Friday, January 13, 2012

I'm Sorry

Rob wanted to know if I was reading the comments on Dinah's post about involuntary treatment. He thinks that psychiatrists may read these comments, shrug and say, "Well, sometimes it's necessary."

I did read the post, and the comments. I can tell you that the decision to involuntarily admit or treat someone is never a "shrugging" issue. This is something psychiatrists hate to do. I mean, literally hate. We know it's something that can destroy a therapeutic relationship and undermine someone's willingness to seek care in the future. We know that psychiatric units can be horrible places to be and that admission is expensive, humiliating and sometimes traumatic. The decision to seek involuntary treatment is not done lightly or easily. You and some others may feel it should never be done, but I think that's an issue that may never get resolved between us. Maybe someday medicine may develop better ways to diagnose and treat mental illness, or society may evolve and decide that psychiatric patients are worthy of the time and money spent on other suffering people but we're not there yet. We deal with the present, as it stands, with what we've got.

Remember that there are comments that you don't read here. The missing comments. The comments that can't be posted because the suffering people are dead. On behalf of those folks, and the people who care about them, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that psychiatry as a profession and the mental health system failed you. I'm sorry that you had to hide your suffering from your friends and family, or maybe from your doctor, because you thought you had no choice. Clearly, something needs to change.

This is why Dinah posted about the issue and why I'm following up. As a group, we need to figure out better ways of doing things. The Shrink Rappers don't have the answer. We need to hear concrete ideas and suggests. General comments like, "Stop treating me like a child" or "Don't be a jerk" honestly aren't helpful. The commenter who suggested that patients should be allowed to have cell phones on the unit, to call friends or family when in crisis on the unit, now that's the kind of idea we psychiatrists need to hear. The discussion about post-discharge aftercare and the continuity gap is crucial. Please tell us more about that and about what kind of services or support would have been useful and what we need more of. I like the idea that this could also help catch people in early relapse. We need to answer the questions about these services: what, when, where, who and how.

Now let's get started.

Recent posts on forced treatment:
Jan 9: Forced Treatment: Does it Help? ("make psychiatric care something patients want to get")
Jan 13: I'm Sorry ("I'm sorry that... the mental health system has failed [those who have died due to hiding from 'treatment']")
Jan 14: What We Need (list of 12 things readers are saying they need from the MH system)
Jan 14: Poll: Involuntary Commitment: Would you do it again? (a survey for those who have been committed in the past)