The Modern Psych Ward
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Health and Wellness

The Modern Psych Ward

Why are mentally ill people still placed in systems that have never worked?

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The Modern Psych Ward
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A couple of months ago, in the height of summertime, my boyfriend took me on a romantic stroll through the Kings Park Psychiatric Center on Long Island - fairly local, very intriguing. In the years since it's demise, it's been turned into a state park. It's said to be haunted and cursed in the utmost, with asbestos-filled buildings on the brink of collapse lining a massive expanse of land - all abandoned since 1986. Mass graves are covered in greenery. Each building carries the death-streaked look of a Stephen King creation, and the stories surrounding them are even more grim; torture, lobotomization, etc.

I've always called myself an "old soul" and said that I was born in the wrong time. Then, my 2017 hospitalization occurs to me and I quickly remember that I was, indeed, born at the right time, because fifty years ago I certainly would have been subject to shock treatment and lobotomy.

2016 was a notoriously bad year for me, especially that December. I'd graduated with an associate's degree and made the dean's list, but keeping up my grades while working almost full-time along with putting myself through an abusive relationship began to deteriorate my very being as a person. By the first week of January 2017, I couldn't stand the pain and frustration of melancholia from my manic depression and decided on a permanent solution to a temporary problem. With the support of my therapist, I came to the conclusion that I truly needed help because I was a danger to myself.

Naturally, after watching Girl, Interrupted I thought I had the whole thing figured out. I did not. Upon admittance to the facility, I was literally strip-searched and my body was charted for any scars or tattoos while I stood embarrassed in front of two orderlies in chilly, mortifying undress. They gave me a room to sleep in with a complete stranger, and from there I was told of the routine to-be: vitals would be taken at 6 a.m. followed by breakfast. Then there would be other meals and therapy programs. There would be daily times for taking medication. You were to meet with a social worker and psychiatrist daily.

Most of these things happened, except for the meeting of the psychiatrist and social worker, whom I together only met with a combined four times during my three weeks of hospitalization. What was the most frustrating to me, though, was the lack of intuition by faculty in the placement of patients - high-functioning individuals with suicidality were placed among low-functioning individuals with violent tendencies and outbursts, frequently taken out on other patients. The bathrooms were so frequently desecrated that each individual needed permission to use the bathroom. Lack of privacy and constant, diligent judgment was passed on my quiet disposition. It was seen as a "red flag" - I was told that I seemed so antisocial that I was abnormal. But who was there really to communicate with? The low-functioning patients were often sedated all day long.


I left the hospital on a slew of medication that had serious consequences for my ability to sleep, metabolize food, socialize, and have regular moods. For the two visits I had for ten minutes each with the psychiatrist, my insurance charged me hundreds of dollars. What's the point of all of this? There is a mental health epidemic in this country and not enough beds in hospitals to meet the needs of individuals suffering from psychological malady. Those hospitals are mediocre and incompetent, leaving patients in scary environments where they are treated like problems. When one is feeling suicidal, why is the only option to "go to the emergency room"? There needs to be another solution for people in psychiatric crisis. There needs to be a system that meets the needs of high and low-functioning patients. There needs to be change.

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