Wednesday, November 30, 2016
The third time scheduled was a charm and we had a wonderful time going in to Washington to be on Diane Rehm's talk show. Okay, so the car wouldn't start at first, and I missed a turn, but we got there without event. The show included our friend, Pete Earley, and two people who had experienced involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations, Lily and Jaime -- they both did a great job of talking about their experiences. Pete, the author of Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness and more recently co-author of the novel Treason, added a lot of life to the issue by talking about how hard it was to get his son care during a psychotic state years ago. The nice thing: Pete's son is doing great, as are the two women who called in.
If you'd like to listen, the link is here:
And Pete Earley wrote more about the show, including some of the Facebook Q&A after, on his blog.
As far as the photo goes, we took a vote and Diane Rehm definitely looks the best. What a great host and what a privilege to be on this marvelous radio show before she retires.
Posted by Dinah on Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Involuntary Psychiatric Care-- a Discussion on NPR's Diane Rehm Show on Tuesday : the Third Time's a Charm
I've posted twice about how we will be discussing our new book, Committed, on the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio. Well, national politics have gotten in the way, and we've been rescheduled for more time-sensitive issues.
So I'm excited to tell you that we will be on the Diane Rehm Show this Tuesday, November 29th, during the second hour of the show -- 11 AM if you're listening on WAMU, 88.5 FM. Only it's gotten better -- while the show was originally supposed to be just the two authors, the programming has changed: Pete Earley, who wrote the foreword, will be joining us in the studio, and two people who have been hospitalized involuntarily will be participating by phone, including one of the wonderful women we traced through the book -- Lily.
Diane Rehm makes a point of saying:
One of her guests is always youSo do feel free to call in or email questions, and we will be staying for a little while after the show for a continued discussion on Facebook.
While we hope you can listen live, we'll publish a link to the show after it airs.
While I'm here, please let me mention that Committed was listed on Scientific American's Books to Read in December!
Link to information about our segment on the Diane Rehm Show Here.
Posted by Dinah on Sunday, November 27, 2016
Sunday, November 20, 2016
You're invited to tune in tomorrow,
Monday Novermber 21st,
when we join radio host
John Fugelsang on his show
Tell Me Everything
3PM on SiriusXM, #121
We will be talking about our book,
Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care
Posted by Dinah on Sunday, November 20, 2016
Saturday, November 19, 2016
If you've already read the beginning of this, you can scroll down to the Addendum added on 1/17/17, or to Addendum #2 added on 1/26/17, or Addendenum #3 added on January 29, 2017
Please note that while this is usually a psychiatry blog, today I am using it to vent for my own personal psychotherapy. Please feel free to offer words of support, to make helpful interpretations to improve my insight, or if you know CBT techniques that may help me, I'm open to that. Is there a 12 step group for iPhone users? Medications to treat Post Traumatic iPhone Seven Disorder?
Dear Mr. Jobs,
I know you've died and left the job and I should leave you to your death in peace, but I imagine you are spinning in your grave at a mind-boggling rate where there is no peace to be had. You used to run an amazing company with great products and great service, and since you've left, it's gone to hell. I don't know where you are but perhaps you might know this?
Let me tell you my iphone 7 story.
~First I'll start from way back: I loved my iPhone 4.
~At some point I upgraded to an iPhone 5s, it had terribly short battery life of 3-4 hours. I thought I'd cracked the screen (it was a plastic protector) so it looked pathetic. Touch voicemail didn't work, and since this is my only phone and I run a medical practice from it, it was often difficult to retrieve messages, and I spent about an hour on the phone with support figuring out how to change my greeting for vacations. Simply put, it was time for an upgrade many months ago, but I waited for September for the latest model: the iPhone 7 which came with many promises.
~I went to the Apple store to buy my iPhone 7, which is constantly advertised on TV. Ha! No such product. Order it, the color I want will be available in 3 months, I opted not to.
~There were ways to order it online, but I really wanted a live person to help with set up, oh, and what I want still wouldn't be available for months.
~I gave up on the color and began calling Apple every few days. They repeatedly told me to check on line at 8 AM everyday for availability, but I could not figure out how to do that on the website (all those Ivy League degrees for nothing).
