Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are We Sure What Century We Live In?

I asked a friend’s permission to post this because it is hard to believe this could be happening in our country today – or maybe it isn’t and I’m just still wearing rose-colored glasses. Maybe a lot of us are still wearing those tinted shades these days and that’s just as frightening as what happened to this woman. It means it could happen to any of us.

Medieval Treatment of Mentally Ill in NM?

I have a friend who is bright, witty, and intelligent; she is also diagnosed with clinical depression. On Saturday she started having a reaction because she ran out of some of her prescription pills--poor planning being one of the manifestations of her illness. She had a kind of breakdown, felt suicidal, and quite sensibly took herself to the emergency room of the local hospital for help and so that she would be safe. I visited her there. She was no danger to anyone else, just curled up and sobbing. If I had known what was coming, I would never have left her side, but after a couple of hours I went home to my family when she assured me she would be okay and just wanted to sleep.They kept her under observation in the ER for a few hours, then told her she would be transferred to Roswell to the hospital there for further testing. The next thing she knew, the local police showed up, handcuffed and shackled her, and took her to the jail. Her clothes were taken away from her and she was given a kind of vest with velcro closings to cover her nakedness. They wouldn't let her make a telephone call. She was put into a cement holding cell that contained no toilet, no sink, no place to sit, no bed, no blankets. She was left there all night. This is a 59-year old woman who has chronic back problems. They wouldn't allow her to have her pain pills and she ended up lying on the cement floor trying to sleep--cold, frightened, suicidal, and in a great deal of pain. The only way she could access bathroom facilities was to pound on the door and yell for someone to take her. She said the staff would look right at her through the plexiglass window and walk away.In the morning she was given her clothing, some hot cereal, and was made to sign involuntary commitment papers, although she told them it wasn't necessary because she only wanted to be in a safe place and was seeking help quite voluntarily. She was shackled with chains and handcuffed again and taken by a sheriff to Roswell. When she arrived at the hospital they weren't sure what to do with her, as the sending hospital had sent no information about her to them. She was eventually admitted and has seen a psychiatrist who provided the missing pills and feels that she is no longer a danger to herself. She'll be released in the next couple of days. She asked the sheriff on the way down to Roswell why this was happening. He said that it was the hospital's policy, that this is the way they always handle cases like hers, and that neither the sheriff nor the police liked having anything to do with "this stuff." He advised that she get a good lawyer and "sue the hell out of them."

5 comments:

bobbie said...

I am shaking my head in disbelief. How can this be possible with all we know today? I hope she does sue the hell out of them - but that doesn't change what has happened.

pink dogwood said...

unbelievable - I wouldn't have believed this if hadn't come from you.

Rain said...

That would be more shocking to me if I had not heard other people with similar stories. It is terrible how we deal with any kind of mental illness and your friend's seems of the type that sympathy and a good doctor is what is needed, not the gestapo. If we saw mental illness like diabetes, another illness where running out of meds can also kill us, this kind of thing would not happen

Margie's Musings said...

How terrible. I hope she sues them and teaches them a lesson and I am one who would never sue anyone. That seems like a good place to start though.

lilalia said...

It's too bad the letter doesn't have the name and address of the jail where this happened. It would also be good if the name of the person how said this to her and the email of his boss was also included. Then, maybe we could all write a letter of complaint. Maybe you could leave in the name and address of the mayor of the district as well.