“No” Against Forced Treatment

My friend, Emily Sheera Cutler, shares about her own personal struggle while being forcibly Hospitalized on a 48-hour hold a few years ago.

 

How do I feel about myself, the mental health system as a whole, and my own personal journey with suicidal ideation? As someone who is currently in treatment, I’d like to discuss what actually should classify someone as needing to be put on a 48-hour hold if anyone should be forced to be on one at all. After watching Emily Sheera Cutler’s video about how the Medical Model actually increases suicidality, it would be easy for any mental health professional to classify her as a non-threatening individual. She has been to college, she works full- time, she is passionate, kind, and generous and really wants to help people. From my point of view, she is no danger to anyone and, therefore, her being forcibly hospitalized on a 48-hour hold because she was stressed out about graduating from college should be considered a problem. She just fantasized about being hit by a bus. She wasn’t hurting anyone, she just wanted to hurt herself. And from Emily’s point of view, that kind of thinking shouldn’t require someone to be forcibly hospitalized. But moving away from that idea, what if someone seems to be a threat to someone else? Should that be put on a different checklist than being a danger to yourself? What happens if you have a history of hurting people? What happens if you have a criminal record? After being in a program for the last few months with convicted felons who have confessed to killing people in the past, it’s interesting to be able to relate Emily’s point of view to people I have met here in Carlsbad who have acted out aggressively either by doing drugs or hurting other people because of past traumas of being abused. Compared to these criminals, Emily is a Saint. A symbol of enlightenment and hope because she is a nice Jewish girl from the South who also happens to be on the asexual spectrum. But for people who have had issues with the law, who have broken rules, and are now wanting to end their life, or who are just depressed in general, what should we do to help them live productive and fulfilling lives? What are we to do as a society for people looking for help but not wishing to be locked up against their will? Is there a solution to this problem? Are these individuals unhelpable? Is there a difference between being a threat to yourself or being a threat to others?

With the dawn of the Trump Administration, these individuals have become the unlucky ones. They are the ones suffering the most because they aren’t being treated like they’re human. They’re being treated like they are objects, that they don’t deserve to even exist. Whatever happened to the concept of rehabilitation? Whatever happened to the idea that you can build yourself back up after perhaps committing a sin. It is the whole philosophy behind the High Holidays, that no matter what you have said or what you’ve done that goes against your Higher Power, you can actually learn to redeem yourself by learning from your mistakes and choosing not to commit those errors again.

As someone who tends to isolate when feeling depressed and who has had some form of experience with suicidality,  it is hard to imagine what kind of help should be given to people who are in tough circumstances and need to learn to just be grateful for what they do have even if it isn’t that much. If forced treatment were to be considered illegal, and if all types of forced holds in psychiatric facilities were considered obsolete, then how are we to help such individuals like myself and others?

I had the opportunity to meet Emily about a year ago at a small non-profit geared toward enriching the lives of mentally ill people through the arts and through social media. It was right before my most recent hospital visit, this time for an actual suicide attempt. For very specific reasons that I cannot discuss, I decided to take handfuls of pills in order to try to end my life. My dad found me asleep on the couch and decided to call 911 after realizing what I had done. He took my journal with my suicide note in tact, and sent me straight to a hospital against my will. There, I witnessed several horrific things like a patient being raped by a male nurse, all of which I was told were psychotic delusions from my diagnosis of Schitzoaffective Disorder. From that experience, I will say that I am grateful that I was able to meet Emily because she has helped made me feel less alone and that I am not the only person who can be considered a Psychiatric Survivor or who has suffered great ordeals while being a patient. In some way, our society is lucky to have such non-profit organizations such as Painted Brain, or SoulPaws or even Beit T’shuvah, to help people with mental illnesses, but because our society is still so fearful of someone being labeled as “crazy” or mentally unstable, it is the main reason that there isn’t enough money being spent on research to help such individuals. One thing that could be considered a solution to the problem of mental instability is that more money should be funded to aid in research in the form of Positive Psychology, which could perhaps calm a person down or aid in someone’s feelings of suicidality, because the main reason people engage in negative behaviors isn’t because they are inherently bad people, but most likely because something horrible has happened to them. Money also should be spent on finding safe housing and reliable jobs in order to create a feeling of stability within someone’s life. Locking someone up against their will in a psychiatric facility, when they haven’t really done anything wrong just, because they are depressed and miserable, is inhumane treatment and should be considered illegal. That’s why more time and energy should be placed on what the patient wants regarding realistic and attainable goals rather than just a psychological assessment of a superficial diagnosis. I believe that Emily’s stance is merely an analysis of a person if they are a danger to themselves, not if they are a threat to another person. From watching her interview and having my own personal experience with forced treatment, I believe that there should be a different checklist created that mandates someone being forcibly hospitalized, one that separates threat to self vs threat to another person.

So maybe the issue of forced treatment shouldn’t be put on hold for now, but instead should be analyzed from a different perspective.

Seems kind of interesting, don’t you think?

Thank you. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Brette Tell

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