This spring, Rethinking Psychiatry put out a survey on people’s experiences of psychiatric hospitalization, with Cindi Fisher as the primary researcher. This survey was based on a survey done by Mad in America and used with their permission.
Our survey mainly focused on people’s experiences with hospitalization in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington). However, some respondents had been hospitalized in other places. The survey results were consistent with recent stories of unsafe and inhumane conditions in Oregon and Washington.
The results overwhelmingly showed tremendous dissatisfaction with past experiences of psychiatric hospitalization. Many responses indicated that hospitalization had done far more harm than good. The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that they did not feel safe, secure or respected in the hospital.
“We need an entirely new paradigm in addressing community problems and individual suffering!!! Until then I am certain peer support and unbiased science will be helpful.” — comment from survey respondent
Many people believe that horrific conditions in psychiatric hospitals are a thing of the past, but that we have come a long way since the days of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Titticut Follies.”
While conditions in modern psychiatric hospitals may not be as horrific as what was portrayed in those films, they are still often light years from being safe, secure, humane, or therapeutic.
Not everyone has a negative experience in psychiatric hospitals — some people, including some of our survey respondents, state that they had some positive experiences, and in some cases say that psychiatric hospitalization saved their life. Even so, it is essential that our society provide alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization, and provide comprehensive care that reduces the likelihood of psychiatric hospitalization.
Rethinking Psychiatry is advocating for better options: peer support, respite homes, innovative treatments like Open Dialogue and Emotional Freedom Technique, and access to holistic, comprehensive, person-centered care. This survey confirms that our system is not working and we need far better treatment options.
To hear the stories of psychiatric survivors who become activists for change, you can listen to this Portland radio show. The three panelists, Kevin Fitts, Laura Van Tosh and Becky Edens, spoke on a panel at Rethinking Psychiatry’s September 2019 meeting about how their own experiences with psychiatric hospitalization lead them to advocate for better treatment options.
To learn more about Rethinking Psychiatry, visit www.rethinkingpsychiatry.org.