Tales from the Psych Ward Part II

hospital psych ward hallway with one open door
Photo by Erkan Utu on Pexels.com

I’m currently on day 9 in hospital. I had my first ECT treatment yesterday. As they were getting ready to take me over to the post-anaesthetic care unit to get treatment, the nurse said she was waiting for a security guard to come along with us as an escort. I told her that was absurd, but she insisted, even though PACU was calling to ask why they were late bringing me over. I’ve been asking for ECT since I got into hospital, and I’m so slow moving that I couldn’t run away even if I was so inclined, but nope, gotta have security for those scary psych patients.

For the ECT itself, they used a different anaesthetic (methohexital) than what I’ve always had before (propofol), and I woke up afterwards feeling totally freaked out and couldn’t stop crying. I told the ECT psychiatrist I don’t like methohexital and want propofol instead, but she just told me to talk to my psychiatrist on the ward. I told him, and he said the anaesthesiologist has the final say, meaning I’m probably going to have to fight this stupid fucking fight every time. The chances of an anaesthesiologist taking me seriously seem low; after all, if even the psych ward staff thinking I’m a scary fucking psych patient, what the hell is the anaesthesiologist likely to think? And who listens to or cares what a scary fucking psych patient thinks?

We talked about the security escort business. My day nurse said the doctor had ordered it, but he didn’t seem to own up to that. He said it’s routine practice to have security escort psych patients, and I pointed out that that sure sounds like structural stigma. Sure, security is sometimes necessary, but that should not be the default for people accessing health care, including mental health care.

I had written a long email to the patient relations leader about my experience of getting restrained in follow-up to a complaint that I had made to the psych ER’s clinical nurse leader. I asked for a commitment to training the staff in the psych ER in trauma-informed care, and I also recommended the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Understanding Stigma course for health professionals. The patient relations leader responded and didn’t actually comment on what I told her happened (which was disappointing), but she said she was going to talk to the ER manager about what kind of training is currently offered, and then get back to me.

What had happened was that I had spoken to the ER psychiatrist and told him my previous involuntary admissions had been difficult, and he agreed to admit me voluntarily. When I was taken over to the psych ER area, the nurse was being really cunty and I didn’t like the way I was being treated, so I said I wanted to leave. Even though I was voluntary, they refused to give me my things or let me go (it was a locked area so I couldn’t leave on my own). They called a whole bunch of security, and so there I was surrounded by nurses and security trying to convince them to let me go because I was voluntary. They stalled until they could get the psychiatrist on the phone and get him to agree to commit me. At that point, I just froze in place, overwhelmed by how things were going. They then pushed me onto a stretcher and put me in restraints. I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate and uncalled for that was.

In 5 years working on inpatient psych, I put patients into restraints a grand total of once, and only because he was physically aggressive.

When I first met my psychiatrist here on the inpatient unit, he briefly brought up me being put in restraints in ER. He seems like a fairly reasonable person, but I was pretty disappointed that he didn’t seem to recognize how wrong it was for me to get restrained (although he recognized it was distressing for me). I got the sense that he figured it was called for, and he was saying some shit about trying to keep me out of seclusion here on the unit and that needing to be a 2-way street. What the actual fuck?

And yes, Dr. Murray, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you. That was not cool.

He asked yesterday if he could look at my blog, and I said I’d rather not. Then yesterday evening I read everyone’s supportive comments and changed my mind, because I want him to see how my friends reacted to the clusterfuck of my admission.

Thank you all for being amazing.

This 6-part series begins with Tales from the Psych Ward part I.

The post Cell Phones on Psych Wards—Yea or Nay? is the hub for all psychiatric hospitalization-related content on Mental Health @ Home.

108 thoughts on “Tales from the Psych Ward Part II”

  1. Dear Dr. Murray,

    I wonder how many people who desperately need treatment die because of situations like the one Ashley encountered? Can you imagine the outcry if you treated BIPOC people this way? Even worse, of course, is the quisling way in which medical professionals deny responsibility for their own behaviours. You did this, and then pretend you didn’t.

    I was thinking about this this morning, in point of fact. You’d never take a car to a mechanic who was untrained: most nurses and doctors lack the training to be able to treat mental illness. You don’t have untrained people prescribing chemo regimens, after all. And six combined credits in introductory psychology and biopsychology isn’t much of a resume.

    Do remember to give thanks to the endemic bigotry that makes your gross behaviour possible.


    Michelle who is afflicted with mental illness but still human.

  2. Thank you for the update. Again, sorry that so many people are so horrible. I left a message for your Dr. Murray: I don’t think I like them too much. Sending you good vibes, and hopes that your anesthesiologist learns to listen 💝

  3. If that Dr still wants to read your blog say hell yes. What you are experiencing is lawful. Put I am not surprised with how broken the concept of mental health is. Keep up the fight.

  4. aguycalledbloke

    Sadly some things don’t change. I recall things like this as in bad treatment for voluntary admission in Chertsey hospital in 1990 a time l don’t often talk about. But they were bastards then.

  5. Just read this after reading part III. Terrible treatment. Good for you writing to complain. I hope the training you suggested is taken up. You are such a strong woman! Praying you come out of all this and are soon well enough to go home.

  6. I’m just catching up, but what the hell? If that psychiatrist IS a professional, he’s coming off as a psych that doesn’t have solid ideas on how to treat his patients. Patients rely on those guys because as you mentioned “they don’t listen to psych patients”, especially ones they’ve labelled as ‘difficult’. Therefore the psychiatrist MUST do a competent job or hand the patient off to another doctor, one who can HEAR what the patient is saying.

    It presses a lot of buttons for me to read this, because you’re describing what would happen if I were forced into committal. Given my mental health diagnosis, it’s the common reaction that everyone with BPD (to my knowledge) would have. Hang in there kid, it’s GOT to get better!! Think about you and sending thoughts of support.

  7. They’re putting you through such an ordeal even though you were super responsible and sought help! That’s not the kind of patient who needs restraints….it’s ridiculous! DO NO HARM is their first mandate; I can’t believe it! If anyone you’re trying to convince is reading this, we’ve got Ashley’s back. The system needs to change because these absurd events are far too frequent and nothing is changing. Stop passing the buck, develop some common sense and change the way you perceive and treat psychiatrist patients. We’re not scary and we deserve the same respect given to every other sort of patient showing up in a clinical setting. Get your act together! Mental illness does NOT equal invalid opinions, feedback, requests, complaints, etc. We are NOT our mental illness so start treating us as the human beings we are. If you wonder why so many of us are reluctant to seek help, this is why! Stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. For all the professionals doing their part to change things for the better, thank you, we appreciate it!

    Back to Ashley, good luck, I’m so sorry you’re fighting the additional battle of dealing with such a stupid and antiquated system. You have enough on your plate. I really hope things improve! Sending lots of love ❤️

  8. I’m certain the mental health staff there is not as knowledgeable about mental illness as you are. I’m glad you are equipped to understand and school them on deeper understanding and compassion for patients. ffs

  9. I’m glad you complained and recommended trainings for them. You are helping. I’m glad the world has people like you doing things like that. It makes me feel safer. Thank you.

  10. That is NOT ok!!! I also told the hospital that I will never go back after the way I was treated. I will be miserable in the comfort of my own home. I’m so sorry you had to go thru this. Going to next post…

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