~One day, I was told that a gold (meh) phone was available at a mall 30 minutes from me and I could reserve a time to come get it. Yes! I arrived at 5:30 to get my iPhone 7, I brought my MacBook Pro because my phone was not backing to the cloud. They got me the phone, backed my phone to the computer, erased my phone (despite my suggestion that they wait until the new one was set up) and handed me off to the next guy to set up the new phone; I was told this would take a few minutes. I was able to cash in my old phone for $90. The new phone with Apple Care plan cost over $1,000.
~I remained at the store until 9:30 when it closed. My 4 year old MacBook Pro has Lion and it was incompatible with the new phone, and try as they may, 2 set up guys and 3 geniuses could not get the information transferred. At one point, the genius just vanished for half an hour (maybe on break, but he could have said so?). The geniuses were helping several people at once. There was little sympathy for my plight, but occasionally, my genius offered a reassuring word that it would eventually work. My operating system could not be updated because I was not sure if the computer was fully backed up, and when I suggested they use an external drive to do this, they said they I could buy one. No one suggested that I pay 99 cents to get enough storage space in the cloud to back up there.
~At 10 AM the next morning, I arrived at an Apple store closer to my home with my new phone, my old phone which I had purchased back, my MacBook Pro, and an external drive so the computer could be backed up. Now a new operating system could be installed that would compatible with the new phone. I was told to come back at noon because there was a wait. I did so and was told to come back at 3 PM because there was still a wait, at which point I asked to see a manager and be given special consideration since I had been trying to get the phone set up for many hours and was on day 2 now. They did expedite me, and by 5 PM, my phone was set up and my computer upgraded to Sierra. I also learned that I needed more RAM on the computer, which Apple does not do, but they suggested outside business which could help me. Really, they can't add RAM to their own computers? In all, 11.5 hours including an entire business day in Apple's stores for a process I expected to take 30 minutes. And no, I would not have purchased the phone if I was aware that it would be this difficult. And that was the beginning of the story.
~The new phone has good battery life. I'm told it has a better camera. The fingerprint unlock sometimes works, I finally turned it off. I can now back to the cloud for 99 cents a month.
~The phone itself does not work -- people are constantly telling me I am breaking up. At first I thought it was a connection issue, but then I realized it happened everywhere, on every call. I'd touch the phone and it would get better. But every call is stressful and people often hang up on me frustrated that they can't hear me.
~I called Apple support, the technician immediately knew I was on the phone that didn't work because she couldn't hear me breaking up. Diagnostics revealed a problem that would take 40 minutes to fix. I had to go to work and arranged for a call back time later. They had me re-hook to my own network, but the phone doesn't work even when I'm not on my home network. Still, it was better: fewer people complained I was breaking up, but in the middle of almost every call, people continued to tell me that they've lost me. "I can't hear you, can you hear me?" (Yes I can hear you). Have I mentioned that I run a doctor's office off this phone, and that I have a new book out and planned to be doing a live radio interview from it on Monday for a Sirius XM show --Ah, I will stay near a landline.
~I tried to make a Genius Bar appointment on the website. There used to be an option for Get Help and Make A Genius Bar Appointment. No more. It took clicking through many many screens, some repeatedly, to get to that point where you can actually schedule and I would not be able to find it again. The contact info all wanted me to chat or call, which I'd done. At this point, I now dream my Apple Password because I've entered it roughly 100 times in my many hours of iPhone 7 hell. Appointments were all 4-5 days away during times when I have patients scheduled. Plus, I know that if I enter the store, I may never leave, so I am scheduling an unpredictable amount of time. I was later told that if I had the Apple App it would be much easier to make the appointment -- I suppose I should have magically known that? It does not suggest that on the website.
~Yesterday I prepared myself: I went to the iPhone store steeled for however long it might take. The next technician could see me as a walk-in in 3 and a half hours, at 6 PM. Too long to sit in the store, but I could buy some groceries, run them home, and come back, no problem. I talked to him about what if they called me earlier, he said they probably wouldn't, and said I would have the option to delay the appointment. I said I would return by 5:30.
~Forty-five minutes later, I'm checking out of Sam's Club with space heaters and a rotisserie chicken, among other perishables when my phone texts me that they are ready. I try to delay the appointment by pressing the button for 60 more minutes, but after repeated texts to me, they cancel my appointment.
