28 May 2013

Offensive Mental Hospital Is Offensive

"No good deed goes unpunished..."

In my last blog piece, I argued about the ways in which pot shots taken at Amanda Bynes and other celebrities going through very public "rough patches" undermines the confidence that the rest of us Nobodies have that we can find the compassion and help we, too, need. You can well imagine, then, how quickly my eyes rolled when I saw Bynes's statement on TwitPlus regarding the entire affair:
For once and for all, this is the last thing I'll say about the mistaken arrest. I'm suing NYPD for illegally entering my apartment, lying about drugs on me and lying about me tampering with non existent drug paraphernalia, then I'm suing for being put into a mental hospital against my will, then locked up overnight for coming home after a facial and working out with my trainer like the good girl that I am. I'm allergic to alcohol and drugs and don't partake in any of the above. I'm so offended by all of this but so proud to not be a drug or alcohol user. I don't need to talk about this anymore. My lawyer and I are taking this offense so seriously! Everything they did was against the law and The judge saw that there was no drugs on me or proof of any type of bong or mental illness (I was so offended to even be taken to a mental hospital and they would not let me call my lawyer until the next day after being in jail all night, then I went to court and was immediately released because the judge saw that I was wrongly arrested. The cops found no proof of any type of drug use or evidence of drug paraphernalia such as a bong in or around my apartment) I'm also suing my apartment complex for lying about me smoking in my building. I'm free forever! You can't lock up an innocent person! Thanks for caring! Look forward to seeing me in music videos! I'm getting in shape and getting a nose job! I'm looking forward to a long and wonderful career as a singer/rapper!
The bolded emphasis is, obviously, mine. I don't know anything about the particulars of her post-arrest hearing, and I'll refrain from speculating about how much attention went into any such determination that there was "no proof of any type of...mental illness". It seems a bit hasty, and anyway the difference between a medical and a legal opinion on the status of someone's mental health can be vast but whatever.

It's the part where she was "so offended" at the very idea of being taken to a mental hospital. The clear implication is that jail was bad enough, but that it was even worse to be remanded to a mental health facility. I mean, jail is one thing. Sure, it's not ideal but we all understand that's where you go when you're arrested. But you have to be seriously messed up to not even get to stay in jail, right?

I don't know the legal code where she lives, but here it's merely protocol given the nature of the allegations. Like I mentioned in my last piece, about half of us patients at Our Lady of Peace were there for mental health issues, but the other half were there for substance issues. It's become standard for people under arrest with those kinds of allegations to be treated in a hospital rather than left to sit in a jail without the proper care they (may) need. But since we don't talk about such things, the misperception persists that only the "seriously messed up" people don't get to just stay in jail with "normal" people under arrest.

I get it, actually. I really do. There's such stigma attached to "the loony bin" that even being there for substance issues and not mental health embarrassed and upset some of the other patients I met. But that's the problem, really; the persistence of that stigma. I know this was an emotionally upsetting experience for Amanda Bynes. It would be upsetting for most people, even without the added scrutiny of being in the public eye. I saw patients who were admitted after I was who basically sat and stared and tried their hardest to not cry their eyes out because they couldn't believe they really were where they were. I get it.

I couldn't believe I was actually there myself. It's funny, really. I mean, I was at a point where I very nearly combined a ton of sleeping pills with an entire bottle of bourbon to end my life, but I didn't think I belonged at Our Lady of Peace. If I didn't belong there, then who did? Where did I belong? So yeah, I definitely understand why it's so upsetting.

Just as taking potshots at a celebrity going through his or her own issues sends a chilling message to the rest of us about how little actual compassion exists out there for us, so too does it hinder us when offense is taken at being sent to such a facility. It's a matter of protocol, and for good reason, but that's not even relevant to the more basic issue of how we as a society talk about such facilities.

There are a lot of issues to be addressed in our mental health care system. Everything from the legal code to the nature of big pharma's pill-pushing culture, from how patients see themselves to the late night talk show monologues needs to be reexamined. I don't claim to have all, or even any, of the answers. But I do know that one thing we as individuals can do is to be more mindful of how we personally talk about such matters.

P.S. "Allergic to alcohol and drugs," Ms. Bynes? Like, all drugs? Allergic how, exactly? Because if they alter your behavior, that's not an allergy. That's what they do.

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