In the House of Psychiatry, a Jarring Tale of Violence


From The New York Times: “The annual gathering of the American Psychiatric Association is a dignified and collegial affair, full of scholarly exchanges, polite laughter and polite applause.

So it was a shock, for those who took their seats in Room 1E08 of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, to watch a powerfully built 32-year-old man choke back tears as he described being slammed to the floor and cuffed to a stretcher in a psychiatric unit.

Because the man, Matthew Tuleja, had been a Division I football player, he had a certain way of describing the circle of bodies that closed around him, the grabbing and grappling and the sensation of being dominated, pinned and helpless.

He was on the ground in a small room filled with pepper spray. Then his wrists and ankles were cuffed to the sides of a stretcher, and his pants were yanked down. They gave him injections of Haldol, an antipsychotic medication he had repeatedly tried to refuse, as he howled in protest.

Forcible restraints are routine events in American hospitals. One recent study, using 2017 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated the number of restraints per year at more than 44,000.

But it is rare to hear a first-person account of the experience, because it tends to happen to people who do not have a platform. Researchers who surveyed patients about restraint and seclusion have found that a large portion, 25 to 47 percent , met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Listening, rapt, to Mr. Tuleja was a roomful of psychiatrists. It was a younger crowd — people who had entered the field at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests. Many of them lined up to speak to him afterward. ‘I still can’t forget the first time I saw someone restrained,’ one doctor told him. ‘You don’t forget that.’

In study after studyhospitals have proved that it is possible to reduce the use of coercive force in psychiatry. But it requires sustained effort. It also means balancing patient welfare against the safety concerns of nurses, who are frequently injured in psychiatric settings. De-escalation takes time, and when systems are understaffed, they may default to force as a matter of efficiency.

Dr. Samuel W. Jackson, one of the panel’s hosts, said he hoped that his generation of psychiatrists would usher in change around the practice.

‘I believe that Matt, in telling his story, puts a mirror in front of all of us, allowing us to focus on some of the ugliest aspects of our work,’ said Dr. Jackson, the co-director of Public Psychiatry Education at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

‘Hearing this story, I was initially disturbed, and then at one point, if I’m being honest, a bit defensive,’ he said. ‘However, eventually — and I think that’s where I am now, thinking about this story — I started questioning this idea that putting people in restraint and seclusion is just part of the job.'”

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  1. “‘Hearing this story, I was initially disturbed, and then at one point, if I’m being honest, a bit defensive,’ he said.”

    I believe that’s what Robert Whitaker calls the “cognitive dissonance,” of the psychiatric “profession.” And that “cognitive dissidence” is very understandable, since anyone with an ounce of wisdom knows, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    “‘However, eventually — and I think that’s where I am now, thinking about this story — I started questioning this idea that putting people in restraint and seclusion is just part of the job.'”

    Yes, definitely, “this idea that putting people in restraint and seclusion is just part of the job” is a bad idea. And, in my humble opinion, also a very anti-American idea.

    Plus, now that we’ve all lived through the Covid psy-op, which involved the coerced and forced drugging of much of humanity. Now that “fierce Pharma” wants to coerce and/or force drug all doctors and hospital employees first, with experimental jabs.

    Do the doctors really still think it’s wise to continue to trust in “fierce” “Pharmakia’s” misleading research and lies, and stand in support of the coerced and forced druggings, of any and every person?

    For goodness sakes, even the Holy Bible forewarns us about “Pharmakia.” Forced drugging by all doctors, including the scientific fraud based DSM “bible” billers, should be made illegal.

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    • One of the primary reasons why most people still do not take criticism of psychiatry seriously is because it is widely associated with cultish religious beliefs and baseless conspiracy theories such as the following BS:
      “…now that we’ve all lived through the Covid psy-op, which involved the coerced and forced drugging of much of humanity.”

      Covid was not an invented psy-op, and no one was coerced or forced to take the Covid vaccine. I repeat: NO ONE, NOWHERE. There were travel and employment restrictions in some places, but that is hardly new. They were put in place for the same protective reason you can’t bring a pet across many international borders.

      So knock it off, you aren’t doing anyone any good with your conspiracy theories and disinformation.

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      • “Covid was not an invented psy-op.” How do you know this? You just don’t believe it, and therefore you know it as a fact?

        “No one was coerced or forced to take the Covid vaccine.” This is simply untrue. You are denying reality. You need to wake up.

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          • Steve, my apologies for getting intense. It wasn’t even about Covid.

            I’m all for science-based skepticism. That’s why I am critical of psychiatry. But not only does almost every conspiracy theory surrounding Covid not pass the scientific smell test, I fear the real reason so much disinformation has been circulating about Covid has nothing to do with the virus, vaccines, or mandates, but is part of a concerted effort to tear down peoples’ trust in our fact-finding and truth-telling institutions such as science, healthcare and journalism, of which Mad In America plays a crucial part.

            Get people to distrust experts, science and truth-tellers, (and get them to distrust each other as a bonus side effect) and you can get away with lies much more easily. Promoting anti-intellectualism and conspiracy theories is a tactic straight out of the authoritarian playbook.

