Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Amnesty for the patients

Psychiatry's new openness does not include its dark contemporary history.


[psychiatry] I really wish it was unnecessary to write this chronicle. But if one wants to have greater transparency in psychiatry, this must also apply to the negative aspects of the treatment system. Only then can one hope for positive change: How many do not struggle with trauma and anxiety as a result of inhumane and unethical "treatment"? And why does psychiatry's power elite react as it does to criticism and loss of power in a more patient-friendly psychiatry? Why are professional interests and collegiate camaraderie at the expense of patients?

So far, patients have been powerless in the face of psychiatry's (mis) use. Several of us have experienced being "imprisoned" or imprisoned without law and judgment, deprived of the possibility of assistance from a lawyer, and refused contact with the Control Commission, which is supposed to be a body of complaints that will improve patients' legal security.

In addition, the control committees may not appear to function independently, but have been put together in a way that keeps them on the agenda for professionals and institutions. You have often listened to more

the treatment staff's version of the case rather than the patients to help.

Authoritarian. When an adult, intellectual person with a broad experience background loses his or her ability to function, he is subject to and at the mercy of less resourceful professionals. When these professionals, with a narrow experience background, may additionally have narrow-minded attitudes, for example on a religious basis, and even lack the intellectual capacity to make ethical judgments. When they lack insight into humanistic and democratic values ​​that safeguard the individual and its autonomy. When unable to see their own role from a historical perspective, they see patients as "different" people than themselves, with different needs and rights than ordinary people. Then we see traces of a thought system that belongs to authoritarian regimes.

I have an example from reality: A suicidal patient is detained, refused to go out and followed around the clock. The person in question is deprived of all privacy – for nine years! The staff thought they were doing the right thing to save the patient's life. But in reality, the patient's quality of life deteriorated to such an extent that it diminished the prospects for improvement. After new forces came in, the patient was finally discharged, but she still has a suicidal pattern, and has not received any form of compensation and redress for the years she has been deprived.

Here's another nasty example: A patient is perceived as paranoid psychotic because he is afraid of the mafia. However, it turns out that the patient has tipped police in a drug case, seized, and the man is afraid of reprisals from organized criminal environments. In the staff's eyes, the "mafia" was so foreign that they considered the patient to be psychotic. He was discharged a few days later.

In addition to deprivation of liberty comes the use of isolation and strapping in a belt bed in psychiatry. The use of isolate is described in the history of justice and war as torture. But who dares complain? Who dares to take up the fight against a power system that, for the "devalued patient", is extremely powerful, and which itself does not admit, but hides the abuses behind fine words about "professionalism"?

Has anyone received a patient injury claim? As a rule, it is the very allegations of abuse that are made morbid and not the system.

Like a punishment. What does it do to a man who, in peacetime, without having done anything wrong or criminal, is picked up by police in his own home one day after she was returned from leave, having called and told her that she will come two days too late and then talk to the doctor? How does this affect a person who poses no significant threat to others or their own lives and health, where there is also no danger that the prospect of improvement is significantly lost and that is not psychotic, that is, legally authorized for coercion?

That's what happened to me. And it was experienced as a demonstration of power and a punishment for not obeying. It was not based on a professional judgment about the patient's, in this case, my best interest. The police can thus be used against us, on the basis of an arbitrary (incorrect) assessment by a nurse. And no one responds.

Two days later, the doctor also wrote me out of the institution, where I was admitted on the basis of a compulsory clause for mental protection, with my own consent. I also did not receive a reply to the letter I later sent to the Control Commission.

Today I am a member of the Fontenehuset in Stavanger, and have largely returned to the community. To the extent that the Fountain Movement takes root in Norway as a user-managed patient organization with good partners and political support, it can help to secure patients and act as a "watchdog" towards a poor treatment apparatus and discrimination. The Stavanger Fountain House is a user-run clubhouse and part of a worldwide network that started out as a grassroots movement in New York in the early 1950s. It works on an alternative rehabilitation model for people with mental disorders. Here I have found my asylum.

We need change. Those who have committed the wrongdoing of psychiatry are hardly punished, but I hope to abolish the attitudes in the treatment system that degrade, criminalize and suppress the mentally ill. I also see the importance of establishing an independent ethical control body that also works politically to ensure and secure the legal security and financial and social rights of psychiatric patients. The body should primarily cooperate with patients and be responsive to the needs of this group. For example, the need to strengthen the private economy of individuals is screaming and is not being followed up by the professionals, who are instead fighting for their own pay conditions and pensions. One does not get healthier from having poor finances, and there is too much gap between the insured patient's and the employees' finances.

When we get sick we will have pain relief and medication. One would like to be met in a friendly, service-minded way, not with insults, acidity, and by people and systems that practice violence against our self-esteem and human dignity. I want a psychiatrist who fights for us, not one who fights for us. It is embarrassing to have to fight for basic human rights in today's Norway, a Norway that seems to pretend the problem does not exist.

The chronicle was written by Anita Bårdsen, Former patient at Rogaland psychiatric hospital

You may also like