I’ve had the unfortunate luck of being a patient in a psychiatric hospital twice in the last six months. The first time was because I was completely suicidal, the second because I was having severe hallucinations telling me to hurt myself. Both times I was there five or six days and basically just loaded up on medications to sedate me. I wish I could say either visit was helpful but, in reality, they were just terrifying and traumatic.
The first visit was the worst by far. They attempted to take my clothes from me and make me wear paper clothing. I had a fit about that, and since I was 1am when I got on the unit, they gave in and let me keep my clothes so I didn’t wake up the whole unit with my screaming and crying. The next morning I had such a severe panic attack that I curled in a ball on the floor near the nurse’s desk. For over an hour the staff purposely ignored me. It was only when a social worker came on the unit that my fellow patients begging for someone to help me was finally listened to. It wasn’t much help though, as the social worker just asked if I’d ever had electroconvulsive therapy before. Throughout the day I kept trying to explain that I was terrified of male staff, even despite doctor’s orders to not have male techs come in my room…the staff wouldn’t listen.
My second day there, things only got worse. I was refused access to my inhaler as I was having an asthma attack. I was told blatantly by staff that “We don’t want you here”. After taking a nap that afternoon and waking up to a male staff member standing over me, I demanded to see the nurse who was in charge of all the units that day. We agreed I needed to be off that unit. Thankfully the unit I was transferred to was smaller, quieter, and much more accommodating for special needs.
I ended up back on that unit the next time I returned to the hospital, but the treatment wasn’t as good. The nurses seemed stressed out and mad all the time. To my face I was called “ditzy”, and I’m sure I was called worse behind my back. I also met a woman who was being held against her will in the hospital until she agreed to go live in a hospital run group home, despite the fact she was able to care for herself. At one point I even got into it with a psychiatric tech over not being able to have access to my colored pencils.
It’s a shame that many people who work in psychiatric hospitals are not caring or empathic to patients. When you are in a psychiatric hospital, you are at your most vulnerable. You need to be taken care of because you are not in a mental state where you can care for yourself. The last thing a person needs is uncaring and/or demeaning staff.