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© 2013 by Ayam Nocre Azee
I was having some very nasty facial pain, which often spread to my whole head. It was happening every day. This was maybe around 1971, when I was about 20 years old.. I went to a local county-run out-patient clinic at the local hospital that offered low-cost medical care for low-income residents of the county. I told them about the pain. After a brief physical exam a psychiatrist was called in. After a few questions he told me he wanted to admit me to the hospital for observation. When I said I didn't wish to be admitted I was handcuffed and forcibly brought to what he called "the hospital." No, I had not threatened to hurt anyone. And yes, "the hospital" did not look like any hospital space I had ever seen before. The paint on the walls was older. The tiles on the floor were deteriorating. The windows had steel bars on them. The beds were not the kind of folding beds normally found in hospitals. The doors to the outide were locked. The staff members were, on average, ruder than those found at your average hospital.
Fortunately, my family was able to afford good legal help, and I was out the next morning. But not before they had drugged me so much I was unable to stand up. I saw flashing lights when I tried. It took about 8 hours before I could stand up again but I periodically saw flashing lights for the next 20 year - you know how it looks when a fluorescent lamp is malfunctioning - that's what I saw in sunlight, and in artificial light that I knew wasn't actually flashing - flashing lights. This made it hard for me to read.
This seems to be the unfortunate result of giving physicians license to "treat" people without their consent. My understanding is that in most states, anyone can be held "for observation" for up to 30 days, simply after being examined by two physicians. Typically, family or friends are told the person is "dangerous" to themselves or others, but the fact is, many, if not most of those being imprisoned have neither made any threat against anyone nor threatened to harm themselves. I certainly had not done so. I realized how fortunate I was that my family had money. If my family didn't have money, I may have been stuck there for 30 days.
This was not a "mistaken" diagnosis; this was not a diagnosis at all. It was an intentional ascription of a disorder, for which they had no physical evidence. They wanted me locked up, punished, for complaining of pain for which they could not find the cause. This happened at the very time when the mainstream press was complaining the loudest, about how dissent in the Soviet Union, was being quashed by diagnosing dissenters as mentally ill and putting them in prisons that the Soviets called psychiatric hospitals. A the same time that the press was busy accusing the Soviet medical system of doing this they were doing something kind of similar in the United States. Perhaps the accusations against the Sovients were provided to distract the public's attention from the fact that something similar was what was going on in the United States?
Physician do this way more often than you may think. My understanding is that simply on the say so of any two licensed phyicians, anyone can be forced into a locked institution, for up to 30 days, without a judge or jury ever evaluating the necessity of holding the person in captivity. Only if they want to hold the person captive for more than 30 days, does the captive have a legal right to review of the reasons for being held captive, by a judge. A large percentage of people who are subject to psychiatric treament, have nothing wrong with them. Again, their "diagnosis" is an ascription, not a description.
From conversation with other "patients" on the ward - some who had been there for weeks, I learned that they were given no treatment. They were simply warehoused there, and all were kept continually drugged.
After this I tended to avoid doctors because I did not want to take the chance of getting locked up and drugged again. After about 10 years I was eventually able to get effective treatment for my facial pain.
In the United States, in 2015, while the number of people in mental hospitals is lower than it was in 1971, "mental illness" is still being used as a pretext to hold dissenters captive and and punish them in other ways. Shock treatment is still being forced upon captives. People who are not being held captive are often forced to take drugs in order to avoid being locked up.. They have there urine tested for prescribed drugs, and if the drugs are not found in their urine, they loose their freedom and are captured and held captive.
For some reason, many of these people are listed as being "voluntary patients" when it is clear they are there involuntarily.
On the other hand, many people who behave insanely and threaten family members are not locked up when their family members call the police, or call the person's psychiatrist. I've seen someone murdered after their complaints to the police and to psychiatrists about an insane person making threats, were not taken seriously. The police insisted that the person was "mentally ill" and that this is a "health problem" and it is not the job of police to deal with it; the person's psychiatrist said that he doesn't believe the person is really threatening and deosn't believe that the family is really in danger, and that nothing can be done. The psychiatrist was wrong. Why did the police defer to the psychiatrist? They understood that the threats were real, but they didn't want to do anything.
How did management of behavior including misdemeanors and felonies get moved from being the job of police, courts, judges, and juries, and become the job of physicians? It is a long story.