BARBARIC MENTAL HEALTH CARE IN AMERICA
When I was twenty years old in 1997, I received a phone call from my good friend Brandy’s sister, whose name was Megan. Megan was very worried about Brandy and began expressing her concern for Brandy’s out of the ordinary behavior that she was suddenly exhibiting out of nowhere. I had known Brandy for a very long time, and we had recently been roommates, but since I was going to college at Portland State University, I decided to move out of Brandy’s apartment, and rent a room in a gorgeous Victorian house which was closer to the city.
Brandy had recently been experimenting with Acid and was taking it often with another friend of hers. I warned her that that stuff was dangerous, and could cause permanent damage, and that she should not consume that kind of poison. Brandy did not listen and bought a bad batch of acid off of the street with her friend. The two of them both became very ill, and Brandy contracted pneumonia, and a dangerously high fever, which she had for days before going to the emergency room to be treated. She recovered from the fever, however after her pneumonia, something was terribly wrong. This is when I received the phone call from her sister Megan.
Megan began telling me that there was something wrong with Brandy, and that she was acting erratic, and out of her normal character. When Megan and Brandy were hanging out at a local bar having fun, Brandy met some stranger, and jumped on the back of his motorcycle and took off with him. Megan was dumbfounded by her actions. This was just the beginning of what was a series of bizarre behaviors that Brandy would start displaying. Brandy began hanging out with strangers, street kids, and giving away her clothes and buying these new-found friends all kinds of gifts with her money. Brandy was a penny pincher, and was very smart and frugal with her money, never wasting it on anything unnecessary, so this behavior was alarming to say the least.
After I received the phone call from Megan, I invited Brandy over to my house to hang out, so that I could observe what was happening. When she came over, we hung out all day, ate lunch in my kitchen, and went to record stores and other fun shops all over Portland. Brandy was definitely acting strange, and her behavior was off the wall, but we had lots of fun that day regardless. After Brandy went home, my roommate, Gayle, who was thirty years older than me, had observed Brandy while she was over and expressed her concern. I told my roommate that something seemed wrong with Brandy, and I did not know what I should do. Gayle was like a, mama-bear and thought that Brandy was having a Bi-Polar episode and informed me that there were hotlines and resources available for these types of circumstances. Gayle found the resources for me and gave me a few phone numbers to call, which I did.
The local hotline that I called offered two solutions to help Brandy, the first being that Brandy could come to the hospital that specialized in these kinds of breakdowns and check herself in, or the other being that they could come pick up Brandy against her will, which I did not agree with, and did not want to traumatize Brandy in any way. Megan and I decided to sit down with Brandy and convinced her to check herself into the care facility for an evaluation, because we were worried about her. Brandy thought she was just fine, so she was more than willing to have an evaluation by doctors, because she did not think that anything was out of the ordinary with her behavior.
Megan, Brandy, and I all drove to Providence Hospital, where we had pre-arranged with the staff Brandy’s arrival. When we walked through the door, the staff was friendly, and attentive, handing Brandy the proper paperwork that she needed to fill out and grant permission to the doctors to evaluate and possibly treat Brandy for any sort of illness she may have been experiencing. As soon as Brandy finished filling out the paperwork, the three of us walked into a private room together to wait for the doctor. We all patiently waited while Brandy stood there talking to us in idle conversation. When the door opened, a nurse accompanied by a security guard had blue gloves on, looked at Megan and I, and informed us that we would need to leave the room. Brandy looked at us wide-eyed and exclaimed, “You guys, what is going on here?” We looked at her in as much shock and horror and said that we did not know! Megan and I asked the nurse what was going on and they informed us that this was no longer in our hands and that we would have to leave immediately. We were powerless, and were escorted out of the private room, where they stripped Brandy out of her clothes, gave her a paper thing gown with no back, and strapped her to a bed with restraints and began their psychoanalysis of her. Brandy never forgave us for this experience.
It is clear that Providence Hospital in Portland Oregon uses barbaric, abusive practices on their patients, and regardless of Brandy’s bi-polar episode, this type of practice only exacerbated the situation, and emotionally damaged Brandy for the rest of her life. The doctors kept Brandy in the hospital for seven days, and placed her on lithium to bring her back down to earth from her very real manic episode that she had been engulfed in. This treatment did help her, for if Brandy was not treated immediately during her manic episode, there was a very real possibility that when she crashed, she would become suicidal and possibly kill herself, which is what Megan and I were so concerned about. We wanted to get Brandy treated by a professional before it was too late, so the urgency and swiftness of our actions probably saved her life. However, the psychological damage that Providence Hospital inflicted on Brandy was absolutely unacceptable, inhumane, and barbaric, and permanently damaged Brandy’s mental well-being, which is quite the opposite result of what Mental Health Care is designed to do.
The Barbaric Mental Health Care System needs an overhaul to actually care for the individual in need of their help. A gentle, caring, humane and holistic approach for people in need of Mental Health Care would be beneficial to society and those willing and wanting care.