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What State Mental Health Hospitals Don't Want You to Know

August 23, 2011 Becky Oberg

Recently, I found the journals I kept while a patient at Richmond State Hospital in Richmond, Indiana. The entry for August 13, 2008, contains this tidbit:

[The service line manager] is now aware of my occupation. I probably overplayed my hand when I told her my paper's, shall we say, reputation. I let my judgment lapse in an attempt to appear sympathetic. She is not happy to know I want to write about the hospital's budget cuts.

Brace yourself--the following information is something the State of Indiana--and possibly your state--doesn't want you to know about state run mental hospitals.

Mental Health Hospital's Low Budget = Inhumane Conditions

Many state run mental health hospitals have secrets that cause a host of problems to everyone - including, but not limited to, the mentally ill. Read this.

Everywhere you looked at Richmond State Hospital, you could see signs of inadequate funding. For example, the bed linen didn't fit the beds. Much of it was also stained or torn. The mattresses were hard, and I never received the soft mattress pad the doctor ordered. Making phone calls was difficult; we used pay phones that charged an exorbitant amount of phone card minutes. The pay phones often malfunctioned.

There were not enough chairs to seat everyone at the same time, which made group therapy difficult. One day there was a leak in the women's bathroom. The water covered the entire floor, and remained there for three days.

Exactly how was all this therapeutic?

Mental Health Hospital's Low Budget = Poorly Trained, Overworked Staff

Staff members at Richmond often worked double-shifts. In a profession requiring patience with sometimes difficult people, as well as constant alertness, this is not good. One staff member, during a double, started yelling at a disruptive patient. Another staff member would sarcastically offer suggestions on how to solve our problems. One staff member was fired after telling a patient with borderline personality disorder (BPD), "Why don't you just f****** do it?!" when the patient said she wanted to die. And no, it wasn't me, but I was cursed at by staff as well.

There were not enough staff, especially those with medical training. We often went without medical treatment; one patient flat-out told staff "We shouldn't have to beg to see the doctor." I agreed, saying "Just because we're psych patients doesn't mean we don't get sick." I went for four months without medical treatment that I received within four days of my transfer to LaRue D. Carter Memorial Hospital. The major difference between the two state hospitals is that LaRue receives some private funding--which made for better conditions.

The Problem of Low Budget, State Mental Health Hospital Care

It all comes down to money. People as a general rule want to pay for as little as possible and get as much for their money as possible. Funding for the state hospital system is not on the radar of most people. Stigma is part of the problem; to some people it's like arguing for more humane conditions in jails. However, another part of the problem is the simple "It's not my problem" mentality.

But it is our problem. One in four Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. While very few of these cases end up in the state hospital system, the sheer number of people with a mental health diagnosis should serve as a reminder that it can happen to anyone. It's like Medicare and Medicaid--it's intended to be a safety net for the disadvantaged, but rich politicians get votes from rich people by blaming the victim.

How do we solve that? Education. We need to raise awareness that mental illness is common and treatable. We need to remove the stigma not only of mental illness, but also of hospitalization. We need to educate people that going to a long-term psychiatric facility is no different than going into long-term treatment for a more visible illness. When people understand this as a medical issue and one that could possibly affect them, they'll be more willing to talk about paying for treatment that sick human beings deserve.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2011, August 23). What State Mental Health Hospitals Don't Want You to Know, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2011/08/what-the-state-of-indiana-doesnt-want-you-to-know



Author: Becky Oberg

Avery
says:
October, 17 2018 at 8:48 am
Thank you so very much for this article.
Kirk Mullis
says:
September, 21 2018 at 10:11 am
I was there three times. Once I busted out a window in C unit and escaped. When I was brought back by police, the staff attacked me after I went back to sit in another room. I was sitting on the bed and staff who was watching me kept trying to antagonize me, saying alot of extremely disprespectful things about my condition until I snapped on him and cussed him out. They came in and tried to make me take a shot of a certain medication I was allergic to, trying to calm me down. It ended up being a situation where five of them came in and jumped me, picked me way up off the ground by my arms and legs, slammed me back to the floor, cracking my head on the wooden bed frame on the way back down. Hard. I contacted my attorney but was forced to stay until my 90 days were up. Would I go back if I needed the help? Yes. I've been thinking about it recently. I don't act the same way I used to and probably won't have that type of problem again. It just depends on what you make of it. If you're not working on yourself they can't help you and things can escalate quickly. Once they call in the good squad on you, there's no turning back, you're getting your ass kicked.
Sarah Flemming
says:
June, 27 2017 at 12:52 pm
The mentally ill are people. Help the people who truly care what happens to them. Please make the laws easier for families to help their love ones better???
Humor as a Mental Health Coping Skill - HealthyPlace
says:
March, 29 2017 at 6:02 pm
[…] hospital system. The entire time was traumatic; I refer to it as the worst four months of my life (What the State of Indiana Doesn’t Want You to Know). But using humor as a coping skill for mental health got me through it, and enabled me to look […]
Jesse O'Dell
says:
March, 13 2013 at 7:44 pm
litsen stop bitching who gives as fuck ok whats wrong with yall cant excepted the fact that they did there best grow up god there not baby sitters and yall not babies grow up act ur age they are helping u i wouldve put u in restriants if i was them just cause it wasnt all top quality dosent mean anyhing go to other countries then say this lol that would be funny they did there best yall gold diggers burn and rot in hell
this goes out to all the assholes who compland i had a wonderful time and it did help thank yall
Louis Holt (Lou)
says:
August, 23 2011 at 9:00 am
Education? There are several groups who try to educate the public,it would seem no one cares,public or government. I know how difficult getting proper mental health care can be.it seems that funding for mental health is on the bottem of the financial ladder. The stigma exists because no one,family or friend wants to even talk about it. If those who are supposed to be there for you avoid the subject,and sometimes even you,what can you expect from government"caregivers"? Sorry if this sounds bitter,but,like you I have been on the "receiving" end for quite a while.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Becky Oberg
says:
August, 25 2011 at 9:34 am
I'm sorry your experience has been bad. You're right, it is hard to get people to care. Based on my experience, however, nothing brings about change like bad publicity.

Are you familiar with the work of Nellie Bly? One of my journalism heroes, in the early 1900s she feigned mental illness to be admitted to the Women's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island, New York City. Her resulting expose, "Ten Days in a Mad-House", brought massive public outcry, which led to changes. The link is here: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/madhouse/madhouse.html

Sad to say it, but sometimes shaming the powers that be is the only way to bring change to a system that former Surgeon General David Satcher said is "fragmented and in disarray."

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