Yesterday, I was invited by a psychiatric survivor to attend her meeting with mental health workers about her complaint that she was being forcibly drugged on an outpatient basis. We had some good conclusions from the meeting… now the evidence will be in the results.
Each month, our MindFreedom office hosts a “First Wednesday Roundtable” gathering for local folks, about changing the mental health system. We’ve done this for 85 months now!
At one meeting, a young woman named Sara came to the Roundtable. She said, “In my outpatient residential program, I am being told to take Seroquel against my wishes. They say I have to sit there, and put the pill in my mouth, and wait 15 minutes. They say if I do not do this, I’ll be evicted.”
I called up Sara’s workers, and she signed a release of information so they could talk. Sara was being given “melt in the mouth” type of neuroleptic (or antipsychotic) that is used to increase compliance. Years ago, a patient could ‘cheek’ our ‘pouch’ the pill in the back of their mouth, and spit it out later. But this type of Seroquel is like a cotton candy pill, that is impossible to keep from ingesting once it is inside a mouth.
So from Sara’s perspective, she was being threatened with eviction, if she didn’t take the psychiatric drugs.
The workers had a different point of view, and thankfully they were open to dialogue. As I’ve seen many times, from their point of view they were predicting that if she didn’t follow her doctor’s advice, then she would end up showing behavior that could get her committed again.
The fact is, Sara’s perception was closer to reality. She was surrounded by messages telling her to take psychiatric drugs. For instance, she had signed a piece of paper to get out of commitment, saying she would follow doctor’s orders. Her psychiatrist told her point blank that he felt she had to take the psychiatric drugs in question.
But from the point of view of the workers — and I actually believe them — they were not forcibly drugged Sara.
The meeting was helpful, because they will give Sara a written statement that she would not be evicted simply for saying ‘no’ to psychiatric drugs.
One thing that came out of the meeting, was that Sara’s relatives present at the meeting, revealed that Sara’s mom had been a victim of abuse by electroshock human rights violations, and the family felt severely traumatized by the experience.
So there you have it… A family with a history of trauma by the mental health system…. A young woman surrounded by messages that she apparently had to take psychiatric drugs…
But through dialogue, discussion, and openness, she at least has a written agreement that she is not being coerced.
The proof will be in the results about yesterday’s meeting. After all, today is April Fool’s Day!
But on this, one of my favorite holidays, have a little hope, that through peer advocacy, strong individuals like Sara can tip the balance back to their rights. Because it’s not enough to ‘technically’ have the right to refuse psychiatric drugs, one needs the perception that one is free, also.
I repeated at the meeting that MindFreedom is pro-choice about psychiatric drugs, and many of our members choose to take them. But I think everyone in the room realized that the mental health system had gone overboard on massive over-drugging of so many people, and that people like Sara need support to know they have basic human rights to choice on their mental and emotional well being.
Sara’s mom would have been proud of her at yesterday’s meeting.