Forced Hospitalization: For Kids and Adults, It Makes No Sense


Earlier this week, I read and posted a story from The Guardian and the Hechinger report on children with challenging and concerning behavior being steered by schools into psychiatric evaluations, often out of safety fears. 

But as the piece explains, such evaluations tend to help less than they hurt, often landing kids and their parents in hospital emergency rooms for days at a stretch—and, in many cases, hauled there by police. The result can lead to a student being isolated and barred from school for months, giving administrators “a false sense of security” while ignoring the emotional and educational needs of the child and failing to connect them with alternative, supportive programs and school settings.

Then, a day later, I read Crystal Nelson’s Mad in America piece on “The ‘Madness of Inpatient Psychiatry,’” in which she outlines, in clear, blunt language, all that’s wrong with our conception of psychiatric hospitalization as somehow therapeutic. As she states in her opening sentence: “Inpatient psychiatry is not a place of psychological healing; it is devoid of compassion and full of human rights abuses.” Which reminded me of the research showing an increased risk of suicide following involuntary psych hospitalizations—and which, in turn, reminded me of my own loved ones lost to such harms.

And yet, as a society, we continue to believe that forced treatment is absolutely and indisputably the best way forward for anyone, adult or child, in a distressed state. We continue to think of such incidences as equivalent to people getting hauled off to the E.R. for a heart attack and then, if they’re lucky, sending them home on a drug regimen that will prevent them from future such hospitalizations.

But those two scenarios aren’t the same. Too often, the results are the opposite: People in mental or emotional distress who are hauled off to the E.R. or otherwise coerced into treatment are likelier to suffer future social isolation, further plunges in their own wellbeing, and endure a cycle of repeat hospitalizations that can go on for years. Even decades. And that’s if they don’t die. 

I am not saying that such grim outcomes are universal. But in a world where the default is a form of medicalized intervention that—tragically and frequently—only leads to further incapacitation, such “standards of care” are an outrage against morality, science, and plain ol’ logic. Far too often, for far too many people, hospitalization makes no sense. For children especially. (And according to the data, Black children in Florida are far likelier to be forced into treatment.)

But the fact that the current mindset accepts it as gospel means that more humane and helpful alternatives are routinely ignored. Instead of forcing a kid off into a psychiatric evaluation and treatment, why not look at their wider behavioral and social issues? Why not consider their socioeconomic status, their struggles at home and at large, their learning differences, perhaps the discrimination they’ve experienced? Why not entertain different approaches to their wellbeing (generally) and education (specifically)? Why not see them as human and help them where they are?

As The Guardian/Hechinger story explains, “In the first study to examine the characteristics of students referred to outpatient threat assessment. . . . a team of researchers analyzed more than 150 evaluations of children and teens on Long Island. Only 8 percent of the students were deemed to be potentially dangerous, but most had other educational and psychiatric needs, many of which could be addressed by accommodations such as smaller class sizes or regular meetings with a therapist.”

Makes sense. Forced treatment doesn’t. 

—Amy Biancolli, Family Editor 

[email protected]


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  1. A great summary of the situation .. what is wrong with you replaces what happened to you in the current model of “recovery”
    My experience with forced “treatment” dates back to the late seventies, I am still here to type this much of a blessing this is is debatable.. Careers destroyed ( delusional diagnosis ) , credibility ruined ( no time to check narratives) health compromised ( everyone gets side effects what is special about you?)

    What started it ? Back in the seventies if you presented with a narrative of child sexual abuse in a religious setting – you were a delusional liar out to ruin the careers and reputations of fine people

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  2. One problem is that for the severely mentally ill (my daughter had paranoid schizophrenia and was often violent so I am familiar) the alternative to forced inpatient in the current system is often no care at all. If there were residential treatment facilities that were actually therapeutic and kind, and if there were community based care that went further than window dressing, and if there were a way to protect the patients and the public without forced care — then you would have a point. But if the alternative is letting people die on the street (or at home in my daughter’s case) — I am all for hospitalizations. Perhaps the answer is not to get rid of treatment facilities but instead to make them ACTUALLY places of healing.