~Perishables in the car, I return to the mall where I'm told the wait is 3.5 hours. I rant about how they told me that and then called me after 45 minutes, and oh by the way, I spent 11.5 hours having the phone set up over 2 days. There is no sympathy, I'm told there is a line, but I'll be moved forward, have a seat.
~I sit. I'm soon texted to check in. I check in with the guy with the gray cap and am told to have a seat.
~I sit. I'm soon texted to check in. I check in with the guy with the green cap and am told to have a seat. I sit. Maybe an hour since I've been back, maybe not quite.
~I rant at the guy sitting next to me. Then I get the guy with the green cap and the gray cap together and see if they can help me. These employees are robots. They have a line and a procedure. No one apologizes, no one empathizes with the frustration, no one thinks it's odd that I keep getting to texted to check in after I've checked in. I see other people in the very crowded store with 3-4 slow moving 'geniuses' and other people also rant at the intake guys. I know I am getting distraught as well, and I apologize to the young men because I realize that neither the system nor the problematic phones are their fault, they are just the messengers. I just want my thousand dollar phone to hold a call. I think they hire Apple store employees from the poker tables at the local casinos.
~I ask to speak with a manager and they say yes, then send over a security guard. The security guard listens to my saga, he actually expresses a degree of kindness and sympathy. I feel sorry for the man across from me (his phone heats up to the point where it's untouchable then goes blank), who has now heard the tale four times.
~A manager comes over. She apologizes (much appreciated) and gets a technician who asks what would make me happy. I tell him I want my phone to make calls without going silent in the middle. He offers to exchange the phone for a new one. I ask if mine can be fixed. He runs diagnostics and says there is a problem with the phone. So a new phone it is, but they don't have another phone in stock. He'll order it. He doesn't know when it will come-- a few days-- and he doesn't know if it will take 11.5 hours to transfer my information but he says the usual is 10 minutes. I ask if I can have a different color since gold was never my preference and I've been through a lot. I can't, it has to be the same phone. And for some reason I had believed there was a 30 day return policy--- since I still have my old iPhone 5s which I repurchased from the store when they couldn't transfer the information. Nope 14 days, I can't just return it and buy an Android.
Mr. Jobs: You need a better product. And please don't constantly advertise a product that is so unavailable. You need more employees. You need to train them to express some sympathy and kindness to those who have unexpected delays and waits and poor quality products. You need to tell them not to tell people to come back in many hours, then call them in 45 minutes. It's a mall, if I knew it would be a 45 minute wait, I wouldn't have sushi in my trunk, I'd have wandered around or gotten a cup of coffee. You need to instruct them to be kinder to people who've already had problems with the product and service and to have a mechanism to put people to the front of the line who have been there multiple days and have had hours of frustration. A restaurant would have offered a free dessert, and not that I want dessert or that that makes things all better, but it does acknowledge that the customer is right in expecting something for their money. Your staff acts like they are doing me some great favor in providing their expensive, malfunctioning product, with no concern about customer satisfaction. Given my awful experiences, some empathy and a willingness to provide timely service and to change the phone color would have been appreciated. And yes, we sold our Apple Stock this week.
I still don't have a fully functional phone, let's hope I'm not back venting about problems picking up my new iPhone.
Thank you for your attention to this matter, Mr. Jobs, and I hope you are in a better place.
-----Addendum to my iPhone 7 + fiasco
(please note I am ranting as therapy.)
The story above began in November, and I was soon provided with a new phone and an easy transfer of data --I was in the Apple Store for under an hour. End of Story? No, the second phone didn't work either. The reception was poor and calls went in and out for no reason. I called Apple, they said to call my carrier. I called my carrier, they said there was in fact an issue and they did something that made things better: my reception was better, but phone calls still went to mute periodically so that the other party was left to say, "Are you there? Are you there?" I was there. I'd touch the screen or push a button, and things would improve. In the meantime, since the Apple folks had backed up my phone to my computer and had to upgrade my system from Lion to Sierra, I lost access to iPhoto, and the newest version doesn't seem to exist. And my MacBook is now more wonky than ever.
I had to let it rest; my $1,000+ phone was driving me crazy and I felt like I was in a feedback loop that was always my fault. Make a genius appointment: how? The website used to be so clear. If you had the app it would be easier. I downloaded the app. It took 50 clicks to get to "Make a genius bar appointment" and it was always a week away with the ability to set it for one device only. I had to take a break for my own sanity.
