By Melanie Mann Source[/caption]
This brings me to another unexpected surprise from my hospital stay—how well I got along with the other patients. The first person who spoke to me at the hospital was a man who had suffered a mental health crisis after losing his girlfriend. He was set to be released from the hospital that day, and was feeling much better. He explained the hospital’s daily routine and handed me a poem he’d printed out to help him through his hospitalization—now that he was feeling better, he wanted me to have it. A few days later, I learned how effectively humor can be used as a coping tool when I persuaded the entire unit to chant, “Let’s get sexy” in a fit of boredom.
But of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. During a lame beach ball activity, we learned that the most personable of the patients joined a gang to replace his family, who abandoned him after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His story was met with a deer-in-the-headlights look from the social worker, who stated that gangs were bad and changed the subject. My roommate was also schizophrenic, though I couldn’t tell at all until she pulled me aside and confided to me that something was troubling her. She was afraid that a sorcerer was controlling her thoughts, and that she might be made to hurt her loved ones. She wanted to contact the police about it. I told her that one of the nurses would probably know what to do about it and offered to go with her to talk to a nurse. After she expressed her concerns, the nurse completely dismissed her and sent her back to her room. My roommate looked completely hopeless in that moment. The hospital workers were neglectful to other patients as well, including a patient who was paranoid that freemasons would try to kill him. He wasn’t willing to take his medication because he thought it was poison. The mental health professionals gave him no attention—I was the only who persuaded him to take his medicine with the argument that I was a woman. Women can’t be freemasons, so obviously I wasn’t trying to hurt him.
I can tell story after story about my stay at the psychiatric hospital, but the bottom line is that my experience taught me how poorly people with mental illnesses are treated by professionals who are supposed to help them get better. It taught me that even people with severe mental illnesses can be wonderful people. More than anything, it taught me the flaws in the mental health system. After I was released from inpatient treatment, I received intensive outpatient counseling and medication. While both of these treatment methods were effective, I would never recommend inpatient mental health treatment unless a person’s life is truly in danger. I am sharing my story because the longer individuals with mental illness stay silent about their mistreatment, the longer this treatment will continue.