The Forced Psychiatric Treatment of a Child

Kelli F.
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Editor’s note: Due to privacy concerns, the author has chosen to publish under an abbreviated version of her name.

A tremendous amount of courage is required to share about my childhood forced psychiatric treatment experience. It has necessitated decades of actively addressing the trauma caused by the coercion and oppression, in order to be able to tolerate the fear that comes with publicly expressing personal involvement with the psychiatric system as a mental health professional. In America, there is a taboo about mental health professionals seeking treatment in the same system they work in, with fears over licensing boards deeming the individual incompetent or unfit to provide services if they have their own mental health struggles. This stops many mental health professionals from speaking up.

This is my story of forced psychiatric treatment as an eight-year-old girl, from my perspective as an adult mental health professional. Currently I am a 37-year-old licensed psychotherapist with over 16 years experience working in the mental health industry. From my overwhelmingly painful experience as a girl, I will explain the attachment trauma and brainwashing that occurs when a parent violates the trust of a child in order to appease the psychiatric system.

I was born in 1980, and since birth have been an introvert, highly sensitive, and extremely empathic. To some degree, I believe my personality characteristics and temperament set the stage for the medicalization of my childhood. My mother experienced postpartum depression when I was born, and was prescribed an SSRI during the first year of breastfeeding me. Unbeknown to my parents or me, I had a dairy allergy that was creating chronic ear infections. Around the age of six, I was repeatedly getting ear infections, which necessitated close to one year of antibiotic treatment. The antibiotics destroyed the balance of good bacteria in my gut, and I began experiencing anxiety and insomnia. At the time, my medical community was not aware of the risks of chronic antibiotic use in children, and instead of addressing my gut issues and food allergy, I was prescribed a sleeping pill at the age of seven. The sleeping pill caused many daytime issues with my mood and behavior — my pediatrician and parents were unable to notice the connection between this and the introduction of pharmaceuticals, which began the psychiatric diagnoses processes.

Eventually, my pediatrician decided I needed Prozac, as it had recently come to market in 1987, so I was the ideal child guinea pig to experiment on. At the age of eight, I was prescribed Prozac for anxiety, which then led me to become depressed and have a very low appetite. As a child, I knew instinctually that the Prozac made my body feel awful; I tried telling my parents and pediatrician I did not like the way it made me feel and it was impacting my appetite, but everyone disregarded my voice “because I was a child and didn’t know what was best for me.” Prozac is incredibly stimulating, and I felt like I was on speed so I stopped eating. Then I got an eating disorder diagnosis, which led the physician to convince my mom that I needed inpatient treatment.

The day of my forced psychiatric treatment experience, my mom lied to me several times. As an empath and intuitive, I knew something was coming that was not good, and could sense by my mother’s behavior that she was not being truthful with me. When we arrived at the hospital, my mother was still lying to me. When we got to the parking lot, she told me she had packed a suitcase and I would be staying there for a while. I said no, and refused to get out of the car. I wanted to speak to my father, who was unaware of the decision my mother had made to force me inpatient. Since I refused to get out of the car, a large psychiatric technician was sent to the car, to rip me out of the back seat. I was kicking and screaming, saying no, no, no. He threw me over his shoulder, and I was screaming out to my mom to help me, and she looked away and averted my gaze and drove off.

Due to my resisting treatment, I was then labeled as “uncooperative” and promptly injected with a benzodiazepine and given a 24-hour sitter. There is more to my story, but for today I want to share about the experience of forced treatment. The best metaphor I can compare the forced experience to, as a college sexual assault survivor, is rape. I was repeatedly saying no, and the harder I fought back, the more force they used to immobilize me. Being held down kicking and screaming to be injected with a benzodiazepine is a human rights violation no child should endure for saying no to a pharmaceutical. In hindsight, when I reflect on that day, it feels like a form of child abuse.

That day, something in my attachment system completely shattered. When my mom did not make eye contact with me in the heat of the trauma, I absolutely stopped trusting human beings from that day forward. The feeling of betrayal was so strong I questioned my mother’s love for me, and still do to this day. I no longer trusted adults, especially doctors. For many years I approached all subsequent relationships with friends and romantic partners with an avoidant attachment style. I never let anyone get too close to me, and always maintained a position of power over others, by allowing them to need me more than I needed them.