Today, after a conversation the other day that dropped three times, I decided I had the time and resilience to deal with my iPhone issue again. And I want to see my photos. Three months ago they were on iPhoto and I could see them for free. When I got the new phone, I figured out the cloud and paid 99cents/month for storage. Today, if I want to try to see my photos in whatever app is on my computer, it will cost me $2.99/month. Whatever, I clicked yes. Have I mentioned that I can't always access my voicemail? Or reliably change my outgoing message? The battery life is much better, the screen is bigger, but otherwise, I hate this phone. And the touch unlock doesn't reliably work -- I use the password and still find myself swiping to turn it on. Also, no jack-- you need to hook it to a separate thing through the charging port to use headphones: one more thing to keep track of and you can't listen and charge at the same time. But for $159 they'll sell you new Apple bluetooth earbuds (another thing to lose).
I tried to schedule a genius bar appointment. None until Sunday, but I have time on Thursday, and after all I've been through, can't they be accommodating? -- I'm on phone #2 with 16 hours logged sitting at the iPhone store. I call Apple Support. Oh, the diagnostics run in November showed a software problem that had transferred to the second phone. Really? They didn't want to mention that then? They could restore my setting to store bought and walk me through this if I have a reliable internet connection and another phone to talk on, but my Macbook does NOT reliably connect to the internet, it's iffy and comes in and out and is very slow, and if I didn't hate Apple at this point, I'd gladly buy a new MacBook. Is it funny that I'm worried about what I could lose? Option #2 is they can charge me for a third new phone, send it to me, and refund me when I send the second phone back and I'm on my own for transferring my information. I don't trust me either with this.
I ask for a supervisor. I rant some more. What would be helpful? I'd like her to make a genius bar appointment for me. She can do that on Saturday. I'd like her to call one of my local Apple stores (there are two within 25 miles) and schedule an appointment for me on Thursday, and know they'd have another phone available, and that they could look at my Macbook at the same time. She can't do that, I can't be moved because other people have scheduled appointments to have their screens replaced and have issues dealt with. That I'm on my second poorly functioning device, have spent 16 hours in Apple Stores over this, and have had many conversations with Apple Support doesn't matter. She's sorry, but obviously, she's not. Ah, and the call ended when my phone dropped it. She didn't call back.
In therapy, it's not unusual for people to talk about their frustration with technology. By this point, you probably think I'm a madwoman (I think I've lost it, so feel free) but I bet you aren't surprised to know that I'm rather sympathetic to my patients who are frustrated with their devices.
So I don't know where Mr. Jobs is, but I do know that Apple has gone to hell. Mr. Cook, please do feel free to contact me.
26 January 2017. The saga continues: I decided I needed to be able to talk on the phone, and I made a Genius Bar appointment for yesterday at 4:30 pm. It was a short wait and I a very pleasant young genius named Jeff who felt that the problem had to be a transfer in a software issue from the first phone to the second phone because it would not make any sense for two phones to have the same problem. The solution, to reset the phone to factory settings and start fresh, individually downloading my apps. My calendar is on google, the contacts and voicemail remained, but I lost all my texts (I often use them to track when I've called in medications, to find pharmacy phone numbers, and to keep track of communications, but oh well). Set the phone up from scratch. Log another hour at the Apple Store and a couple in set up. Trying to find the Contacts App, which shows up in the search window but not on the Screen. Trying to figure out why some people are in the Contacts App but not in my contacts within the Phone App. Oh, well, I'm managing, but everything is just a little different. And I wish I could tell you the phone works reliably, but it doesn't, still having people say, "Are you there? Are you there? Can you hear me?" Yes I can hear you. No clue where to go from here. Yes, yes, I know I should have gotten an android, and No, apple feedback does not respond.
I think the count: 17 hours in the Apple Store.
Not sure how long on the phone with Apple Support: I'm going to guess 2 hours. And countless hours of aggravation. Aren't you glad you asked?
