Just want to keep people aware that these things are absolutely continuing to this day. They have not stopped persecuting psychiatic patients just because YOU dont hear about it. Every single thing in this post has happened to me within the last five years, and is still happening to others. Remember, and dont forget it! Your relatives may not talk about it, but it is happening to someone.
I did this chair tonight with drawing Vine charcoal I made in the grill. I peeled wild grape vine then roasted the pieces in wired-together tin box pierced with a nail to let out the gases, for an hour..Inside after that was nice black vine charcoal!
The Second piece is my drawing in progress of which I will try to post a few stages..I have not come anywhere near to finishing it! Nor do Have any idea what it will look like when done!
All art copyright of Pamela Spiro Wagner
Counterpoint Summer 2016 please see this important article that just came out in the Vermont paper. It is very important! Thanks, pam
Please note that i am reposting this frorm a week ago as it got accidentally deleted, but i cannot repost the comments. Anyone who wishes to recomment is welcome to.
It all started when i bodily “escorted” the nurse,KJ out of my bathroom, where I had situated my mattress, and had her leave my lunch on the table outside. I had been vocalizing loudly and softly virtually only the three words, “oswall wistofi matootam” for days uncontrollably, and over the past hour i had screamed at the top of my lungs from my room, which the nurse had to have heard but made no response. When she simply left my lunch at the table, i felt utterly ignored and abandoned, and in a rage of certainty that she was plotting against me, picked up the cup of coffee and threw it straight at her. With unusual accuracy, it found its target in her center. My next lob hit only the wall.
In certainty of repercussion, i slammed my door and waited. Soon the usual code was called, but instead of burly men bursting in the door, i heard them packing up the sitting area for quite some time, and it knew it took them some several minutes to prepare an injection of my medications. But my terror only increased, so i grabbed a chair to defend my self. Finally they opened the door. KJ in an oh so nice voice said, “pam, i have medication for you.” And they quickly grabbed the chair and four men upended me and laid me on the floor near the bed frame, which was covered in my artwork and books. It took quite some time for the staff to methodically pack up all items they feared, apparently, might go flying at them afterwards ( though if proper protocol had been followed from tHe first, nothing would have).
This proper protocol, by the way, had been developed by another nurse and i after much discussion of my detailed advanced directive and my intense horror of locked seclusion and mechanical restraints, both of which i have experienced in abundance and usually for discipline or convenience, almost never for any truly emergent reason. That said, i believe the first nurse, KJ had lost her temper with me, and decided not to follow this protocol on the unit because she wanted to punish me, as will be demonstrated by what followed.
Having brought the two IM medications with her, which the protocol for agitation we had worked out calls for, she eventually called for the men to deposit me on the bed frame so she could inject them, one in each leg. She did so. Then, instead of having them keep me in a protective hold for as long as i needed to calm myself and potentially fall asleep, which usually took little more than 10-15 minutes, she said, she was having everyone leave and locking me alone in my emptied room. I screamed aloud at this. “I have an advanced directive! You cannot do that!” I pleaded but they forced the door closed against me and locked it.
I screamed to no avail and then started hitting my head in terror against the door in an effort to get them to open it. This worked in a short time, and three aides were sent in. We sat on the bed frame and they actually held my limbs, i thought in such a way as to comfort me. Little did i understand the truth, because even as i very quickly calmed down, soon through the door, the same angry nurse pushed a big prison-issue restraint chair. She yelled at me, “now you are going to have to sit in this!!!
I yelled back, “No!!! No restraints. My advance directive says so!”
I want to interrupt here to quote the government’s own research. SAMHSA’s issue brief #1 March 2010 on promoting alternatives to the use of seclusion and restraints says:
“…the use of seclusion and restraint has often been perceived as therapeutic to consumers. This misconception has been challenged and refuted. Increasing research has identifed the role of trauma in mental and addiction disorders. Research into trauma and trauma-informed care identify common themes about the impact of trauma and how traumatic life experiences can impede an individual’s ability to manage his or her own behaviors or engage in appropriate behaviors in the community.
“Also, 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 staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.”
But they grabbed me and forced me into that chair and despite my struggles and terrified screams of protest they forced nine straps around my body, yes, 9-point restraints because K— J—-, RN, was still angry with me and refused to utilise our calming no-restraints, no seclusion protocol. This protocol had not only helped me but had also since then, so i was told, been used to calm and help other agitated patients without seclusion cells or mechanical restraints after i insisted that the unit staff start doing their “best to avoid restraints” with everyone, not just for me because my A.D insists on it.
