My {In}voluntary Commitment and Why You Should Care

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Photo Credit: yyellowbird via Compfight cc

Our bedroom door creaked slowly open at 6:35am this morning and my little man crawled under the covers next to me while my husband finished getting dressed for work. As I felt the chill of little toes brush my warm legs, I thought back to this same day, five years ago, when my mania had reached the breaking point.

I had begun to cross the threshold, going from highly manic to the inevitable psychosis, when my husband took matters into his own hands and called 911 for help.

What a stark comparison to today, I thought, as I reached into my sock drawer to fish out my psych ward socks. I pulled them on this morning as a way of honoring my past, while at the same time recognizing how far I’ve come and how I don’t ever want to go back.

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If your father were having a heart attack, or symptoms consistent with those of a heart attack, you would rush him to the hospital where he would receive treatment. If your child had a 104 fever and was gravely ill but refused to take any medicine, you would call your pediatrician who would tell you to rush the child to the Emergency Room where he would receive medical assistance.

But if someone you loved were experiencing a mental health crisis and needed to see a psychiatrist or be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility to receive treatment, you wouldn’t believe the obstacles you have to surpass in order to get them the care they need to get well.

I know, because my family and I plunged head first into these roadblocks in the U.S. mental healthcare system five years ago when I was hospitalized for postpartum psychosis after the birth of my first child in 2008. Writing about this experience [Read more…]

Still trying to help

So to follow up on my last post, we’re still trying to get someone to help her. I started to get really worried because of one status update that stated something about death being too easy. Once we saw that, we decided to call the suicide prevention hotline to see what they thought we should do. Unfortunately, they were only able to give us tips on how to approach talking to her, and since we’re not actually in contact with her, that wasn’t much help. I mean, she’s an acquaintance of my husband’s from grade school – he was never really friends with her. But when you see someone you knew from school who is in need of help, of course you want to do what you can.

Our next call was to the Emergency Mental Health Services hotline but we hit another roadblock there which reminded us both about how frustrating the mental health laws are in Virginia. In order to have someone involuntarily committed in the state of Virginia, they must pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. For some reason it’s not enough to them for someone to update all their friends on Facebook that “death is too easy”. If that’s not a threat to harm herself, then what is???

When I had to be involuntarily committed the last two times, one because I was breastfeeding and the other because I was pregnant, both times I was refusing medication and my husband was able to tell the police that he was scared I could be a threat to our son and unborn baby. Not that he really felt that way, but he knew it was the only way to get me admitted and back on medication so that I could recover. Both times he had to call 911 and the police had to come to our home. Both times I had to be handcuffed and escorted to the police car against my will.

She obviously has something going on mentally, but is refusing to admit herself and her close friends and sister are having a hard time convincing her she needs help. A few of her friends have reached out to my husband to keep him in the loop on what’s going on, and we’ve noticed that she continues to post weird status updates on Facebook. My husband has offered his advice in terms of his experience in getting me admitted against my will, but all we can do now is just hope that she eventually realizes that getting help is going to be the only way to make the voices and paranoia stop.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to get her to understand she could benefit from mental health services, please share.