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How To Complain Effectively About Mistreatment At A Psychiatric Hospital

For those who don’t follow the comment sections of posts, there have been commenters who have been telling us about the awful experiences they have had as psychiatric patients.  In particular (but not exclusively) as  hospital inpatients.  Commenters have used terms like “abuse” and “humiliation” and describe awful scenarios.  One person asked why the mean nurses don’t get fired, everyone knows they are mean including the staff.  Others throw the baby out with the bath water, one bad experience.  There is implication by at least one commenter that he/she would rather die (presumably permanently) rather than face a day on a psych unit again.  The suffering in these posts is palpable.

To those who feel better after leaving comments on Shrink Rap, by all means, feel free to continue, but this will not change the world.  May I put in a request?  If you’ve had an awful experience as a patient on a psychiatric unit, please tell the hospital.  One commenter said she (/he?) complained to the hospital administration and heard that some changes were made.  My thoughts?  You Go Girl!  (If the commenter was a male, I’m at a loss. Way to Go, Joe! perhaps?)  Complain, it can’t hurt.

Oh, you say, no one listens to psychiatric patients, they just say we’re crazy so they don’t have to listen.  For an isolated complaint, you may be right, especially if the complaint is about something that is not egregious.  But if everyone who feels wronged complains, then it won’t be an isolated complaint, and I can tell you that for administrators, one person accusing is a fluke –or a psychiatric patient they don’t need to listen to– but at a very low threshold of two or three complaints, it quickly becomes “PEOPLE are complaining about such and such”  and someone starts to notice.  If the complaint is egregious (My nurse punched me) then a single complaint should have an impact.

Who should complain?  If you were upset over something that happened and it continues to linger, you can’t let it go, and you continue to feel angry, wronged, and injured, then you should complain.

So let me tell you how to complain.

1).  Call the hospital and ask where to direct a complaint and get a person’s name and postal or email address.  Also send the same letter to the chairman of psychiatry, and the head of the hospital…why not?  Address the letters to specific people by name; “Dear Sir,” “To Whom It May Concern,”  or “To the Sadist Creep on the Psych Unit” will not go far.
2).  Just the facts, ma’am.  Tell the administrators when you were hospitalized and that you continue to feel distress/angst/anger/whatever you feel about things that happened while you were in the hospital and give a bullet point list of the things that continue to trouble you.  Include specific examples, if you can, names of those who were involved.  If you don’t recall specific examples, it still seems to me it’s valid to say “Shrink John treated me in a harsh and disrespectful manner.”   Say how you felt: “It was humiliating to be stripped and placed in a seclusion room.”
3).  This is not the time for name-calling,  hater rants,  or discussing the care of other patients.  “This is why everyone hates psychiatrists,” “You people over-medicate everyone,”  Pretty much guarantees that the recipients shut down. Stick to your problem.  Be polite and respectful and try not to compare the mental health professionals who treated you to serial killers.
4) Sign your name and leave contact information.
5) Show it to a friend first and wait a day to send it.

I don’t know if you’ll get a response or a change, but if everyone who feels as wronged as our commenters do writes to complain, then things will change.  It may take time.  Don’t be hater, be a changer.

Thank you for considering my suggestion.

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

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