Inspired by the inability to hold a cohesive conversation with one of my kids calling from out of town, I tried a new format for reaching out to Apple Support: Text. Dan couldn't help me but he passed me along to Janae. We chatted for one hour and she had me reset some phone/cellular options on the phone, but she was convinced the problem was with my carrier, AT&T. I then called AT&T and talked to Uba in the Phillipines for some time. Because the problem is intermittent, Uba insisted the issue was with my phone, not the carrier. But Janae had wanted AT&T to open a case number and thought the issue could be with my SIM card. Uba first said she'd send a new SIM card, then she insisted the phone was fine (right, tell that to my kid who cut out 6 times over 2 calls in a matter of minutes) and said she couldn't. She sent me to a supervisor in Kansas who had me make a voice recording, "because if the voice recording is muffled, then it's the phone." The voice recording was not muffled so a new SIM card is on it's way and there is a case open to be resolved (whatever that means) by 1/31. And actually, since I was told to alter the settings to WiFi ON and Data Only (remember, the phone was swiped clean a few days ago), I have been able to have 3 conversations without anyone yelling "I can't hear you !".
The nice thing: when I reset the phone I picked much nicer wallpapers than I've been using: A photo through an arch at a castle overlooking the beautiful parliament building in Budapest for my lock screen, and the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole for my home screen background. Makes losing all records of all my texts worth it?
Posted by Dinah on Saturday, November 19, 2016
Saturday, November 12, 2016
Something surprising happened on Tuesday : despite the predictions of the pollsters and pundits, Donald Trump was elected President. During the campaign, Mr. Trump was often unkind. For a short list, he poked fun of the press, dubbed his opponents with nasty nicknames in the way a middle school student might, was belligerent at times, refused to release his tax returns, picked a fight with the parents of a dead marine, talked of building a wall to keep Mexicans out, and made the Muslim members of our country feel unwanted as though they all might be terrorists. He accepted support from the Ku Klux Klan, and the list goes on and on. His history is no better: he has been accused of violating women and a tape of his conversation is vulgar. While he minimizes it as "locker room talk," he seems to say he sexually assaulted women. Three marriages, and a profound emphasis on the appearance of women as though that determines their worth. Finally, and perhaps most egregiously, despite having no relationship to the case, he took out ads in the New York Times calling for the execution of teenagers who were implicated in the rape of the Central Park jogger. They were later found to be innocent. The execution of teenagers? Oh, black teenagers. This all bothers me a great deal. And he sees himself as a supporter of women who has a wonderful temperment.
I'm going to ignore all the policy issues: Donald Trump has changed political parties 7 times in the last two decades and 3 years ago he was a Democrat. He started to reverse his stated plans on the day after the election and he's already named and unnamed the head of his transition team. This week, many of his policies are policies I would hate to see enacted. But politically, I have no idea who he is or how much irreparable damage he'll do to this county, and half of our citizens believe his policies might help. In terms of policy, by all means, work with him or work against him, as a democracy is meant to be.
Personally, I feel he puts energy into being cruel and he is erratic and undignified.
This is what is bothering me, if you're interested. While some supporters may share Mr. Trump's xenophobia, his objectification of women, disdain for illegal immigrants, and general lack of dignity, it bothers me that many Clinton supporters are fiercely angry at those who voted for Trump, as though they share all of his personal characteristics. We've divided as a nation. And while many people have talked about what damage it does to have their children see an unkind leader, I don't think it helps to now have those children frightened that all the boys in the class will see girls as objects, or that he has created the hate we are seeing. And the hate is not just on the Trump side, Clinton supporters are venting their anger/hate towards Trump supporters and have been violent as well.
I was absolutely appalled to read yesterday that a website was created targeting African American students at the University of Pennsylvania in a site that named them, called for 'daily lynching' and showed violent images. The site came from Oklahoma, not from Penn, and Penn was perhaps chosen because it's Trump's alma mater. Oh, it's mine, too.
The KKK held a parade for Trump. As disgusting as that sounds to me, the truth is that the KKK existed before Trump, there has been bullying during the Obama administration, and there have always been cruel and unkind people, racists, and haters. I imagine the Trump victory has unleased this for the moment. but kind people did not become evil overnight, and it's possible that the media was not covering every racist comment spray painted on a wall before the election, or every KKK activity.
It takes energy to be kind and it takes energy to be unkind. It takes no energy to quietly go on with your life. We are all living in America, and if this plane goes down, it takes us all. If you're not happy, fight the system. While we should certainly prosecute criminals, don't call for hatred against your neighbor because he supported a candidate you don't like-- he's with half the country-- unless you know that he's propagating unkind acts against others. Don't scare your children by telling them that they will now be subjected to hatred and discrimination, and don't give them permission to hate. Don't demonize those who voted for a candidate you didn't want, and don't equate every supporter with his candidate, people vote for for many reasons. I know there are those who feel so strongly that their ideology is right that they shun friendships with anyone who doesn't share their exact values. So be it.