Once strapped in to that horrendous chair, i screamed at the nurse, “You are just punishing me!” And calmly, she answered back, “Well, you threw hot coffee at me, what do you expect but punishment!?”
Then she walked out of the room, leaving two aides in the room to tighten the straps so tight that i could not move and felt the circulation in one hand go dead.
In horror, i shrieked for help. I pleaded for anyone to help me, for god’s sake. What the hell were they doing to me?!? Please just help me, someone!!? It upset the other patients to hear this just outside my room. I even begged them to put me in regular 4-point restraints on a bed where at least i could relax and fall asleep. Why hadn’t the nurse not brought me to the seclusion room to begin with, where the walls and door were all were padded if she was not going to follow the protocol?
In the end, it took two hours and two episodes in that terrible chair before they freed me.
That evening, as a response to the trauma, i defecated on the rug in the dining area, and painted with feces on the wall.
Surely this is no way to treat an animal, let alone a troubled psychiatric patient, especially not when there is already a calming,non-violent protocol set up to deal with her when she is agitated?
I say, chairs like this need to be trashed. Once a hospital orders one — and where do they get them? From prison suppliers!) they will use it. They say they use it for emergencies only, but as i have shown, once they have such a chair, it will be used abusively–always, always, always.
The only way to end seclusion and restraints is to stop it now and. For good. The more hospitals dilly-dally saying, soon, we will when we can, they will never stop. There will always been someone to say, no, what about this or that. But abuse is abuse and restraints are abusive by definition. Stop the use of a restraint chair and bed and all use of mechanical restraints by stopping. And then you will find a way to deal with problems arising that work better.
The painting i did below depicts the chair they held me in, minus the waist strap but with the toe restraints.
“There is no negative space, only the shapely void. Hold your hands out, cup the air. To see the emptiness you hold is to know that space loves the world.” P. Wagner
Pamela Spiro Wagner
rutland regional medical center
Rutland vt 05701
802-747-1855 until i can use my cell phone
So sorry to every one for disappearing so unexpectedly. I was sent to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Emergency Room on December 31, 2015, largely because MRR was short on staff, and there i was brutalized for 6 days before Rutland Regional Medical Center took me in, on their state hospital PICU unit.
In the ER not only did they restrain me as i have depicted, but they injected me with 15mg of Haldol and much more over the course of those 6 days, despite my advanced directive, signed by four people and notarized, that explicitly states that under no circumstances am i to be given Haldol!
The ER doctor admitted that he violated, knowingly, my advanced directive. Due to facebook supporters calling the local newpaper in outrage, the newspaper called not the hospital–that would have violated my privacy, so they claimed, even though i had alerted the paper myself to their treatment of me! No, the newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer, called my twin sister, Carolyn Spiro MD and asked her if this treatment of me, her sister, and her twin, was proper, and her amswer was, Absolutely!!!!
So you see where she stands on the issue of the torture of both psychiatric patients and her own twin sister! I have had nothing to do with her for years because of this.
Meanwhile, i have many many good words to say about the Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU but i don’t have enough time on my iPad tonight to say them all. So i will just end with this other artwork. I hope tomorrow i can tell you more about RRMC where they are trying, in a very small constricted place, to do things right, at least in terms of seclusion and restraints.
I was left alone like this, offered neither food nor water and given only an apple when I begged for one, for three days and two night at John Dempsey Hospital in the 1980s at University of Connecticut Health Center, in Farmington Connecticut. If anyone remembers having been through this, Please get in touch with me! ( If anyone know whether Jim or Don Steadman, the aides, are still alive, please let me know…or have them get in touch too. I believe they would remember attending to me while the doctor kept me trussed up like this…)
Oil Painting, Maybe unfinished…..
NOTE: THIS may be Dr Michael E Balkunas’s forgotten relative, also apparently an MD or he plays one on TV, I dunno! All I know is that the men look amazingly alike! They could be cousins like the twins on that Patty Duke show many many eons ago…What is important to remember is that they DO share a certain number of aberrant genes, and I believe that one of theirs leads to sadism…
(Note that My GOOGLE Review (edited) follows)
In May 2014, Michael E. Balkunas, MD, chief psychiatrist of the W-1 unit of the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, angered by my rejection of him because I could not speak (he refused me the use of any writing materials) decided to diagnose me with Borderline Personality Disorder despite having asked for in-put from my family and my outside psychiatrists who all stated that no such BPD or any PD symptoms ever existed. He did this despite my having been admitted with a decades-long Axis 1 diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia (and with PTSD since 2009 due to hospital brutality and abuses).
