The Magic Words

Try getting into a hospital—that is if you want or need to. Today with the closure of many state hospitals, people, who previously would have been patients, are winding up homeless or as inmates in prisons—the new version of state hospitals. In some ways we have come full circle: from being chained to walls–to hospitals–to back to a facsimile of the cages of the 19th century.

Those fortunate to have good private insurance (Medicaid/Medicare is also okay), fare somewhat better, but that doesn’t mean getting help is a given. If you wind up in the emergency room of a general hospital, it’s often left to someone on the phone (a person with no more than a college degree), whether to admit you or not. Doctors have an input, but the final decision is based on money and that means getting permission from your insurance company. What’s also bizarre is that this invisible person (who has never met you) lets the admitting staff know how many days they have to get you well before kicking you out (and this before you’ve even set foot in the ward).

I have learned that the magic words for admission are: “I am suicidal and I have a plan.” If you say that you are practically guaranteed a bed. Sadly, the people who are completely out of their minds and brought in by concerned family or friends (because they are talking to garbage cans and aliens) are often told to leave unless they agree to be admitted voluntarily or are an imminent threat to themselves or others. They may be as psychotic as hell, but told to go back to whatever hole they’ve crawled out from, which often is an abandoned building without heat or a subway station.  Is it their right to refuse treatment? That is a big issue and there are many opinions on the subject, but I can guarantee which side you’d fall on if your son, daughter, etc. were the poor schmuck wandering the freezing streets at night.

The last time I visited my son in the hospital, in the spring of 2010, I noticed that most people were there for depression. Depression is a serious illness and I’m not minimizing its rank among the serious mental illnesses, but people with depression often want help. Who wants to feel like shit? Those folks who don’t know their asses from their heads are being worse than ignored, they are being abandoned, discarded like yesterday’s trash, and society, as well as the individuals involved, pays a price. I’m sure many of you have already heard how prisons now have more people with MI than hospitals, so, rest assured … our tax dollars are still being put to use.

No one could reasonably argue that it wouldn’t be better to be proactive than reactive. So who’s at fault? The blame lies with many: the do-good lawyers and their impossible laws, an out-of-whack health care system, and lack of money from federal and state agencies. I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll leave those for a future shopping list. In the meantime, I’ll try to do the little I can, at least for my loved ones, and remember to say, “God bless the helpers among us!”


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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11 Responses to The Magic Words

  1. Tim Lundmark says:

    I have been hospitalized more times than I can count, most of those times I was on a 72 hour hold. I didn’t say the words “I have a plan.” Yes at this point I was suicidal, but nowhere near the point of having a plan. In my opinion if you have a plan you do not really have a plan you are just seeking help. Most people who have a plan actually follow through with it, and the only way you can save them is if you see the signs, but I digress. My point is I have been put on holds mainly for the extreme psychosis I was in. I knew I needed help, but the minute I was locked up I played the system just to get out. The longest I was hospitalized was for a month.

    It is sad that we gauge the ability to help those who are sick based off if they can pay or not. This is one of the biggest problem in this country. It is sad that the original Obama healthcare bill wasn’t passed. It was set up to help and protect every citizen not just those who have the money or not. The current healthcare bill is nowhere near what it should be, and in fact will only cause insurance companies to get richer because we may be forced to carry coverage. This is not what Obama had in mind, but his big thing was healthcare and I supposed he had to take what he can get. I must say I have not read the bill so I do not really know. I try not to watch the news stations because those are run by the left and the right to fill us with political propaganda.

  2. Crazy Mermaid says:

    I enjoyed your blog. Well-written points. Unfortunately, my state of Washington is #1 on the list of states with the least amount of per-capita (mental) hospital beds.

  3. shinxyblog says:

    I called up and said “I’m suicidal and I have a plan.” Didn’t get admitted. I then proceeded to attempt suicide and ended up in a cardiac ward overnight. Didn’t get admitted. Had to wait 5 hours in the morning for an ‘expert’ to come in, they said “Are you going to do it again?” I said, “Heck no. I feel rotten.” They released me from the hospital not even with a taxi voucher, still in my pajamas with a gown with vomit on it.

    • Tim Lundmark says:

      That is horrible!! The public sympathy and understanding for those of us with MI is a sad state of affairs. It is as if we are the red-headed step child of the family. I wish you the best and hope you do not get to that point again in your life.

    • dogkisses says:

      Amazing, but not surprising, which is also amazing.

      I also hope you are feeling better. I wish you peace and wellness.

  4. Jane says:

    So how is inpatient treatment these days? Still have to sit around watching television in the common area, having people go off and get restrained around you ? Is treatment still nine parts debilitating psychiatric drugs and only one part psychotherapy?

    Just a note on Medicaid/Medicare. I was covered under Medicare when I was a ward of the State. Medicaid isn’t like having private insurance that you pay for with the earnings from your job. Medicaid is one person being treated on another person’s dime.

  5. Jane says:

    Hello Waywardweed,

    Well I am glad to hear it. To be fair, I’ve never been inpatient at a psychiatric center as an adult. I had a brief stay at a city hospital psych ward (more tv time) when I was 20, but most of my admittedly jaded experience comes from my youth spent inpatient, in the late 80s and early 90s, being told I had to participate in groups I didn’t want to be in because otherwise I was ‘sabotaging my treatment goals’.

    Regarding your son, that may very well be so. I have been homeless a few times and it was never fun. It must be very difficult to deal with having your own issues and your children’s and I don’t envy your struggle at all.

    Stay safe and be well.

  6. dogkisses says:

    “I can guarantee which side you’d fall on if your son, daughter, etc. were the poor schmuck wandering the freezing streets at night.”

    My son was on the streets and it most certainly wasn’t because he didn’t have a good home available to him. He was very sick. It was a nightmare — a hell on earth for me. I did work hard and even move to a different city so that he would be admitted to a better hospital, but getting him into a hospital saved his life.

    I don’t think most parents could walk away from a son or daughter who is completely lost and wandering around sleeping on the streets.

    Some hospitals are actually good and some psychiatrists and nurses in these hospitals are good. Good as in they try to help and they treat the patient as an individual human being instead of a number with a label.

    Perhaps it’s hard for people who have never lived what you have to understand. Sometimes, we need help and where are we to turn? Our families? Churches? Expensive alternative health care isn’t an option for people who can’t afford it.

    Thanks again for a refreshingly honest post.

  7. Nancy widrew says:

    Hi Dogkisses,
    I had to turn hoops and testify before a judge to get my son help. Yes, it was a nightmare–literally, since it still keeps me up some nights. I had to do it twice. After the second time, our relationship went into the gutter. It is better now, but I had to swear that I wouldn’t do it again, even though I believe getting him admitted into a state hosp. saved his life. If there’s a next time, I’ll leave it up to the mental health agency. I don’t think I could survive it again.

  8. dogkisses says:

    Hi Nancy,
    I can relate to all you say here. I hope your relationship with your son will continue to heal and you both will know that your actions have been from love.
    Blessings and Peace to you and your family.

  9. mrswriteword says:

    sounds like the systen is as Bi-polar as my son.

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