            So it really upsets me and fills me with dread to see disinformation and conspiracy theories on sites like MIA which have been trying to combat lies and unscientific BS. Thanks. -Mark

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          • Posting as moderator:

            I don’t disagree with you. But COVID is off topic and has not led to productive conversations as a topic. You actually posted the first one on the topic and I should have disallowed it. Some of the more far-fetched comments that DO have to do with psychiatry are allowable as long as they are on topic and not insulting to individuals or groups. I don’t judge by the content except to the degree that it is not on the topic at hand, and I even let a lot of THAT go if it’s productive conversation. But COVID is not a topic that is either on topic or leads to productive exchanges, so that’s why it has been stopped.

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          • If you cannot question it, it’s not science. And just because someone declares themselves an expert or truth-teller does not make them so. Don’t we here at Mad in America have enough experience to know that?

            And Covid is actually *very much* on topic. It just has to do with all those topics that we don’t discuss often enough here at MIA, i.e. the actual dynamics that go into creating “crazy,” abusive family systems and a crazy society. As someone with experience surviving and recovering from both, I have seen all the direct parallels. Covid was a macrocosm of the exact same dynamics that play out in abusive, controlling, destructive relationships and systems. It encompassed everything – all of these concepts that are key to deciphering mental health – denial, gaslighting, conformity and cult behavior, obedience & forced compliance vs. healthy rebellion, agency and the ability to question and dissent, authoritarianism, deception, the corrupt institutions of “Science” and “Healthcare,” bodily sovereignty, mental sovereignty, it had it all. Covid is actually so incredibly on-topic. But it takes a breaking out of the conformity of our society (and probably, of our family systems) in order to see it. That is what true liberation and healing is. Healing is a subversive act, as Dr. Gabor Mate put it It involves going against the grain. Compulsive compliance, on the other hand, is at the root of so much dysfunction and illness (literal or metaphorical). As Howard Zinn put it, civil disobedience is *not* our problem, our problem is civil *obedience* This is so crucial and so squarely on-topic. But many people are not ready to make the connections. Unfortunately, we are running out of time to do so.

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          • I respect your views on this. But I can tell you from past experience that this line of discussion is not productive and travels far from the realm of the “mental health” system. You will have to respect my judgement on this one. I am speaking from hard experience attempting to moderate such a discussion. So I’m not going to defend my decision. It’s already been made many months ago.

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          • Dang it, if she’d just mentioned Fauci I would have filled in my “Covid Conspiracy Bingo” card.

            The irony of quoting Gabor Maté to back up an anti-vax argument:

            “According to Dr. Gabor Maté, those who do hold extreme anti-vaccine ideologies, like people who have organized protests or aggressively taken to social media to spread conspiracy theories, often do so out of unresolved trauma from their childhoods.”

            “We’re looking at a lot of traumatized people who are finding a political outlet for their mistrust and anger,” he said.
            “It’s nothing to do with the issue itself, it has to do with the issue acting as a flash point for their own unresolved traumatic imprints.”
            (From “Experts weigh in on possible factors behind vaccine hesitancy” )

            Sorry, I know you can’t post this but I couldn’t resist. Thanks Steve. -Mark

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    • Sorry for the trouble, Steve. No Covid comments …. Albeit, those of us who know how corrupt big Pharma is, because we understand the iatrogenic etiologies of big Pharma’s and psychiatry’s, “serious” DSM disorders.

      We should have a right to at least question the mass drugging of most of humanity, with “emergency use” authorization only approval jabs, without such scientific queries being called a “conspiracy theory.” But I understand, no covid comments.

      Thank you, Susannah, et al for standing up for my right to question the medical sciences and big Pharma’s financial motives.

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    • Important point, Birdsong. I have one story of psychiatry, which is all about violence and medically unneeded force drugging for profit, to the point that one of my former doctors was literally eventually convicted by the FBI.

      I have another story of psychiatry, which is about a respectful young “critical psychiatrist,” and another respectful female psychiatrist, who was capable of understanding that covering up a “bad fix” on a broken bone, with complex iatrogenesis, is criminal abuse of psychiatry.

      Was it the non-violent white man, or the non-violent white woman, who dealt with the violent, criminal aspect of psychiatry? Of course, it was the woman. Albeit, I’ll admit, my male loved one had a well researched advocate, where as I had none.

      In case anyone cares, my loved one healed from the worst “psychotic” episode (possible alcohol encephalitis induced, but worsened by a bad heart med drug combo being too quickly, but appropriately, withdrawn … but not properly replaced) that I’ve ever personally witnessed, with a longer than he hoped stay in a hospital (a week and a half, or so), but with merely a low dose of lithium (300mg twice daily).

      I had politely requested the hospital and psychiatrists avoid the anticholinergic drugs. My loved one was off the lithium pretty quickly (a couple months), and so far, so good … it’s been about 9 months now. And he’s healing.

      I agree with the neurologists, who loved witnessing first hand, how the human brain heals itself, when they were doing my father’s autopsy. Neuroplasticity is a gift from God, to all humans.

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