I believe he added the PD diagnosis in order to justify the implementation of an inhumane Behavioral Treatment Plan which resulted in four-point mechanical restraints and the use of a horrific and freezing seclusion cell. As my Advance Directive stated clearly, even at the time, none of these modes of “treatment” in the past ever led to anything but disaster.
At HOCC I was repeatedly secluded and even restrained, naked in a spread-eagle position, in 4-point leather cuffs for many hours, yet never was this because of any behavior indicating “imminent danger of causing serious bodily harm to self or others” as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid require. They did this to me always and only because I was too loud, or because I disrupted the unit “milieu.”
Before I was double-locked into one of W-1’s soundproof isolation cells, the nurses might have the male security guards strip me naked “for safety’s sake.” No matter how compliant I was, they always injected me with three “punishment drugs.” Even when I said I would take them orally or offered my arm, they could choose to push me onto my face on a bare mattress, forcibly hold me down until I couldn’t breathe, and administered them in my buttocks.
I informed the guards about CMS rules regarding appropriate uses of seclusion. To their credit they seemed taken aback, but in the end they were always willing to follow orders and to inflict pain in order to ensure my rapid compliance.
Dr. Balkunas insisted again and again on the diagnosis of BPD yet he never treated me with any modality but antipsychotic drugs and never wrote about my exhibiting any BPD symptoms in his notes. In fact his whole stated rationale for starting commitment procedures to the Connecticut Valley State Hospital was that “antipsychotic drugs take time to work.”
The staff of Nurses and Mental Health Technicians at New Britain General Hospital W-1 and most certainly Dr. Michael Edward Balkunas, Adult Psychiatry Unit Chief, must to be re-educated about the evils of employing punishment or torture in mental health care. They should be given, in addition, many hours of intensive in-service training on trauma-informed treatment. But frankly, as a penalty for the extraordinary and sadistic abuses they long inflicted (knowingly with impunity) upon the mentally ill taken into their care, they deserve nothing less than to summarily lose their jobs and their licenses to practice — for good.
(you’ll need adobe flashplayer to watch this youtube video…)
I would put my entire New Britain General Hospital chart online except that i only have access at this time to a small portion of my MAY–JUNE 2014 record as they decided that 1000 pages was too many to send to my psychiatrist the first time around. She requested the entire chart, but lazily they sent the discharge summary and the ED chart. In the meantime we have put in an immediate request for the rest and they said they are sending those ASAP.
Interestingly, the first page of the ED report states that availability of Advance Directive is “unknown.” Nevertheless, the ED triage notes state, with apparent disapproval and resentment, that “pt presents with details instructions [sic] on how to provide her care..” ie the advance directive (which it seems was immediately disregarded as an insult to their knowledge)…
ED Nurses note by “Seneilya… RN Assumed care of patient. Patient arrived via EMS after VNA called for increased anxiety. EMS reports patient refused to speak but wrote down, “Sunglasses block hate. I don’t want to hurt anybody.” On admissions patient refused to speak to this RN. Patient pointed at her head when asked why she was here. Patient nodded “yes” when asked if she was hearing voices but refused to answer other questions. …(next sentence indecipherable)
Report given to Beth RN who assumed care of patient…
At 15:19 Beth RN wrote the following:
“Pt not responding verbally to this nurse, this nurse looked through her art book and placed it back on her stretcher then pt picked it up and slammed it down on the stretcher and pointed her finger at the book. Unable to get pt to communicate. Pt pulled sheets over her head. Pt still in street clothes, will pt [sic] as is until examined by MD.”
What is not said here is that this nurse, “Beth” never asked me whether she might look at my artbook. She simply took it as her right to look at it, and then did so. She refused to allow me any means of communication, however, but demanded that I speak to her. When I was unable to do this, she did not inquire in any fashion as to why I was not speaking nor apparently make any inquiries from anyone else as to why this was so. If she had provided me with means to write I might have been able to tell her what had happened in the previous two weeks at home. Instead, she was so furious at my lack of speech that she belligerently refused to permit any other mode of communication but made assumptions that were extremely detrimental.
I was later given a hospital gown and told to dress myself or I would be forcibly assisted in doing so.
