“Do you think it is okay to treat patients like criminals?”
The policeman seated at the hospital’s cafeteria table was probably caught a little off guard by this accusatory question and the harshness of my tone. This was following my first hospitalization for mania. I was still riding that agitated manic high, frantically walking around Duke’s Hospital on a mission. My exact goal was unclear. However, I felt this overwhelming sense of urgency that there was so much wrong with how those with mental illnesses are treated… and I was the person to fix it (grandiosity, no filter, & goal-driven behavior can lead to some odd behaviors).
The average individual would probably have been offended by this question. However, this officer invited me to sit down. He wanted to hear me out. I described the manner in which police officers showed up to my door and handcuffed me. I told him of how in order to be transported from one hospital to a nearby one, I had to be handcuffed once again and placed in the back of a police car. I asked him, “Do you think it is okay to treat patients like criminals?”
This man seemed to understand my situation and the pain the interactions with law enforcement had caused me. However, he stated that they were just following protocol. The officers were ordered to place handcuffs on patients who are deemed a danger to themselves or others. While I know those are rules for “ones own good” and the safety of others, I do not think that every patient who happens to have a mental health diagnosis should be treated as the worst case scenario… that is stigmatizing and unnecessary. The patient should be in the least restrictive form of treatment needed for their care. There was no reason that a girl who voluntarily walked into a hospital simply to talk to a psychiatrist (not suicidal or a danger to others) should end up in the back of a police car in cuffs to be involuntarily committed.
Why am I getting punished for seeking help?
Perhaps, no one has the perfect answer to my question…