After the initial shock and extreme feeling of abandonment settled, the cocktail of psychotropic drugs and brainwashing propaganda began. I had doctors, nurses, and therapists in the hospital all telling me that my brain was broken, and that I would need an SSRI for the rest of my life to be normal and function. Unfortunately, I believed them, due to the extreme trauma I had just experienced. My father, who was skeptical of pharmaceuticals, was labeled with “paranoid personality disorder” and the hospital psychiatrist filed a CPS report because my father was questioning if the pills were making things worse. Once a child is in the system, if the parent disagrees with treatment, they are then given a diagnosis as well for thinking differently than the physician.

Luckily, with years of spiritual healing, therapy, introspection, and nature, I have healed from the trauma of forced treatment and created a career path to help others avoid forced psychiatric treatments. Ultimately, I believe that the most profound forms of trauma healing for me have come from Earth-based and indigenous healing practices. While talk therapy and EMDR have been helpful to me, my deepest healing has been to address this trauma at the level of the soul. Forgiveness and gratitude are the salve for the extreme betrayal, abandonment, lies, and disempowerment I went through.

I now can consider the greedy drug manufacturers, the doctors, and my parents all as my teachers. For had the pharmaceutical industry not coerced my pediatrician and mother into medicalizing my childhood, I would never have become aware of the abuse and extreme harms caused by the psychiatric system. Due to these experiences, I have learned that the mental health system in America needs a paradigm shift and we need to create sustainable, holistic treatment centers that do not rely on pharmaceuticals; and that is exactly what I intend to do.

25 COMMENTS

  1. This story has hit me because my fiance was basically kidnapped from our home, lied to, and made to feel like he had no choice, it is almost a year ago now that we endured the worse 10 days I could have ever imagined. He was sick, and I knew depressed, he needed a dr, but was scared to go, Im not.his momma, couldn’t Force him to go, but would go with him for moral support when he was ready, well his sister saw him when I had to call 911 and rush to local ER, made the mistake of calling his dad for respect, he sent her..she was sweet as sugar, offered us a ride home, we accepted had no car. We had no idea when we let her see our home, how we would regret it…she showed up and made me flip out and I couldn’t stop her…

  2. Thanks. I as both a former professional and as a psych survivor can empathize. It was abuse and I would venture a form of torture. There were some places in the past that did try at helping. Fritz Redl’s work When We Deal with Children.
    America is great at wording respect for children but if you look st the history no. The first child welfare case used an animal cruelty law that was in place. That was during the era of the orphan train and lost children from immigrants or dead parents or parents with issues from the whole plethora of societal problems. In retrospect the orphan train seems a better idea- at least if it was abusive you could run away.
    And lost children. We have one in our family history. There is a marker in the cemetery – Our Willie.
    Kudos for keeping on. I did it backwards from you. I still struggle because the help actually was so harrowing it taught me access hate not only for the so called helpers but for myself as well. Some days are better than others.Forgiveness is a long process because to hold on to hate is ultimately destructive for yourself and others – lose/lose situation but hard because there is no formal ritual of restorative anything.
    Essentially a doctor/ pt role was a formal societal contract read Ormand’ work on medical authority
    Legally if a contract is broken or illused there is a pathway for recompense. Any first year law student with brains can riif on the law case about the man with the hairy arm.
    As such now like in Aparthied South Africa there are only walls with some cracks. And they still are mired with issues and will be for many decades.
    What is do hard is when you drop off a pet for boarding and the staff is more empathetic and uses feeling. Words about your pet than ANY inpatient staff at any and all levels.
    And outside profs are unable to get it. Nice folks but you have to be inside just as with pregnancy.
    You don’t and sometimes can’t know what you don’t know.
    I would go for the trauma center idea the system is broken beyond repair. And also more profs need to come out like yourself
    Police, politicians and tell truth to power. But again no safety net yet.
    And a movement to stop mental health checks
    Who ever thought that one up?
    Needs to spend some time in country.
    I still can’t do things because zI live in fear of those calls. One false step a word or a “strange” behavior and I am back to a place where NOBODY CARES as the Broadway show put it so well., The Me that Nobody Knows.
    Best
    Mary

  3. Kelli: Thank you for being brave enough to share your terrifying story. I appreciate so much that you did. And I’m glad it’s ultimately a story of hope as it sounds like you’ve overcome a great deal. Someday, maybe I’ll share mine, too, which to be honest is tame compared to yours but, for me, still so scary to be public about.

