Staffers at a Brooklyn mental hospital allow a woman to die

I’m quite surprised there’s video footage of a woman in a mental hospital (of all places) dying on the facility’s floor. Let alone, the outrage of the fact that none of the staffers did anything about it even when alerted by a patient. I really hope this incident sheds light on the treatment of patients in mental health facilities and effects change in these facilities. Read the story and watch the video here. (Hat tip: PsychCentral)

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I think something went screwy with my company's blog block so I was temporarily able to access two blogspot sites. I enjoyed reading Susan Bernard's piece on Bipolar Etiquette at Bipolar Wellness Writer. A helpful excerpt for me:

In order to maintain these relationships over the years, I always made sure of doing two things. First, when I could feel a depressive episode coming on–and I always had at least three days to try and stave it off–I emailed my friends to let them know that I wasn't feeling well and might not be available for a few months. Usually, I just sent a fairly short note, something like this:

Dear Friends,
I'm feeling a depressive episode on the horizon. Hopefully, it won't be a bad one, but if it is, I want to apologize in advance in case I miss your birthday, anniversary, or other milestones. I'll be thinking of you and I'll let you know when I'm well again.

P.S. Although I'm not feeling like talking on the telephone, for the time being I will respond to email–although it might take a few days. If I feel worse and can't answer your emails, I'll try and let you know.

I was also able to briefly access soulful sepulcher's site and read about the latest developments regarding her 19-year-old daughter experiencing a hell – and there's really no other way to describe it – of a time with the mental health system in Seattle. As I read the post, my jaw continued to drop, my eyes widened, and my heart broke so much that I was near tears. I can't imagine that people can be as callous as they are. It makes me realize that I've been very fortunate in my experience with the health system. When a sexual predator entered my room when I was in the hospital, my family and I lobbied for me to leave ASAP; either that day or the next day, I was gone. The only resistance I encountered was with the police when I tried to file a report. It wasn't outright said, but the general feeling was, "Okay, you're in a mental hospital and want to file a report. What's the point?" It was the only time I'd ever personally felt let down by the justice system. I can't imagine the feeling of being let down by a justice system, a mental health system, a health care system… My heart bleeds for Stephany's daughter and the pain they are both experiencing. Go read their story – it's absolutely heart-wrenching.

Crazy and scary

“After all, we are crazy and scary.” – Philip Dawdy, Furious Seasons

Dawdy’s comment was sarcastic, but it’s been reality in my life.

During my recent stay at a mental hospital, I went to bed alone in my room one night because my roommate had been discharged earlier that day. I usually stayed up past the designated bedtime, reading a plethora of books and writing my thoughts for this blog on a notepad. At around 2 a.m., I covered my head and got ready to fall sleep on my right side as I normally do. Unfortunately for me, I slept facing the wall instead of the other bed. Shortly after, I heard someone creep into my room shortly. Hospital staff were still conducting bed checks so I convinced myself that the hospital had allowed an emergency patient in at 11 p.m., and she was settling in. However, that didn’t sit well with me. I hadn’t seen that happen during the week I’d been there.

But my heart was racing and the rustling around on the other bed – audible without sheets – didn’t sound right.

The patient – who turned out to be man rumored to have a history of sexual assault (his real diagnosis couldn’t be disclosed to patients) – slowly rose from the bed and stood to the left of my bed, behind me, in between the two beds separated only by a dresser. When I began to hear steady, heavy breathing, I became paralyzed with fear. (Now I know why those characters in the movies don’t run when you tell them to.) My heart raced – what was I to do? I knew this was a male patient and I didn’t know if he would rape me or not. I wasn’t strong; he’d overpower me.

My right hand slipped under my pillow and clenched the taboo flashlight I’d sneaked into my room past the hospital staff’s unsuspecting eyes. (I’d been so cooperative when I arrived, they trusted me to rummage through my confiscated things without being watched.) For the first time in my life, I was glad I’d broken a rule designed for my safety.

I clutched the flashlight, deciding what to do. Should I scream and risk an attack? Would he kill me? Could he kill me? Worse: What if no one heard me?

He gently pulled the covers off my feet. He began touching my exposed left foot, feeling it, caressing it, tickling it. It was the weirdest thing. I am normally ticklish, but this was too creepy; nothing was funny about having some creep touch my foot. He did this for perhaps 3 minutes. Then he pulled the covers back over my feet and walked over the other side of my bed where I was facing the wall. I was still under the covers, pretending to be asleep, yet I was quietly panting. My heart raced even more.

Then I heard rubbing. Rubbing. Like rubbing of the skin. You know where I’m going with this. This, uh, rubbing picked up speed. I remained even more paralyzed. I really didn’t know what to do now. His genitals were exposed and I was vulnerable.

I began to clear my head. I consciously slowed my breathing down and thought of all my possibilities. I’m generally a worst-case scenario girl: I know what I’d do if I got a knife held to my throat, if a bus or train overturned, or if a plane were to crash. But nothing prepared me for a possible assault at a mental hospital.

I gathered all my courage together, pretended to begin waking up and shone the flashlight toward the door like I was going to use the restroom in the middle of the night. And there he was. Boxers down, genitals exposed with his hand on his penis in the middle of masturbating.

I yelled like bloody hell. He said, “Shhh!” I ran past him to the door and out into the hallway. None of the residents heard me except the lone hospital attendant left for the night shift. The attendant went after him and essentially sent him back to his room. I was given a cup of water and I asked to call my family. I talked to my husband, explaining what happened. He was more than pissed. But it was after 2 in the morning and there was nobody there, save one hospital attendant and a nurse for each floor. After the call, I was given 1 mg of Ativan to help me relax and fall asleep. I’d taken Ativan before with positive effects so I more than happily took it. Otherwise, I really would have been too anxious and scared to sleep. The hospital attendant said I could lock the door if I wanted to. I did. About a half-hour later, I fell asleep with the overhead lights still on.

When I awoke, the hospital staff had been notified of the incident. No one seemed to take it seriously except a nice staffer who was willing to listen to me in my total freakout. But she couldn’t do anything since she was guarding a girl who was on 24-hour suicidal watch. The floor nurse asked me if I wanted him moved downstairs. I said yes. She warned me that they’d be trading him for someone else with a similar history. Did I want to be moved downstairs? I asked, “On the floor with the guy with the same history?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “No. I want out. Today.”

I debated calling the police. Other residents – bipolar and depressed like me – said I should. I thought it was futile. My family called and encouraged me to do it anyway, so I did.

The police came. One lone officer. It was me, the police officer, the director of the hospital, and some other staffer. I explained my situation and the officer said, “Well, we can’t do anything about it since he’s in here.” I argued, “He nearly assaulted me. You can’t take him to jail or press charges?” The outcome was obvious. The hospital and policeman thought I was crazy; in turn, I was scared of my predator.

I went to morning group and saw him lurking around. I was nervous and scared. What we he do? I essentially tattled on him. Thankfully, I’d told a couple of the “sane” guys on my floor who I was somewhat friendly with. They promised to be my bodyguards and essentially antagonized him. Everyone wanted to talk about what happened to me in group and address security in the hospital. The person running group wouldn’t allow it, said it was a tired topic, and we should talk about something else.

After a long, hard battle fought against the hospital by my husband and mother, I was released that day.

So yeah, Dawdy, you’re absolutely right. We are crazy and scary. Welcome to the life of a patient in a mental hospital.