This is what Beth RN records what happened after I was provided with a meal that I could not eat because it was not vegetarian. Note that before this, I had begged gesturally for a means to communicate and all such implements had been outright refused me. This had led to my slamming the artbook on the stretcher in frustration and pulling the sheets over my eyes, effectively silenced.
Now with my meal, I at last had a means to write.
“Pt ate nothing,” Beth RN reports, “[but she] wrote messages with ketchup and French fries, ‘I need a crayon.” This nurse told pt she needs to speak because she can, pt threw everything on her table on the floor, food juice, etc. Pt then picked up fries from the floor and started eating them and gathered more and putting them in the bed with her and kicked the other food away in the OBS area.”
“Pt went to the BR, seen coming from the BR with paper towels then pt observed writing with her finger on a paper towel with something, first thinking it must be ketchup, then maybe jelly, then this nurse go up to check and pt found to be writing with her own feces, some paper was able to be removed, other paper with large piece of BM pt through at this nurse. Pt moved to room 42 [seclusion] then pt got OOB and snuck around corner and tried to attack this nurse from behind, public safety was able to get to pt first, pt to be medicated and restrained. Pt licking feces off fingers, would not let nurse wash her hands…”
Now I want to tell my side of this story because they invented this story out of whole cloth. Yes, parts of it are true, but out of order and not the way Beth related it. This is important because the way she wrote it makes me seem like I spontaneously attacked her out of the blue, which never happened. However, I was also privy to a conversation by the so called Public Safety officers, AKA Guards, who in front of me decided to create this story in order to justify restraining me, because they simply wanted an excuse.
What really happened was that due to my needing to communicate, I wrote my needs with ketchup on the paper box the meal came in, but that was taken away from me, and Beth, rather than telling/asking me to speak came up to me with a NOTE she had written to me (the irony of this is beyond belief except that it is true!) saying, “I will not speak to you or give you anything to write with until you start speaking to me…” Oh GOD! It was incredible. At this point, I was livid and also desperate to write so I had no choice but to use my own feces, which didn’t strike me as awful as it might have…What other choices did I have???? None at all.
So I did as she wrote and I tried to write journal entries about what was happening to me on paper towels with my own fecal material. This of course did not go over too well. However, I never snuck up behind Beth and tried to assault her. What happened was what I wrote in the second rap song. She snuck up on me and simply SNATCHED my artwork book out from under me and raced away with it, holding it up in triumph. I was so furious, without even a thought as to any possible consequences, that I raced behind her intending only to snatch it back. That was all. I never assaulted her, I never so much as touched her. I only grabbed for the book that she had not asked for from me. PERIOD.
That was when they dragged me to “Room 42” and when the guards, holding me down, decided they wanted an excuse to restrain me, and though one of them cautioned that they really had no reason to do so, the other told him not to worry, “we’ll find a reason.” And as I learned shortly thereafter from accusations made by Dr Balkunas, they did so.
But an accusation made isn’t necessarily true, as we all know, and just because Dr Balkunas accused me of LYING or of making up a story doesn’t mean that was true either. He never asked me what did happen. He never tried to find out the real events of that evening, he simply designated me as manipulative and “volitional” essentially a prime-time liar…Which meant that this started a snowball of a disaster in the making. Because by the time he finally saw me on the W-1 Psych Unit the next day, he had already made the decision not to let me communicate by writing and therefore he meant not to let me tell him what was going on from the first. He had decided not to recognize the extreme state of desperation and frustration this induced, but to see only violence and willfulness and to deal with this by punishing me with torture. PERIOD.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Michael E Balkunas, MD , the self- proclaimed god of W-1, claimed to have been there when this happened, when the guards said that I just shot up off the gurney and attacked Beth, the nurse, from behind. But the record does not bear this out. In fact, he never saw me at all until the next day and all the orders were written by other physicians. Dr Balkunas’s name is not even mentioned until the afternoon of May 13 when it says only that he was at my bedside to evaluate me. Even then, from what I recall, I was so sedated after multiple forced meds that I was unable to answer any question. I was unable to speak in any event, so given the face that he refused me the tools to write with, this was as unproductive an evaluation as possible.
I was to be admitted to W-1 on the basis of his snap judgments from that evaluation,: from which he drew the diagnosis that I had a probable “borderline personality disorder.”