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    • 100% agree! In most communities there is no other option! My daughter has struggled as well. Finding an accurate diagnosis, true therapeutic treatment, healing & recovery is almost impossible! It’s hard enough as an adolescent & now that she’s 18- a LITERAL battle & fight as her only advocate when she’s not stable enough to make informed decisions about her own care. And once you do find someone/somewhere to help, that is actually helping her make significant progress, you have to battle with health insurance to continue care & not discharge them too early, before the treatment team feels she’s ready. Then we will eventually have to start the fight all over again, beginning with a TDO and involuntary hospitalization. The system is severely broken!

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    • That’s not likely to ever happen in our for-profit system. It only continues to get worse, as the wealth gap grows quickly. More people are becoming sick because of the society, and there are fewer beds all around. You’re absolutely right that there are no alternatives, and it’s because it’s not valued. Until we change the entire plot, shifting the priority to humanity and care for our collective, our outcomes will continue to be grim.

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  3. In October 202I I was held against my will for six hours in the psych ward of an ER by a nurse “screener”–not a psychiatrist –when I sought emergency medication and counsel for a panic attack. After she talked to me very kindly for 15 minutes, I was suddenly wheeled without explanation to a “ward” of glass observation cells, each with a narrow pallet in the middle, bare of blankets or other fabric. The screener, who had suddenly switched to a grim warden, had me strip searched, including a cavity search, by a male nurse. I was crying because during our talk I had told the screener that my worst fear was of sudden surprise humiliation. When they strip searched me I was wearing only a thin hospital gown over my panties. I was 64 years old at the time. Did these sadists seriously think I had stuffed a weapon or drugs up my vagina and bum?

    It has taken me three years and two stellate block injection treatments to recover somewhat from this trauma. Until I skimmed your article the trauma has felt somewhat safely buried. My humiliation and terror of being indefinitely confined during that uncalled for detainment still, however, provoke anger and fear about the abuses of psychiatric practice. I stopped seeking “help” except for participating in a university study of the benefits stellate ganglion blocks.

    My advice to anyone with anxiety and/or depression is to be stoic and sit it out, no matter how painful and lengthy.

    Tough it out.

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    • My 11 yo was put on a 72hr hold and sent three hours away to a lock down facility. She was put there by an uninformed county official that didn’t have experience with neurodivergent children. The hospital refused to communicate with us and overstayed the hold period. Our laws are archaic and neglect the rights of the mentally ill. They do nothing to prevent gun violence and school shootings.

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  4. In the middle of the last century, I was a 19 year old
    Stanford sophomore raped
    by an older student. As a result, I was threatened with
    a lobotomy in a public mental
    institution by the usual quack
    psychiatrist. I’ve just read a
    research paper advocating
    the teaching of empathy to
    medical students. This might
    have prevented Menningers’
    top psychologist, Bernard Hall,
    from hitting on male patients.
    A patient who hanged himself
    in his room may have been one
    of his victims.

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  5. I have been a victim of forced hospitalization. Due to one suicide attempt, now every time I fart, cough, or sneeze, they want to assume I’m suicidal and hospitalze me with zero evidence to that fact. My rights were violated horribly. I was forced to sign papers that weren’t true, with the threat that if I didn’t, they’d take me to court and I’d be there longer. I was in a psych unit where people were urinating on the bathroom floors, where there were violent people with no security. It was hell on earth and traumatized me for life. The great thing is, I’m sure most don’t even believe me. Because who wants to believe this sort of thing still goes on?