Half the nation is not Donald Trump and every Clinton supporter is not an angel. I'd ask you to be kind, even to those who supported a candidate you didn't, be it Trump or Clinton, but if you can't be kind, at least don't be unkind. We need each other, and in the coming years, we may need each other a lot.
Finally, over on Clinical Psychiatry News, I wrote a rather personal article : One Psychiatrist's Take On Election Anxiety.
Posted by Dinah on Saturday, November 12, 2016
Thursday, November 10, 2016
As I mentioned in the last post, we were scheduled to be on the Diane Rehm NPR radio talk show this morning to discuss our new book: Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care.
And then came the Presidential Election where the predicted winner lost, and the world is asking why, and what will it mean to have Donald Trump as our president. Today, no one is thinking very much about forced psychiatric care and the NPR producer asked if we would reschedule to later in the month as they felt it was important to continue with election coverage.
Stand by, we will get back to you with a new date soon.
Posted by Dinah on Thursday, November 10, 2016
Sunday, November 06, 2016
You're Invited to Listen to Us Talk About Our New Book on NPR's Diane Rehm Show this coming Thursday
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
Two psychiatrists explore the ongoing debate over involuntary treatment through first hand accounts of those hurt and helped by it.
- Dinah Miller, MD psychiatrist in outpatient practice; instructor in psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.; co- author of "Committed: The Battle over Involuntary Psychiatric Care"
- Annette Hanson, MD assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; director, University of Maryland forensic psychiatry program; co-author of "Committed: The Battle over Involuntary Psychiatric Care"
If you want to listen but don't have that time available, we'll post a link to the show afterwards.
We won't be talking about the presidential election.
Posted by Dinah on Sunday, November 06, 2016
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Psychiatrists at the Johns Hopkins Hospital are doing a study on the nature of Doubt. So are you decisive? Take an anonymous survey, help science, and learn something about yourself in just a few minutes. Click Here to go to the survey.
Posted by Dinah on Thursday, November 03, 2016
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
Yesterday our book, Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care was officially released. Our publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press, asked if I'd write a post for their blog, which I was more than happy to do. With permission, I've asked if I could reprint the piece on our other social media venues, including here at Shrink Rap. I hope you enjoy reading about what went into writing this book, and please do visit the JHUP blog over at https://www.press.jhu.edu/news/blog; they have some terrific authors writing about all sorts of topics.
By Dinah Miller, M.D.
2 November 2016
After three years of work, Anne Hanson and I are delighted that our book, Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care was officially released yesterday!
So how did I find myself sitting in court rooms and riding alongside a police officer? Let me tell you a little about the process of writing this book, because it was a quite the adventure for me. The title implies that this is another book by psychiatrists for psychiatrists, but for me, the days I spent working on this manuscript were days off from psychiatry. Those mornings I woke up a psychiatrist and felt like I walked into a phone booth (maybe it was just my shower) and emerged as a journalist.
Those days I spent doing research in a whole new way: I cajoled people into talking to me, made call after call which sometimes led to dead ends, trolled message boards, shadowed a variety of psychiatrists, judges and a crisis intervention police officer, attended legislative hearings, and sat in on government work groups. I arranged video meetings with patients, doctors, lawyers, advocates, and adversaries by phone and Skype, including one with a psychiatrist in New Zealand—quite the challenge with the 18 hour time difference.
I toured psychiatric facilities, and I had meetings and meals with the most interesting of people, including esteemed psychiatrist/author E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, a Christian Scientologist whom I sort-of ambushed and who gave me a video on “Psychiatry as an Industry of Murder,” a mental health court judge and his team, a former state hospital superintendent, and a medical sociologist from Duke, to name just a few. This is not how psychiatrists usually do research.
