Monday, April 7, 2014

Locked Up, Put In Restraints, In Solitary Most of the Time: Schizophrenia in America in 2014?

A Massachusetts mother is suing a state psychiatric facility for keeping her 31-year-old son, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in restraints and in solitary confinement for 6,300 hours since he arrived there 15 months ago.

Joanne Minich's son Peter hasn't been out of Bridgewater State Hospital since her arrived there in January 2013. It's a nightmare straight out of the most horrifying tales of institutionalization dating back a century.

"My son has an illness, in the same sense as someone with cancer or dementia. The last place he belongs is in a seclusion room behind a solid steel door," Joanne Minich said in a statement. 
Someone brought this terrifying story to my attention this week, and I felt it important to share it with all of you.

It is absolutely incredible the ways in which those with mental illness are boxed in. They are labeled then set on the conveyor belt, which takes them through the health care system, often via the penal system, then left with inadequate social support they're thrust right back onto the beginning of the belt again.

There's an obvious cycle, but the one Peter Minich is on is unbelievable. It is stunning in both its Draconianism and indignity. When I heard his story, I felt as though I was in a time-warp, or perhaps I just wish it so.

His health has obviously deteriorated in the past year and one must wonder what will become of him if there isn't an intervention his "treatment" soon.

"While we cannot comment on specific individuals or cases, the use of seclusion and restraint at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) is a clinical decision and one we view as a measure of last resort to protect patients from each other, from themselves and to keep staff safe," the MA Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Glenn Close's New Focus: Busting Mental Illness Stigma (Video)

I saw an absolutely wonderful PSA on CNN this week and who was at the end of it? Glenn Close. I had to learn more because, well, the most pervasive thing that has stood in the way of Pat having a good day, week, month has been stigma. If it wasn't already completely obvious, the way other people feel about him means a great deal to him. Disabled, weak, lazy, not worth the trouble. People feel this way about Pat time and again.

Glenn Close is telling her story to help end something she calls "deeply, deeply wounding" - the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"I had mental illness in my family and never knew it," Close told HuffPost. "We had no vocabulary for mental illness, even though my family was riddled with depression, successful suicides, attempted suicides."

"When my nephew was diagnosed as schizoaffective and my sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder we were forced to try and understand what really was happening," she said. "And I saw after they were diagnosed what the community around them did to them - subliminally and directly. My nephew lost most of his friends, was very isolated. My sister felt she couldn't talk about her diagnosis because she was afraid that children wouldn't be allowed to play over at their house and it would effect her children."

Close founded an anti-stigma campaign called Bring Change 2 Mind, which aims to inform the public about mental illness.
"One of the best ways you can help someone with mental illness is by understanding what it is — and what it isn't. After all, myths about mental illnesses contribute to stigma, which in turn prevents those who are living with one from seeking help," the website says.
Bring Change 2 Mind offers a safe place for those effected by mental illness to tell their story. I say "safe" because the Internet has given everyone a voice and some chose to use that voice to keep mental illness in the shadows and make sure it's never treated like a real, physical illness.

A few years ago, I was trolled online because I keep this blog. The man claimed that mental illness doesn't exist, that hospitals, doctors, and families are deluding people into believing they have a mental illness. His resounding message was "Shut the hell up." He didn't want me to tell my story. He didn't want all of you to read it. That kind of bullying has kept schizophrenia in the dark for as long as it's been diagnosed. Who knows, maybe he trolled cancer bloggers, too, but I doubt it.

It is wonderful to see someone with a high profile use their influence and experience to educate others. What's more, is giving a voice and a face to families like mine. I have to say the video below (also from Bring Change 2 Mind) is just, absolutely crucial and totally heart wrenching.