How could he possibly diagnose a personality disorder, something that takes time to discern in a person, after seeing me after such an extremely traumatic circumstance, for less than three minutes? In point of fact, what likely happened was that he took an immediate disliking to me, and decided to diagnose me with something that in his mind justified his egregious treatment of me as well as his immediately not allowing me to write instead of speaking. I cannot otherwise explain his behavior . Nor can I understand his apparent surprise at mine when I did not respond to him as he expected. Why did he think I would respond positively when he refused to speak to me unless I was verbal? Why did he think that coercion would bring about a positive reaction? Did he truly think this would be helpful and restorative? I doubt it. I think he just didn’t like me and so he opted as most men do to abuse and punishe me out of rage. Because he was fed up, he lost his temper with me from the get-go…
I recall thinking about the rage in his voice and how out of control he sounded as he sent me to “Seclusion! Seclusion! “ He actually screamed this directive to the guards as they deliberately grabbed my torn rotator cuff which they had been told about in the emergency room (so they would use it to their advantage) propelling me headlong down the hallway. “Restraints! Restraints!” he shouted in a shrill and angry voice.This was retributive and nothing else. He was furious and I was going to learn not to fuck with Michael Edward Balkunas, head of the W-I general psychiatry unit in the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain or he would know the reason why!
But don’t let me put words in Dr. Michael Edward Balkunas’s mouth. Here is what he wrote, in his words. He wrote, surprise, surprise that “while in seclusion I would often scream” . Yet he states with apparent resentment that I had brought items with me “such as a large advanced directive” The nursing notes repeat this as if this is an evil thing, and proceed to disregard every item on it with relish. Not only that but Balkunas from the first accuses me of behaving with “volition” although he does not actually adduce any facts or observations to back up this thinking, except that I brought with me the large advance directive and a published book of the art work I had done.
This artbook, by the way, was was kept from me the entire time I was on the unit on the pretext that it would be very harmful for the other patients if they were to see it.I was led to believe that the mere glimpse of my artwork would hurt them. This was emphasized to me so many times that I felt guilty not only for having brought it with me, but for having drawn the pictures at all. The RNs seemed to enjoy my feeling so bad about it….
Balkunas further claims that he “asked if I would like to speak to him, PLEASE” but what he fails to note is that he refused to permit me any mode of communication other than verbally and that he peremptorily walked out on me when I could not utter a word. He notes that, Yes, I did throw my bed-clothes at him, but does not mention that he would not even look at my gestures in response.. Instead, he stood up in disgust and turned on his heels and strode out.
I admit that having already been so abused in the ED I was hideously upset at being unable to make him stay, unable even to make him HEAR me, that I did the only thing I could do to MAKE ANY NOISE at all, WHICH WAS TO THROW THINGS…
Both my brother and my psychiatrist claim that they told him pointblank not to draw baseless and dangerous conclusions from my traumatized behavior, that he would be making a mistake and would injure me badly if he did so. But he was of course the superman that all in-hospital psychiatrists are, the MR RIGHT that can finally fuck* you and get it right. SO he took one look at me and said, THAT IS OBVIOUSLY A CASE OF BPD if ever I saw one… Of course! And NATURALLY Michael E Balkunas is MR RIGHT, The one who fucks* you and you finally thank him for it, OF COURSE!
So THANK YOU Michael E Balkunas, You FUCKED* me OVER royally and you must have enjoyed it, because you fucked* me up the ass too. And I had to thank you in the end, didn’t I? Thanking you for fucking* me was the only I could earn my way to discharge, You forced* me to bend over and beg you to fuck* me up the ass and then Thank you again for abusing me just like any asshole who abuses women. You murdered* me, and halfway through slicing* my throat you made me beg you to fuck* me, and I did because it was the only hope I had that you might let me off with my life…Finally, with my throat half sliced* and my asshole fucked* wide open, you said, OKAY, now you can leave, you are free, you can go home now. I have had my way with you so go away…
So THANK YOU FOR FUCKING* WITH ME MICHAEL EDWARD BALKUNAS MD, GOD, THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME GO….I owe you my life, because you let me go and you didn’t in fact murder my body, I am still alive, though barely, you only tortured me and you only fucked* me and murdered my soul. You killed my spirit but you did leave my body somewhat intact so I could walk out of there and for that I had to pretend to be grateful and to thank you every day for a week, so I mouthed the words, Thank you Michael Balkunas for fucking* me and letting me leave stll alive….