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    • I believe you. I been forced into psychiatrist wards on and off for the last twenty years. Without hurting myself or anyone else. Once for staring out the window at a thunderstorm, one time I was pulled out of taking a shower in the afternoon. I have so many incidents where when living with family they would think I was bipolar with religiosity and mania and depression. . I also was misdiagnosed during the last about twenty years with skcephenia. with religiosity . This has been a merry go round for me and accusations from family members and calling the police forced into involuntary psychiatrist wards. Forced antipycotics for years. I have Tardive Dyskinisia from forced antipycotics and the medication out for Tardive Dyskinisia gave me Parkinsonism. I lived with severe Parkinsonism for about the last 5 years when they came out with the 2017 Ingrezza. I also took the other drug out for Tardive Dyskinisia Austcodo sp? And it twisted my trunk and gave me stroke like movement in my smile. They are dirty drugs for Tardive Dyskinisia caused by antipycotics. I couldn’t tie my shoes, wash my hair, get dressed by myself or eat with utensils, I used my fingers instead with so much writhing muscle movement pain and violent tremors and Parkinsonism so bad I could hardly eat. My husband had to take care of me and did most all daily activities and helped me do most everything. Like getting dressed and brushing my hair etc. I could go on and on. But then zi wanted want to be accused of racing. Once your diagnosed you have to watch everything you do not to be dragged in again for just being yourself. Cant be too happy and you can’t be too sad. You always have to be on your very careful peaceful best behavior and sometimes that isnt enough for people who have these labels of mental illnesses put upon them. Ruining carreers and the plans and purposes God has for your prosperous lives. It definitely causes isolation.I have been misdiagnosis by the doctors and the courts in the state of Delaware. I am a Holy Spirit filled born again Christian minister. I am a Apostle tethered with the “seer” Isaiah 29:10. Gift of the Holy Spirit of God. I have a five fold Holy Spirit gifts Ministry including the appointed position of the misunderstood “seer “Holy Spirit gift again. I can’t hammer that home enough for doctors and families misunderstanding us.Where I use all 5 of my senses in prophetic to bring prophetic Words of Wisdom and revelation knowledge and healing, and discernment of spirits like demons and angelic encounters. I bring clarity and understanding to edify the churches and people as to what is going on in heavenly realms and the government of the kingdom of God. I bring prophetic revelation knowledge to help people. I am very gifted in the deliverance ministry especially. I have been known to go into trance like downloads and am a eagle position “seer” Soaking in the Prescense of the Holy Spirit whike in bed or a secret place on high. A safe place where people understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit and respect the appointed position. I see,hear,taste,smell and feel in heavenly realms. When praying for deliverce for poeple and territorys I feel the traumas and come against serious demonic forces. On earth as it is in heaven. I do study the Word of God everyday. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. Reading the Word of God Holy Bible KJV I use. Renews the mind.1 Timothy .read the whole chapter. The renewing of your mind by speaking and reading God’s Word. The Holy Bible. Listening to pastors that are chosen and appointed by God to preach and teach His Word. Like Elevation Church with Steven Furtick and so many other local and publicly broadcated pastors by TV like TBN and Daystar and CBN. I follow Dr. Caroline Leaf for the horrible effects of antipycotics on the brain from Kenneth Copeland ministry.
      I believe in Jacobs ladder where bishop Mark Chirronna ministry teaches on NOT bipolar, and zalso am in agreement with John Hagee ministry thats there is no such thing as scketaphenia sp,?Everyday..After I receive the prophetic revelation from God. I call another believer or believers who are Holy Spirit gifted believers and go into an agreement with them over the downloads God has giving me to intercede and pray on..Always very serious and can definitely concerning and traumatic. I need agreement with at least one other believer. The Bible tells us when two or more inagreement in His name “Jesus ” that He is in the midst of them. In 2 Corinthians it tells us that we do not fight by flesh and blood but by the pulling down od strongholds and principalities of evil or darkness trying to rise up in heavenly and earthly places. For example just a couple of weeks ago. The Spirit of the Lord elevated me up into a higher heavenly realm and showed me the principalities of North Korea Kim and his sister in North Korea planning a very serious attack against the free world. I started to immediately speaking in Korean tongue coming against this principalities. I have never studied Korean language in my life. This is the gift of speaking in tongues and then the gift of interpretation of tongues will sometimes come afterwards in your spirit. This gift of interpretation you have to ask for. