A Mouse-Infested Psych Ward: Does No One Care About Crazy People?

mouse on pavement

The raging mouse infestation on the ward where I was recently hospitalized strikes me as something that wouldn’t be allowed to continue on a non-psychiatric unit, but I’m guessing that stigma stops anyone from paying attention to it happening on a psych ward. This is what I’ve come up with so far to email to the hospital communications department. What I’m still pondering is how to convey my plans for pursuing the issue if they don’t respond with action. I don’t want to sound threatening or ultimatum-ish, but I also want to convey that I have no intention of dropping the issue.

My plan if the issue doesn’t get addressed is to reach out to a local media outlet, the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the provincial politician representing my riding, the Minister of Mental Health & Addictions, and the opposition critic for that ministry. Any thoughts on how to hint at that without being obnoxious would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I was recently an inpatient on 2 North at [name of hospital]. The last two nights that I was in hospital, March 29 and 30, 2022, I was unable to sleep, so I spent the night sitting in the ward’s patient dining room.

I was already aware that there was a rodent issue on the unit, as I had previously seen a mouse in the room I shared with two other patients. However, I was not prepared for the extent of the problem that I witnessed during those two nights that I was awake. I couldn’t even count the number of mice, there were so many of them. They were running around the dining room, through the halls, and in and out of other rooms. When I raised the issue with my treatment team, they acknowledged that there was a mouse problem but seemed to take an “it is what it is” view of the matter.

This ongoing unaddressed infestation is completely unacceptable. I can’t help but wonder if this problem exists to the extent that it does because 2 North is a psychiatric unit, and, as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers so powerfully put it, no one cares about crazy people.

This issue needs to be addressed, and it needs to be addressed now. Many patients on psychiatric inpatient units like 2N are there involuntarily under the Mental Health Act, and I would like you to consider for just a moment how you would feel about yourself or a loved one being forcibly detained on a rodent-infested ward. My former co-patients may not be able to use their voices to speak up and be heard while they remain in hospital, but I can most certainly use mine. Those of us with mental illnesses deserve better than stigma, and I would encourage you to refer to the materials the Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed in regard to structural stigma (https://mentalhealthcommission.ca/structural-stigma/).

I would like to know exactly what steps [organization name] plans to take in order to remedy this situation and what follow-up will be done to evaluate the effectiveness of that remedy. I sincerely hope that patient voices will be heard as part of such an evaluation. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I mentioned yesterday that I recognize that sending this kind of email in high dudgeon is not good for me, so this email isn’t going to be sent for a week at the very least. My level of dudgeon has already come down significantly since getting home, and I figure another week or two of reflection should be sufficient to remove any excess dudgeon. Actually, I’m feeling inspired to create a dudgeon-o-meter graphic to help check in with myself; that goes on the to-do list.

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

Book cover: A Brief History of Stigma by Ashley L. Peterson

My latest book, A Brief History of Stigma, looks at the nature of stigma, the contexts in which it occurs, and how to challenge it most effectively.

You can find it on Amazon and Google Play.

There’s more on stigma on Mental Health @ Home’s Stop the Stigma page.

70 thoughts on “A Mouse-Infested Psych Ward: Does No One Care About Crazy People?”

      1. Just had the idea after I commented: a dudgeon-free email on Day 1, and then a follow up email that assertively outlines what you intend to action in a follow up email (eg Day 3, 5 or 7, if they ignore it.) It then looks entirely reasonable on your end, as you also have documentation they’ve done nothing.

  1. The state of our inpatient psychiatric care in the west is just atrocious. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this, Ashley πŸ™ it really makes the stigma of managing our mental health more difficult to culturally manage when our “best” facilities are conducted like this. I’ve seen many facilities here in the US in similar shape. It’s no wonder it’s difficult for those of us that need the extra help to reach out.

    On a better note, I’m super happy to see you can be with the fur babies and that your mood is on the up and up! Looking forward to seeing how this situation develops. Take care of yourself and I can’t wait to read the next one!


  2. Very well thought out email, Ashley! I think you nailed it. I would just say to them at the end that if nothing is done you will be forced to take the matter further, you don’t have to say what it is you’ll do but you can just say you’ll take things further, any smart person would guess that you mean you’d go to the media etc. with the problem. Its a disgrace that an infestation of mice was allowed there at all, don’t they have health and safety? I mean if there are mice surely they’re leaving droppings around and near food?

  3. Waiting a bit before sending something like this is a good idea. I do, however like that you wrote it now, so when you review it, you can be reminded of how you felt when you were filled with dudgeon. I just learned that word, by the way, thanks 😁

  4. Yesterday I was going to say you misspelled “dungeon”. It is a new word for me, I have used it 12 times today, thank you. (If you are expecting royalties from me, lace up your sneakers, the chase is on) I like the idea of waiting a bit also. You know what I always say… “Kill’em with Kindness.”
    Good luck in your dudgeonry, your Dudgeoness.

  5. Terrible conditions in the ward need to be reported. Your letter is very well written and I see nothing that needs to be changed. I feel it’s about the right level of emotion. I hope you get a good response. Well done on speaking out.

  6. I love the Dudgeon idea! I had to google ‘Dudgeon’ first though. It’s deplorable the state of some institutions- sadly, it is probably due to many vulnerable folk not having a voice- for any number of reasons. I’m a huge fan of advocacy and have always tried to remind people I work with their voice matters. I hope changes are made.

    1. I hope so too, and I agree, certain groups of people just don’t get listened to.

      And I’m going to do a blog post on dudgeon, because it amuses me so much and seems to amuse other people as well. I’ve already made a graphic. 😁

  7. I would buy a dudgeon-o-metre.

    This is beautifully written. I posted this on Twitter and tagged the incredibly ineffective Minster Dix. I may have asked about Hanta. I’m glad you’re speaking out and holding those who abuse to account πŸ’–

  8. Wow that’s an absolutely DISGUSTING situation. πŸ˜’πŸ˜”
    I think your email is perfect. It seems crystal clear that you are serious about following through until this organization fixes the problem.
    Now let’s hope they do…

  9. Wow! This is such a bad situation. The letter is great, though. I think you nailed it. The only thing I would add are pictures of the rodents if you have them. So sorry this happened to you. Good for you for speaking up. I agree it would not occur in a regular hospital setting at all….

  10. That makes sense that you couldn’t use your phone but would that also be true in a regular hospital setting? No. It makes the situation much worse given that you couldn’t document it fully with pictures to make your point come home to them unequivocally. They need to address the problem!!

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