‘Deathbed’: Are mental health facilities helping or hurting mentally ill?

Since we can’t understand everything, today we focus on something that has been something of a hot button in this era of healthcare upheaval: Our mentally ill are dying.

That’s our standing here at The Bloggernacle’s “Deathbed,” as we watch these stories, trying to understand how so many of them ended up here in our world in such tragic and imperfect circumstances.

We understand that the death of people who are restrained or otherwise shackled during their care is less of a surprise, and more of a horror, than the death of people who are “broken.”

But for us, the more troubling aspect is the stories of the so-called “deaths of people being treated under the Mental Health Act,” where people may have been isolated in hospitals for so long that they had gone into comas or death-knelled deep into the stem of their illnesses.

A doctor at Reading Hospital has reportedly told The Sun newspaper that he and two fellow doctors pleaded with hospital staff to bring them access to their children to allow them to die peacefully. An “unsuccessful campaign was waged to get them staff to allow them to stay near the children. Eventually, they were taken off the wards,” The Sun reported.

“They had gone back into formal [complete coma] care. We begged to be allowed to bring the children and give them some emotional support. But we were met with hostility and disdain and were told that we were the problem.”

Speaking with The National Post newspaper in Canada, a journalist whose own sister also suffered from mental illness, he noted that the news is “outrageous and horrifying and should horrify all of us. Their stories are almost incalculable. My sister, even in her most horrendous state, was still loving, social, intelligent and witty. This is something nobody else knows.”

The British paper found Dr. John Pinky, the psychiatrist and a former consultant psychiatrist at Shoreham Chase Hospital, said that more patients are dying while awaiting trial for their illness than in their final days following an acute crisis.

In Ontario, the situation was the same.

“We have isolated people and placed them in a hospital environment which is completely designed to check their bond and make sure they die in these wards and hospitals,” Roddy Hepburn, a professor of medicine at the University of Guelph, was quoted as saying.

We wish we could save our friends, relatives and strangers who are suffering from mental illness from suffering, to be sure. But for us, the destruction of our family relationships who suffered so mightily through the very hospital system is too tragic, too sad and too hard to believe.

A man who has suffered from a severe mental illness for decades was so embedded in his mental illness that he was unable to help his wife escape his clutches.

“I could never be someone who raised my hand to my wife,” the man wrote on Facebook. “From such an old age I can no longer do so.”

This is why we are here today. Whether we suffer from PTSD or depression or a significant mental illness, the effects of a system that forces people to live that way — the effects of a system that pushes people in the medical emergency wards into a society where the very laws that seek to contain mental illness to care centers are stretched to their limits and making it almost impossible for the most desperate to live in the world.

It is a system that leaves the social worker and the cleric to care for the rest of us — and to abandon their own families.

Because those who suffer most must suffer alone.

Twitter: davehernandez1

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