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find knock and the door will be open to you.In the name of Jesus. When I was elevated down out of the heavenly realm. I called one of my Holy Spirit filled intercessors so that we could come into agreement to come up against this satanic attack coming up in North Korea. We also we lead to come against in the Spirit in intercession against the Satanist group teaching our children flase doctrines leading them away from the teaching of the Holy Bible in after school programs in America. That next couple of days after our intercession prayer over North Korea. It came out in the news that North Korea has dis continued their constitution of peace agreement with South Korea and is threatening Nuclear war on the USA and any trigger or provocation from other countries like South Korea and Japan. I had my first vision when I was ten years old. It was the Madonna vision where the Mother Mary was holding baby Jesus.My mom took me to a Holy Spirit filled Church where for the first time we were baptisted and filled with the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues gift. A powerful weapon and spiritual tongue given by God.. Satan hates the gift of tongues because it confuses the enemies God and Satan and demons cant fight against it. So instead Satan will try to make non believers think your crazy. This gift was given by the Holy Spirit to the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost after Jesus acended into heaven. In the book of Acts.I have had many angelic encounters and definitely I come against demonic attacks of the enemy caused by Satan and his demons.. I had a ministry call a few months ago with a Christian mother so upset that her young daughter was diagnosed with skcephenia for having angelic encounters. I counseled the mother gave her the Word of God that our sons and daughters will dream dreams and have signs and wonders including angelic encounters and demonic activity. That her daughter is chosen by God and has Holy Spirit gifts that need to be understood and matured and mentored and NOT be accused of mental illness that is being misdiagnosed. We have very special children. It says to come to the Throne boldly and also childlike to receive the plans and purposes of the Chosen call God has for our lives. Trauma needs prayer in healing and much understanding. I have been completely vindicated from the mental health system in Delaware since a accidental overdose that I took as prescribed from my appointed court ordered outpatient program where they overdosed me on antipycotics and Parkinson medication. I went to heaven. I had a experience there that takes a book to write and was sent back by Our heavenly Father Abba. God. Since the overdose I was sent to a Holy Spirit filled Christian psychiatrist that has finally said I’ve been misdiagnosed for twenty years and has taken me off all antipycotics medication. She said as she broke down in tears at our office visit that she could see the Holy Spirit all over me and that I do NOT have any mental illnesses that I am a Christian. I’ve been released from the mental health system in the state of Delaware. The Lord since then has healed my Parkinsonism and I am in daily healing process from very painful incurrable by the psychiatrist system ofTardive Dyskinisia caused by antipycotics. Tardive dyskinisia not just effects your involuntary movements outside your face neck,tongue. Eyes and creating twisted tongue and speech impediments along with limbs and trunk involuntary painful movements but it also causes slow writhing movements in your intestinal tracts and causes difficulty swallowing and breathing. Can be very difficult to use the bathroom. I take ginkgo Bilbao and grapesead extract and other muti vitamin supplements and stay in intermittent speaking in tounges for the process of healing Tardive Dyskinisia. I get better everyday. I am scheduled for special movements neurologist in April for Tardive Dyskinisia. That’s his earliest appointment. The antipycotics cause behavioral issues also like fight or flight problems. They cause alot of trouble with your dopamine levels and cause brain damage to your brain cells.Even making people have unusual sexual feelings and habits causing them to take off of clothes and exposing themselves in unusual behavior..Antipycotics changes dopamine levels and causes sexual confusion ,anger and also can cause Zombie like lifestyle and shuffling of feet.Very dangerous. I pray that His salve of oil of revelation knowledge comes onto everyone’s eyes who reads my testimony that there is No such thing as bipolar or skcephenia.sp? These are demonic and angelic encounters that have to be loosed and binded to change atmospheres of our children, peoples,nations and territories. I hold no offense toward anyone from my past that has absolutely abused and tortured and actually killed me where I died and was sent back from heaven. I have forgiven and been released from stored up bitterness towards all the poeple that have caused me tremendous physical and mental trauma from forced involuntary psychiatrist hospilaztions false accusations from police of arrest and very traumatic forced antipycotics medication. This took prayer to release these traumatic times in my life. You need help from God to get forgiveness in your heart towards years of this type of trauma caused by misunderstanding family members and misdiagnosed psychiatrist evaluation and the broken mental health system in our country. I call it all blessings for my beliefs in Jesus and the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit gifts .That by the blood of Jesus that has forgiven me of my sins I also have forgiven others sins. Jesus makes the way for us to spend time with the Father also seeing and hearing from cloud of witnesses Hebrews 12 that are very helpful in the ministry of the prophetic gifts of the Holy Spirit of God. I hope this testimony brings clarity and understanding to psychiatrists that bipolar is Jacob’s ladder and ascending and decerning into heavenly realms is biblical. Maturity in acendind and decendind and then maintaing can absolutely be mentored and taught without the use of forced involvement commitments and forced antipycotics. Our poeple need to get our children and people back to Christian beliefs systems to stop the misguided and broken mental health system in America. Much blessings to you all. Apostle tethered with the Holy Spirit gift of “seer “. Deana Martin-Delucia Today’s New Covenant Ministries. I’m on LinkedIn if anyone needs more clarity and prayers. God bless. ✝️