But I wish you had killed me dead. Instead, you manipulated me into thanking you, for fucking* me over. You didn’t kill me quite. You made me thank you and thank you and thank you…and so now what do I do, you asshole- fucker*, but live with the torture you inflicted and wish you would crawl into your early grave somewhere and explode into a ball of maggotry.
*metaphorically, of course, but in a very real way nonetheless…So I feel it every day and wish I were dead! Note that in every other instance where an * is missing I usually mean my words literally and without any sense of metaphor whatsoever.
NOTE that this is the link to my GOOGLE + review that I posted shortly after my stay at New Britain General Hospital..I think I was rather measured in my appraisal, after all was said and done.
This is from the Special Rapporteur to the UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON TORTURE 2013:
As the previous Special Rapporteur stated: “Torture, as the most serious violation of the human right to personal integrity and dignity, presupposes a situation of powerlessness, whereby the victim is under the total control of another person.”14 Deprivation of legal capacity, when a person’s exercise of decision-making is taken away and given to others, is one such circumstance, along with deprivation of liberty in prisons or other places (A/63/175, para. 50).
32. The mandate has recognized that medical treatments of an intrusive and irreversible nature, when lacking a therapeutic purpose, may constitute torture or ill-treatment when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned (ibid., paras. 40, 47). This is particularly the case when intrusive and irreversible, non- consensual treatments are performed on patients from marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities, notwithstanding claims of good intentions or medical necessity. For example, the mandate has held that the discriminatory character of forced psychiatric interventions, when committed against persons with psychosocial disabilities, satisfies both intent and purpose required under the article 1 of the Convention against Torture, notwithstanding claims of “good intentions” by medical professionals .
Medical care that causes severe suffering for no justifiable reason can be considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if there is State involvement and specific intent, it is torture.
63. The mandate has previously declared that there can be no therapeutic justification for the use of solitary confinement and prolonged restraint of persons with disabilities in psychiatric institutions; both prolonged seclusion and restraint may constitute torture and ill-treatment (A/63/175, paras. 55-56). The Special Rapporteur has addressed the issue of solitary confinement and stated that its imposition, of any duration, on persons with mental disabilities is cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (A/66/268, paras. 67-68, 78). Moreover, any restraint on people with mental disabilities for even a short period of time may constitute torture and ill-treatment.78 It is essential that an absolute ban on all coercive and non-consensual measures, including restraint and solitary confinement of people with psychological or intellectual disabilities, should apply in all places of deprivation of liberty, including in psychiatric and social care institutions. The environment of patient powerlessness and abusive treatment of persons with disabilities in which restraint and seclusion is used can lead to other non-consensual
Domestic legislation allowing forced interventions
64. The mandate continues to receive reports of the systematic use of forced interventions worldwide. Both this mandate and United Nations treaty bodies have established that involuntary treatment and other psychiatric interventions in health-care facilities are forms of torture and ill-treatment.79 Forced interventions, often wrongfully justified by theories of incapacity and therapeutic necessity inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are legitimized under national laws, and may enjoy wide public support as being in the alleged “best interest” of the person concerned. Nevertheless, to the extent that they inflict severe pain and suffering, they violate the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (A/63/175, paras. 38, 40, 41). Concern for the autonomy and dignity of persons with disabilities leads the Special Rapporteur to urge revision of domestic legislation allowing for forced interventions.treatment, such as forced medication and electroshock procedures.
JUST THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW, MICHAEL EDWARD BALKUNAS, MD, YOU MOTHERFUCKER…BUT THEN YOU ALREADY KNOW THIS, BECAUSE YOU DO WHAT YOU DO TO PATIENTS DELIBERATELY AND WITH PURPOSE!
This is a larger size painting than I am used to doing. I usually draw and I am scared of painting. When I have painted I have usually restricted myself to tiny sizes or just portraits. This is my first attempt at a real crowd scene or any scene at all. (I am tempted to redo the foreground doctor, to make him less cartoonish and more realistic, but for now, I will keep him as originally done. However, I don’t like the illustration quality of this painting, and want to learn how to be more painterly, so to speak!)
TRAUMA AND ITS SEQUELAE…
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 Edward 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. .
When they break you, they declare
you’re just “one of the family,”
no different from anyone else,
now that they’ve finally fixed you for good.
This is from the New York Times today:
To the Editor:
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 Edward 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!
(***SEE PAMELA’S COMMENTS AT BOTTOM OF PAGE…)
Connecticut Hospitals Responding to Psychiatric Restraint Numbers
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.
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