Psychiatric wards have been around for ages and have been used to house the so called “afflicted”. These places go by many names such as “asylums”, “mental hospitals” and informally as “looney bins.” The history of these places is dark and disturbing, ever wonder why many horror movies take place in abandoned psychiatric hospitals? Well you’ll see later on in this take.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying every psych ward is full of corrupt and abusive staff, i’m sure there are some psych wards out there that legitimately care about their patients and don’t infringe on their patients’ Rights. But just because there are some good psych wards out there is no excuse to pretend there aren’t also abusive psych wards out there. I’m also not “anti psychiatry” I’m just critical of certain psychiatric practices.
another thing is that this isn’t a matter of political ideology, it doesn’t matter if you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, moderate, independent or something else. It is also not a matter of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, nationality or cultural identity. This is a matter of human rights. So no matter what you are, you can still voice your disapproval of how some psych wards mistreat their patients.
1.) Cruel practices of psychiatric wards in the 20th century: Among many of the things practiced in psych wards in the 20th century are unethical experimentations, torture, unjustly institutionalizing people and overall treating psych ward patients the same way a totalitarian regime treats political prisoners. Some specific examples of psych wards where such things happened are pennhurst, topeka state hospital, overbrook insane asylum, Eagerly Hills sanitorium, willowbrook state school and many others. Reading about the horrors that took place in such places explains why many of them were shut down.
2.) The unethical practices of psychiatric wards now in the 21st century: It’s rather naive and stubborn to assume that abuse no longer happens in these places. Some common arguments I hear from pro-psychiatric ward individuals are “that only happens in the movies.” “That doesn’t happen anymore.” or “the patients are there because they need help.” All of these arguments have holes in them which I’ll point out throughout the take. For now, here’s a brief list of the horrors committed under the guise of treating the mentally afflicted.
1.)Shock therapy: Perhaps one of the most notorious practices in psychiatric wards still practiced is administering involuntary shock therapy to their patients. It’s even worse considering they do it to minors as well.
2.) beatings and violent restraints: Perhaps the most obvious form of abuse is the orderlies roughing up the patients in their care. From delivering savage beatings, violently restraining them and frog marching them, along with other things. These are all practices that still go on today. Many orderlies are no different to prison guards.
3.) Sex abuse: There have been many documented cases of sex abuse in these places. Both male and females victims.
4.) Misdiagnosis: One has to wonder how many people are wrongly detained in psychiatric wards based on misdiagnosis. It never ceases to amaze me how many ignorant people assume that any little unusual behavior or deviance shown by a person means that a person should be institutionalized. There are many people who live normal lives without institutionalized despite being social deviants or having a few mental disorders.
5.) Uniformity and suppressing of identity: Some psychiatric wards also try to reduce each of their patients to being almost clone like. They force them to wear scrubs, act a certain way and do certain things.
6.)Cult like: Some psych wards act cultish, they try to convince people that something is wrong with them through brainwashing. They may even try to intimidate their patients into obeying their demands and try to convince their patients that they need “help”.
7.) Confinement: There are psychiatric wards that confine their patients as if they are prisoners rather than people that need help. The confinements can range from the notorious “padded cells” to a very small room.
8.)Held against will: Pschiatric wards can still hold people against their will indefinitely if they are considered a “danger” to themselves or others. This right here is an outdated practice. Sounds like something out of the Soviet Union or East Germany.
9.) Neglect: The lack of care for the patients is another form of abuse. Not feeding the patients, not allowing them to shower, not allowing them to go outside etc.
3.) What can be done to fix these issues: There are several reasonable and realistic things that can be done to fix these issues. It’s all a matter of public support, awareness and funding.
1.)Educate the masses on mental health: Unfortunately there are many people who know absolutely nothing about mental health, they assume that any little deviant behavior requires psychiatric treatment when that’s not the case. As I’ve mentioned above, deviance or mental disorders in a person don’t always require hospitalization.
2.)Form a constable force that keeps psych ward staff on a short leash: I’ve written a take on this before, you can read it here. A good way of keeping psych ward staff members/orderlies on a short leash is by forming a constable force that specializes in disciplinary actions against abusive psych ward staff members.
3.) Shut down all psych wards and give alternative supervision to the patients: Perhaps the simplest yet hardest change to instate is to shut down all psych wards and give the patients alternative supervision that doesn’t confine them to a psych ward. Patients could be allowed to go on with their lives while being supervised by three nurses.
4.)Reform all psychiatric wards: Aside from adding constables that keep the orderlies and shrinks in check. Adding rights like gyms, access to electronics, supervised access to the outside world, more spacious rooms with a nice view outside and allowing patients to wear their own clothes and have their personal belongings with them in their rooms.
4.) The Citizens commission for human rights(CCHR): Is a organization that is often described as “anti psychiatric” because of it’s hostile attitude towards psychiatry. But perhaps the main reason why they have a negative reputation is because of their affiliation with Scientology. Regardless of their controversial affiliations, they are still a group that means well. Ironically one of the people that established the CCHR was a psychiatrist himself named Thomas Szasz who also founded the American Association for the abolition of involuntary hospitalization(AAAIMH) but was dissolved in 1980. The CCHR is still active today worldwide though.
It’s worth noting that not everyone who considers themselves supporters of the CCHR are “Scientologists”, nor consider all psychiatry as “evil”, some simply question certain psychiatric practices and want to ensure that psychiatric patients rights are protected. If anyone can end abusive practices in psychiatric hospitals it’s the CCHR and any other human rights organizations out there.
5.) Conclusion: Eveh though I’ve never been in a psych ward and don’t ever plan on being in one, quick research can show what goes on in some of those places. There is no doubt psychiatric wards have come a long way I’m not denying that but they are still far from perfect and still have a long way to go.