As mentioned in the last discussion topic, one of our forum members is currently hospitalized. All things considered, Alan Smithee‘s spirits are as up as much as be hoped. Her sense of humor is more or less intact. Still, there are serious frustrations and (what I would consider) degradations at play.
Pertinent Background: Four times in the last four days, since the day Alan was admitted by her doctor, I’ve gone to what is considered a perhaps better-than-decent teaching hospital in NYC. The first two visits were to the psych emergency room. The second two visits were to the inpatient ward. To be clear and fair, what I’m about to write is my opinion, some of which is derived from what Alan has told me of her experience…which is honestly good enough for me.
Some things that have happened in the last few days:
(1) Alan was first assigned a windowless shoebox of a room, with a sheet-covered bench and minus a clock, and made to wear paper.
(2) Alan has been informed of brand new and ludicrous possible diagnoses by psychiatric residents who’ve studied psychiatry for a fraction of the time Alan has spent dealing with psychiatrists.
(3) One of these new diagnoses was told to her in public. Alan was ambushed in a group session she was told to attend — a group for a disorder no one ever mentioned she may or may not have.
(4) Despite being an incredibly accomplished and intelligent person, Alan has been condescended to repeatedly under what I can only assume is the belief that mental illness makes a person stupid.
(5) Such condescension (I mean “condescension” in the most generous way) has manifest as clapping at her to signal meal time. That’s right, mental illness might also make a person a dog.
(6) This pejorative view of what Alan can and cannot comprehend has also led these newly minted resident doctors to decide that she should be informed of issues concerning her mental health and care on a need-to-know basis, wherein she is completely baffled by whom and how one decides what she needs to know.
(7) Alan’s attempts at (what she swears, and I believe, are calm and rational) voicings of reasonable frustration have been called “unsubstantiated anger” and have led to discussions of another possible diagnosis. I can only deduce then that treating a person with an operational vocabulary and the capacity for reflective critical thought as though they had neither would not anger just about anyone. I can also deduce that there may be no need to apologize if a person feels so disrespected.
(8) And for comic relief: I am glad that the hospital offers meal options that cater to dietary restrictions due to religious belief. Sadly, the hospital staff decided Alan’s relgion without inquiring and spent multiple meals feeding her accordingly, despite her attempts at clarification.
And those are some highlights.
(9) Oh. And she’s been called a liar.
Clearly, Alan’s functioning has been affected to the extent required for hospitalization. For the record, however, so much of what allows her to function throughout her life until this point is very much intact. Still, these frustrations and degradations have nothing to do with levels of functioning. I argue that a basic level of respect and humanity are prerequisite for treatment regardless of functioning or cognitive capacity. Have doctors forgotten the need for establishing trust with their patients in order to further treatment? Have they deluded themselves into thinking that psychiatry and psychiatrists hold any authority greater than that which their patients give them through that developed trust? (Sorry for the repeat question. I admit this is a hot-button issue for me.) Have they forgotten that the healthy development of self-worth is necessary for the treatment of so many mental health disorders and that such unabashed condescension does nothing but erode whatever self-worth is left? Do they fail to realize that this sort of unprofessional behavior only underpins, reinforces, and perpetuates the dehumanizing stigma that continues to keep people from treatment, that it only contributes to the shame-spiral so many suffer?
Lastly, what is an empowered patient to do when no one acknowledges his/her empowerment?