  4. Thank you for sharing your painful story Kelli. I hope it brings a measure of continued healing no matter how small or incremental. I will say, however, that I suspect your story more deserving than the word count telling it. I know these blogs. MIA as culpable as the others, tend to shrink and or flatten these personal stories into blurb-like narratives; something I find troubling given the biographical nature of these stories, save the complexity of the psychiatric dialectical in general. I hope you follow up with more of your personal story.

    Also, I’d like to see psychotherapist who specialize in psychiatric abuse and or failure (this can’t be a nominal demographic!). Seems to me you got a post-graduate education for other adult children with similar experiences, and can provide rare and invaluable healing as a result?

  5. I empathize with you. How does anyone think you can help emotional distress with physical abuse and torture. When I was 15 in 1985 I was brought to a psych hospital. I have my medical record and I stated to the criminal psychiatrist that I felt lonely and unloved. So they put me in a straight jacket threw me in a seclusion room and had me take thorazine to shut my brain off for 3 months while I sat in a chair drooling. We are coming so far sarcasm. They no longer use straight jackets . Now they just have 4 secruity guards and if you are lucky the police hold you down while they inject you with tranquilizers. I don’t know how that is an “appropriate treatment plan”. for complaints of feeling lonely and unloved. Anyway,. I applaud all of your efforts to try and stop this.

  6. Thank you for sharing what you experienced and for working to get the training to help expose the hideous abuses that occur within the U.S. mental health system and the toxicity and lack of efficacy of psychiatric medications, Kelli! I began making suicide attempts after my doctor prescribed a benzodiazepine, anti-depressant and sleeping pills for what she termed a nervous breakdown over a situational depression in my early thirties and ended up in a coma after one and permanently disabled. People need to know the downside of getting involved with psychiatric drugs so they can make informed choices for themselves and their children. I’m sorry you suffered so much abuse. And I’m grateful you’re working toward changing this deadly paradigm. truehope.com has info about an all-natural product EMPoweplus that I’ve found more helpful than any of the psych drugs doctors prescribed that only lead to disability and nearly to death and it works to improve all psychiatric conditions. Because, as you sadly learned the hard way something that nutritionists know but M.D.s who study little nutrition don’t, our gut is where 90% if mood-affecting hormones like serotonin are made, Not in the brain, which medical science has been targeting with harmful psych drugs!

    • Even if i’m in complete agreement with you, Ariana Moxie, does “knowing the downside” suffice when you read, as courageous and generous Kelli wrote so vividly “Once a child is in the system, if the parent disagrees with treatment, they are then given a diagnosis as well for thinking differently than the physician.” ? So revolting …

  7. Christ, it’s a miracle that you’re even still alive. And, then you’ve beaten ALL of the odds by pursuing and attaining a productive, healthy, and free life. I sure hope you’re in a position to tell the truth: Munchausens like your mom are lethal and very, VERY sick themselves. They hate their kids, yet are too ashamed and fearful to torture them on their own. So, they use psychiatry as a means of outsourcing the child abuse. Not only is this way easier, it’s also more effective. The law sets a few limits on parents who abuse their children, but virtually none on quacks who abuse children, at the behest of those parents. Right now, the Munchausen/quack duo is FAR above the law. You’re a hero for building justice for others, despite having had none for yourself. I hope you continue to live a happy, safe life.

  8. Kelli, I have seen first-hand the horrors of ED “treatment” and I can only imagine what you went through in there. I was also abused by totally unnecessary 1:1 sitters. It was horrible. I was accused of suicidality when I was not, and repeatedly locked up and threatened. I was not a child, mostly over 50 when the worst of it happened. I would like to get in touch with you privately.