Patients are involuntarily hospitalized for one of two reasons: they are acutely psychotic – meaning they have delusions and often hallucinations and sometimes their thinking is disorganized to the point of being nonsensical and incomprehensible – or they are depressed and suicidal. Both depression and psychosis can be tormenting. Often delusions include paranoia, the idea that people are trying to harm or kill you. If these patients are presenting a danger to themselves or others, and they refuse voluntary treatment, they can be held in a hospital against their will and forced to get treatment. Patients subjected to these treatments get better, and they often leave the hospital within weeks, if not days.
So what is wrong with that? Shouldn’t people be happy that someone helped them? Sometimes, patients are grateful for the help that was forced upon them, but we learned that it wasn’t so simple, and some people are truly traumatized by the care they get. This care can include the loss of basic liberty, moments of humiliation, being tied down with restraints or placed in a seclusion room, and being held down by guards to be injected with sedating medications. While many involuntary patients don’t experience this type of physical force, some do. Still, these treatments are often used in dangerous situations where there may be no good alternatives.
As we heard story after story, we learned there are large organizations that champion patient’s rights. There are no formal organizations of patients, however, campaigning to make it easier to commit and force care on people. We decided that if many people leave a treatment setting feeling injured by the care they received, it is worth more scrutiny.
I didn’t want to write a book full of facts and figures and historical perspectives, though those are all include. I wanted a book about the human beings and their stories-- who they are and how forced care touched the lives of patients, family members, doctors, the police officers who brought the patients to the ER and the judges who retained them.
So many people I spoke with had siblings or parents with psychiatric disorders, or their own histories of illness or loss. So while being a journalist is an entirely different occupation from being a psychiatrist, the one skill that translated well was that as psychiatrists, we are good at getting people to talk about themselves, and this makes for lively and emotional stories.
While the reader might think I was writing about psychiatry, I felt very much that I was writing about civil rights for patients and psychiatry’s role in preventing violence, since involuntary care is now presented by the media and our legislators as a way to prevent gun violence, suicide, and mass murders, topics we didn’t shy away from.
At times, it was really fascinating, but there were challenges and many people who did not want to talk to me. Involuntary psychiatric care is a polarizing topic, not unlike other polarizing topics in our society. It took me months to convince members of MindFreedom International to speak with me and I never did convince the leaders of a local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) to open up. They said the subject was too sensitive, and I ended up driving to Arlington to meet with one of the national organization’s attorneys. I was determined to look at this complicated topic with respect to all who came to the table, and to work to make it something other than a polarized “for” or “against” topic.
And, if hunting down stories wasn’t hard enough, the topic was in perpetual motion as legislation was proposed, amended, and voted on or not, and as the number of mass murder victims escalated. We finally realized we had to pick a point and just stop writing, knowing that it would be impossible to get the book out completely up to date because the target of involuntary care and it’s related aspects move every day.
Behind the scenes, my co-author, Annette Hanson did the heavy lifting in a more conventional way. While I was out meeting with fascinating people, she was hard at work reading the studies and providing the literature reviews. If that wasn’t enough, she read every word that both of us wrote, again and again, making sure each chapter was structured in way that made sense; not an easy task. And when Anne couldn’t get the structure right, our wonderful editor at Johns Hopkins University Press, Jackie Wehmueller, had just the knack for figuring out what was wrong and how to fix it.
Finally, the real credit doesn’t go just to the professionals who, made themselves a little vulnerable, and trusted me to tag along with them on a ‘take a psychiatrist to work’ day. The real credit goes to the many people I spoke to who had been involuntarily treated. “Eleanor” and “Lily” talked and emailed with me repeatedly, let me access their medical records, their family members, and their psychiatrists. There were many, many others, and while some of their stories are in the book, I spoke with people whose stories enriched only me. Every patient selflessly revisited an exquisitely painful period in their lives and opened up wounds for the sake of helping me to see what their experiences had been like, and without this, there would have been no book.
I received an education that I never got as a psychiatrist. I hope we wrote Committed in a way that grabs the reader’s attention so that education can be shared with anyone who is curious about the process of civil commitment, the rights of psychiatric patients, or the belief that involuntary care has a role in preventing violence on a societal level. As you will see, the issue is not black-and-white and we hope to start a discussion that will not be so polarized and will allow all voices to be heard at the table.
As a start, we do hope you’ll listen next week on Novermber 10, 2016 when we’ll be guests on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show to talk about “The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care.”
And again, thank you to our Shrink Rap readers, your voices were invaluable!
Posted by Dinah on Wednesday, November 02, 2016