Part 18: Rights Violation. No Escape. What happened?
By Ashley Huckabee
Even a voluntary commitment can feel a lot like prison; degrading, damaging, & terrifying. For those who are unfamiliar, I’m hoping the following can shed some light on the experience.
During my stay, I came into contact with an elderly man whose plight absolutely broke my heart. He spent all day, every day, wheeling himself around the hospital, looking for an unlocked door through which he could escape. It was devastating to watch him continuously go to the effort only to realize his fate was sealed.
Given the duration of his residency, I had to assume this poor man didn’t have any family. Of course, I’ll never know for sure, because for the entire length of my stay, the staff didn’t allow him a single phone call. I would listen to him beg for hours on end, just to have his rights denied by the cold & unfeeling orderlies. I’m aware I don’t have all of the facts, but to me, the whole thing felt highly illegal… &, if not illegal, certainly immoral.
The staff kept him so doped up he could barely communicate, & even still, his despair was severe enough that he was placed on a persistent suicide watch. I wanted to help, but selfishly, I feared if I got involved with this particular patient, I too would end up permanently committed. In his sorrow, he would regularly gnaw at his wrist, using his teeth to tear at the veins in an effort to end his life. He spent what could have very well been his last days isolated, covered in blood, & steeped in pain.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many examples. Being forced to witness such tragedies on an ongoing basis did a real number on my psyche. I might not have been psychotic when I entered, but I most definitely left that way.
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