It was the most horrendous experience I have been through since, well, since the Institute of Living in 2013. And they did this on multiple occasions, despite KNOWING from the first that I had come in with PTSD in addition to schizophrenia and that I had an Advanced Directive that gave clear instructions about what helped me calm down and how best to treat me in order to avoid escalating situations. What is worse, the policy at HOCC is that nurses are NOT permitted to touch or lay a finger on any patient,…ONLY security guards do that. And they grab any patient willy nilly, usually with the deliberate intent to inflict pain, as the nurses told me, because if they cause pain the patient will comply. This is, excuse me, crazy! There is something very very wrong with this picture…but the staff at HOCC was so encultured with their way of doing things, that they had lost sight of how wrong it was. It simply didn’t occur to them that guards hurting patients might be not only morally wrong but just plain ineffective if they wanted to help someone get better.
But maybe I am the one who is “nuts” thinking that HOCC staff cared about anyone “getting better” — maybe they just did their “jobs” and didn’t give a hoot in hell whether the guards deliberately injured patients or not, so long as the “job” whatever it was got done…