In shackles: The false hope within mental healing



Casey Brown
Student Life Editor

During early psychiatric “care,” the “inmates” of public lunatic asylums were shackled to the walls. Later, what is known as the “trade in lunacy” was the predominate system available for the mentally ill wherein only paying, middle-class customers were accepted. During the 19th and 20th centuries, women who behaved in socially inappropriate ways were prescribed what was known as the rest cure.

We can look back on these times and see that they are obviously barbaric, discriminatory and unjust. We may feel our skin crawl as we think of the human beings who endured such conditions. 20/20 vision gives us the ability to see the obvious flaws of the past.

Times have changed though, right?

In 2014 (aka the 21st century), I have been in handcuffs, had two police escorts – one of which involved a uniformed officer to babysit me in the emergency room for six hours – and had any clothing items with strings confiscated from me.

My crime? I’m crazy.

Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

I have been hospitalized twice this year for major depressive episodes. My kind of hospitals are the psychiatric kind, not the place you go to when you’ve had an accident or are in labor.

The officer who babysat me at the emergency room during my first hospitalization was cool. He didn’t cuff me; he cracked the window, and he played music. Despite his casual attitude, the people in the emergency room still spent a lot of time staring at me. You should have seen their looks when I walked out of my room with a police officer in tow.

The office who gave me a ride the second time was far less cool.

I asked him if the cuffs were strictly necessary. With an attitude, he said that it was the law. He also made sure to cuff me behind my back instead of with my hands in front of me, and then he proceeded to put me in the backseat of a car which had a seat made of hard plastic.

The cuffs were so tight, and only got tighter during the 90-minute drive, that I had bruised wrists for four days.

Additionally, I have also spent quite a bit of time in the cage that was constructed around a tiny outdoor area, taken multiple showers without a shower curtain and been woken up many times during every-15-minute room checks.

Sure all of these practices are in place for a reason: safety.

However, I don’t know a single person with a medical condition or illness such as diabetes or cancer who has had to catch a ride with Lawton PD or wear handcuffs in order to get medical attention.

Thankfully, this country has made great strides in the effort that is getting the public to recognize that mental illnesses should be regarded the same as any other type of medical condition.

However, we’ve still got miles to go because few people are aware of the current conditions. Even fewer people have a clear picture of what adequate mental health should look like in this country. We don’t have a north star to guide us, and while there are countless obstacles in the way of a utopian mental health care situation, it is about time that we start brainstorming, at the very least.

After two hospitalizations, I have more in common with those who have been to jail than I do with people who go to the hospital on a regular basis.


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