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  6. My 29 year old grandson is completely non functional. He won’t work he’s Bipolar delusional believes he can Marry an imaginary woman, threatens house pets and his mother and younger brother both left home for fear of their lives. The father is an alcoholic and ignores everything. All they tell me is they can’t get help in NJ he’s a time bomb .

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  7. While your article is full of hopes and dreams I’m afraid it’s more harmful than good. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had to be a caregiver to a mentally ill person but it doesn’t seem so. Smaller class sizes, one-on-one behavior intervention all those luxuries seem wonderful but they all cost money. ..lots of it. Money that the government isn’t willing to pay and money that people who are having to be caregivers to these people don’t have 95% of the time. Until taxes are spent differently and more money is allocated to alternative treatment (which looks like never) I’m concerned publishing articles like this might lead family members and Friends of people or even the victims themselves of mental illness, to not resort to hospitalization when it is the only option to protect that human being and those around them. I am a 52-year-old single mother of an adult disabled child who is severely mentally ill. I lost my sister to suicide years ago as well due to mental illness. I am his legal guardian and I work a full-time job. I’m having to try to find a way for the state to take over his guardianship now because I just physically and mentally can’t do it anymore because the system is so very broken. Doctors don’t care, nurses don’t care, case managers don’t care, governments don’t care ..
    No one in the healthcare system cares anymore. I hope someday to wake up in the world you speak of but it’s definitely not this one from what I can see or where I stand.

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  8. I survived over 30 forced psych unit holds from 2006 to 2012. I was beaten by the staff. I was raped by a patient. I was forced to strip in front of a male pastor. I was forced to strip in front of a male med tech. I was verbally assaulted countless times by psych nurses and doctors. I was physically assaulted by the police because I overdosed on pills and tried to walk away from them. 99% of my forced psych holds hurt me more than they helped me. Doctors would switch my meds every month. There’s very little to no therapy in psych units. The patients help each other more than the medical staff. Many times when I was put on a hold by the police and sent to the psych er, I would be locked in a room for over 15 hours with no food, no water, no meds. Other times, I was brought in by the police on a hold, and the psych er sent me home, usually in the middle of the night when I had to walk several miles home. Psych units are not safe, they are not helpful, and they don’t understand mental illness. 14 years later, I can’t go to a primary care doctor without being told that all my health issues are just trauma and ptsd related. So, now I am being denied medical care because I’m a psych patient. I’m in Ohio, where more and more mental health services are being defunded and shut down. My 18 year old neice has gone through severe bullying in school, became depressed and suicidal. It took several years before she found a therapist who really helped her. That therapist works at another community health center that is now closing, leaving my neice and many others with no mental health services. Many adult psych patients are now being sent to the county jail, where they are forced to sleep on concrete slabs, in isolation. I just fired my therapist for threatening to have the police beat me up if I asked her for help for feeling suicidal. I want to be alive and healthy, but the medical community really just wants me to die. God help us all.

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  9. We didn’t have massashootings and police shooting mentally ill when we HAD much more involuntary and forced hospitalisations. Most mentally ill live on the he streets, commit crimes and are released. People refuse to take meds. We need these hospitals back and more involuntary hospitalizations. No system is perfect but at least less mentally ill were out in public. Bring back mental hospitals!

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  10. This is the problem with American individualism and freedom. You are only thinking about yourself and your loss of freedom. You aren’t thinking about how mentally ill people affect those around them?

    I’m glad they institutionalized my psychotic older sister. She did it to herself. I’m glad that that happened in the 90s. The school psychologist took what she said serious. She said she wanted to kill me, my mom and burn down our home. She told them that she killed cats and dogs for fun.

    My sister terrorized me out of jealousy. Since my mom gave her to my grandmother because she was too young to care for her own her own. when she had me 4 years later, she kept me. Another factor that made her hate me more is that I am exceptionally beautiful.