    Julie

  9. Kelli, thank you for sharing as I know how much bravery it takes and thte risks of being a mental health professional doing so but the more of us that “come out” the better. I have suffered more discrimination from mental health workers than from any other section of the community for my “mental Illness”
    “Forgiveness and gratitude are the salve for the extreme betrayal, abandonment, lies, and disempowerment I went through” This statement rings so true for me and is what gave me my own personal power back. Thank you again 🙂

  10. Is there really more to say ? I read enough to have a very clear idea of the harm that was inflicted on you. And,iftherereally is more to say, other than to get too explicit and just multiply examples of what is already very obvious, OMG,I can’t wait to read further … Thanks already for such a vibrant testimony.

  11. “Being held down kicking and screaming to be injected with a benzodiazepine.”

    Just think: that’s nothing compared to neuroleptics. I had numerous forced injections of neuroleptics as a child, and developed dystonia. Terrifying, torturous experiences that left me terrified even months (and even to this day when dealing with doctors, especially psychiatrists or even any part of the mental health system) after the symptoms of that brain damage wore off. Although symptoms of the brain damage from all my childhood drugging is still present and ruining my life, just be glad you didn’t get to be a psych kid 5-15 years later. Benzos in children in the 90’s? NO WAY! That’s a DRUG! They use that on the STREET! You would have gotten Haldol, an “anti-psychotic” “medication” that’s “oh so wonderfully helpful” and to this date people are considered delusional by the medical professionals if they disagree that neuroleptics are just the chemical lobotomies that they are.

    And yeah, all off this is happening to millions of children of this generation and the one before it. And don’t forget that ALL children are forced to take these drugs, since none of them are given a choice and will be coerced and even punished if they don’t. Now imagine all the “side effects”/damage and especially the permanent ones and how a child must internalize that given those circumstances. I gave up hope a long time ago that anything will change. Had MILITARY POWER not have defeated Nazi Germany, the whole world would just be glossing over and/or rationalizing or denying stuff like the holocaust and eugenics. It’s the way people work. As long as something is approved by the authorities in our society, it will continue to be and anyone against it is a wackjob.

    • “Had MILITARY POWER not have defeated Nazi Germany, the whole world would just be glossing over and/or rationalizing or denying stuff like the holocaust and eugenics. It’s the way people work. As long as something is approved by the authorities in our society, it will continue to be and anyone against it is a wackjob.”

      Very, very canny observation.

  12. Kelli – Good that you are alive, for starters, and that you have worked to “process” what was done to you and gone on to help others in a humane and caring way. I will never forget what happened to little Rebecca Riley, dead at age 3 or 4 due to the ministrations of an acolyte of Dr. Joseph Biederman, who pushed Risperdol on children (for a hefty fee from its maker) while a pediatric psychiatrist at Harvard. I believe he is still there. He also invented “pediatric bipolar disorder”, a condition caused by psych. drugs and seized on by psychiatrists as one more reason for their existence.

  13. Thank you and every commenter on this site for speaking up. My son has endured the horrible pain and humiliation of forced psych treatment. The drugs cause so much of his actions so more drugs are added and then it is forgotten the drugs cause the actions again and in different ways, even mad in America people think it is him….and not his reactions to the trauma inflicted on him by psychiatry and a family thinking psychiatry knew something magical about drugs in a bottle.
    Someday my son will recover but will he ever forgive our collective insanity and how many years of his childhood have been spent in a chemical lobotomy?

    • There is alot said about forgiveness. I have not educated myself on that yet bc i have just spent the last 6 months reading enough to discover the fraud of chemical imbalance. Where i am at right now after losing several years to psychiatry is that i dont forgive them. i have learned from them that humanity is mostly evil. I have learned to keep the hurtful people out of my life and i manage my emotions better. I still wish i was taught this as a child instead of lobotomized and sent back to a hurtful world. Now though i am very hopeful and optimistic about the future. I hope your son can be too.