In honor of the woman I witnessed being tortured in a psych ward

moon darkSince I learned and posted about the United Nations report that explicitly states that forced and involuntary psychiatric treatment is torture, I’ve been haunted by a memory of something I witnessed during one of my hospitalizations as a very young woman. I have my own radical experiences of such torture that I wrote about in 2007 here on Beyond Meds, but it’s not what I’ve been struggling with in the last few days. Instead what plagues me now is the knowledge that this is happening to others, everyday, all over this country and virtually no one is doing anything to stop it.

I have called psychiatric wards trauma mills before and I believe it’s a very apt description of most of them. People who are admitted because of the traumatic happenings in their lives are further subjected to trauma and hence, quite often, are made far worse. PTSD happens iatrogenically too.  If the really ugly violent stuff isn’t happening to any given individual in a psych ward, it’s highly likely they are instead witnessing it when housed in such quarters. Witnessing violent acts is in itself traumatic.

The woman who has been on my mind the last couple of days was young. She had dark long hair and she was wearing a nightgown. My memory begins when I noticed the loud  scuffle moving towards me on the floor.  She, a relatively small woman, and several large men struggling violently. Her being forced and pulled and yanked and screamed at like some rag doll that might not be real at all. Her being thrown violently and with a thud onto a restraint table, being tied into four point restraints and injected with drugs. Her sobs. Her screaming sobs. Her nightgown. Pulled up to above her waste revealing her nakedness. Her nightgown being left like that for far too long, revealing the staffs inhumanity and profound disregard for her dignity and well-being.

I remember myself screaming, “stop it, stop it!” Her fear and terror was so obvious to me. It was so obvious to me what she actually needed. Gentleness. Love. WTF was going on.

Today it is her trauma that hurts me more than my own. How is it that staff in hospitals see this everyday. Participate and if not directly involved in it witness it, much like I was forced to there on the floor. How is it they can be subjected to this so often and do and say nothing about it? They are complicit in the crime. And make no mistake — what goes on in psychiatric wards everyday as business as usual is criminal.

I posted a tweet the other day which I later added to the post about the UN declaring forced treatment torture:

Ask yourself are you complicit in such crimes? Most people who take part in social services and psychiatric services  or mental health care in general are to some degree. Some more than others, of course. Wake up.

I want to end such trauma. I want these sort of nightmares to never happen again. Right now a large and powerful sector of society think it’s totally okay to treat people like this. Right now organizations like The Treatment Advocacy Center actively tries to pass legislation in every state in the United States legalizing more and more forced treatment. They have been quite successful.

Start speaking up about the violence and inhumanity of such treatment. Share the UN report with everyone who needs this information.

Save vulnerable people like the woman I remember here today and the young girl I was, witnessing such atrocities, from ever having to have such experiences again.

In the end it’s the trauma and inhumanity that makes us sick. That is all.


●  The United Nations report that explicitly states that forced and involuntary psychiatric treatment is torture


Click here

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