    Why are you more worried about some lil menaces freedom? Why don’t you care about the other kids they terrorize and bully? Do you even care about the trauma these disruptive and violent kids cause other students?

    Like I said individualism running amok. You feel that way because you are afraid of being institutionalized yourself, especially since in the past women were institutionalized for the dumbest reasons. Guess what that can still happen today to any woman. Like the woman who was dating a married cop, who abused his power to get her committed into a psych ward. Mental institutions don’t need to exist for men to abuse their authority and oppress women.

    We need to bring back mental institutions, and severely mentally ill people should also be sterilized. You know why??? Because a lot of mentally ill people are irresponsible with sex. They have he habit of being sexually promiscuous and having a bunch of kids they can’t take care of. And their DNA is trash, and there’s a 50/50 chance the children will also be mentally ill. Thus, another burden to society and their family.

    I swear this toxic femininity is so annoying because you are not thinking logically, you are thinking with your feelings.(I’m glad I was never brainwashed into being feminine, no one fools me with emotional manipulation).

    So tell me what do you think should be done to a 15 year old autistic boy that violates female students by groping them or forcing kisses on them. Imagine this boy being 6ft and 250lbs. So whose rights are more important the autistic boy or the girls he’s assaulting?

    That’s the problem in today’s world everyone complains but doesn’t not have a better alternative. So until you can come up with a better alternative to euthanasia or mental institutions, do everyone else a favor and keep your emotional blackmail to yourself.

    I don’t feel guilty that I think we need more mental institutions, please bring it back so schools can function again, and there’s less homeless people. (Not 100% sure if this will solve the homeless problem because of the economy, but as far as crazy ppl go that would be a decent chuck).

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  11. I work on an inpatient psychiatric unit and I care very much. I’ve been on the job for 30 years and every year, we are expected to do more and more with less and less. If somebody manages to self harm on the ward,we have state agencies swoop down on us like the Lord’s fury demanding we develop more stringent safety policies. Meanwhile,we are supposed to manage to make the ward more “homey “and humane. Nobody wants psychotic people on the streets harming themselves or others, but when we commit them,we are the villains. It is the task of Sisyphus. I guarantee there are easier ways to make a living. I remain because I care.

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  12. At age 12-14 I was brutally assaulted. In the beginning I kept getting sent to the child psychiatric ward. Since 12-18 I was in and out of psych wards, boarding schools, and then taken completely out of society because from there I went straight to jail. I’ve spent almost my whole life locked away. And now as an adult I can hardly function. I’ve failed to off myself many times and I’ll probably fail some more until I get it right. I’m grateful this article was made because I wouldn’t wish what happened to me in those places, to ever happen to anyone no child no adult not my worst enemy. I swear on all that I love those places screwed me up way more than the rape. I feel as though if I had gotten the right help, I wouldn’t have acted out. If I got the attention I was begging for, I would have gotten better. So I hope this topic becomes bigger and bigger. I hope this subject gets studied more. And the comment about teaching empathy to med students is a fantastic idea, because I’ve sat weeks in the ER further being abused by the guards and the nurses who “just can’t deal with me” right now so they restrain me and shoot me up with drugs. Ya I feel really helped! Jk. I’m doomed. I accept it. But no other child needs to go through this. The things I experienced in those places, male staff “letting me stay up past bedtime to watch tv” is exactly what you might think it is. As a child I looked older than I was, I was pretty I guess. I developed early. And people saw someone who wasn’t a child. And this “special treatment” happened more then once and in different facilities. End this treatment of the kids and deal with your kids yourself. Letting the state raise them is what they say is what your kid needs but it’s not. If you are thinking of doing this to your kid, just don’t. Just pay attention to them, don’t harp on them about stuff they do wrong and try to keep things positive. If my mom tried to do that I would have felt like I could talk to her. But she listened to what the public school system had told her what was best for me. This is why I’ll never have a child. For one I can barely take care of myself and 2, even if I could, this is not a world for kids anymore. Not in the hood especially where I still live. (I’m white though and live in ma) so I think more accurately it should say protect kids or poor kids coming from bad hoods. Thanks for sharing.

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