Two stars. "Misdiagnosed as bipolar for being bisexual..."
September 28, 2017 4:05 AM   Subscribe

“There needs to be a Yelp for psych wards.” Kit Mead launched Psych Ward Reviews, a review site for psychiatric hospitals, after conversations with friends about the difference in treatment quality between different psych wards. While the site is on temporary hiatus, the 100+ user-submitted reviews remain accessible.
posted by spamandkimchi (18 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, yes yes.

The difference between some psych hospitals and available treatment options is almost (should be) criminal.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:36 AM on September 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Available in England, but as with all feedback sites, it's the maintenance that's the bugbear. (Pleased and surprised to see that my employer's nearest hospital has 3 five star reviews, though).
posted by ambrosen at 4:59 AM on September 28, 2017

Wow, could I have used this 18 months ago.
posted by tzikeh at 6:55 AM on September 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Though here's what I perceive as the end result of these reviews - "Crazy people can't be trusted to tell the truth about their experiences--some of them even admit they were delirious/hallucinating--so why should anyone believe a single thing on this blog? I'm sure none of the abuse or neglect actually happened."

Just what those with mental illness need.

(P.S. The abuse and neglect of the patients by doctors and nurses and social workers are very real on these wards.)
posted by tzikeh at 7:02 AM on September 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

The social workers, friends, and family of the patient should also provide reviews. Unfortunately the stigma is real, and the reviews of "sane" allies might carry more credence for the prejudiced.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:12 AM on September 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Friends and family can only report on what they hear from the patient, though, as they're (almost always) excluded from anywhere but the visiting space during visiting hours. They see all the staff on their best behavior, they see the nicest room in the place, and they see only the high-functioning people (those with "noticeable" problems are given a separate visiting time than say, people who are fucking suicidal but don't scream and pull out their hair or mumble and kick things). Unless you are admitted, you have no idea what goes on in these places.
posted by tzikeh at 7:16 AM on September 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

If enough reviews seem to point to the same issues, then someone might at least wonder if they are correct.

Also, even one review with a factual/policy note could prompt someone to ask, "Is this true?". It wouldn't be too hard to verify by asking former or current patients and staff.

Plus, the notes about the food, interior layout, etc. are helpful and indicative.

I think this is great. Probably could benefit from an intro explaining the purpose/how to read/how these are useful, to address the concerns people are alluding to here, but way WAY better than nothing, which is what existed before and what will exist if this effort isn't supported.
posted by amtho at 7:17 AM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, and when I finally decided to make a formal complaint to the APA against the psychiatrist who saw me for two minutes, took away all of my medications, and prescribed me new ones, including taking me off of Klonopin on a Tuesday when he knew I was being discharged on Friday morning (about the span of time it would take for the side effects of going cold turkey from a benzo to show up), they had *SURPRISINGLY* lost just exactly the relevant paperwork. Naturally, they still had the paperwork that says I said I admitted to being suicidal (I never said any such thing), and the paperwork regarding my refusal to go to most of the therapy groups after my third day there. That was not because I was being troublesome, that was because I've been to group therapy a few times in my life, and can tell you that a tranquilized chimpanzee could have run better therapy groups. They were run by "employees," not one of whom had a degree in anything. And I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone who worked on the ward while I was researching my file--just the front desk. And my phone calls to my in-patient social worker went unanswered.
posted by tzikeh at 7:23 AM on September 28, 2017 [14 favorites]

Oh man, that's amazing. I know people who have experienced straight up psychiatric abuse with lasting consequences in psych wards, since the psychiatrist in question knew damn well there was very little that a patient could do about an (incorrect) and highly stigmatized diagnosis of BPD if they in any way inconvenienced the psych.

Even if non-mentally-ill people roll their eyes and dismiss the abuse and neglect, a resource like this might help at least formalize whisper networks and make them more accessible to people trying to seek care without being abused by psychiatric professionals.
posted by sciatrix at 7:24 AM on September 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

Oh wow, this is incredibly relevant to my life.

I've had some really positive inpatient experiences, and I talk about them more than a lot of people who've done inpatient, and so I sometimes get messages like "Hey, my friend might be getting sectioned / might be checking herself in and she wants to know what to expect. Can she talk to you?"

And I never know what to say. Because I'm also really, really aware that my good experiences were at least 50% privilege (I'm white, I have a fancy education, I don't have a badly stigmatized diagnosis, I've never been arrested, I've never accused anyone powerful of abuse, my worst symptoms make me hurt myself rather than others, I can fake neurotypical social interaction pretty well even when I'm dissociating) and a good chunk of the remaining percentage was pure dumb luck. I saw lots of other patients in the same programs I was in who had less privilege or got less lucky and who had a fucking miserable retraumatizing time of it. So like I just honestly never know when to say "You should go. Trust the program. Participate. It saved my life" and when to say "Oh jeeeezzzzzz ok be careful and know your rights and get out as soon as you can and don't open up about real shit to anyone."

Like, to me, the worst of the bad reviews here aren't news, and the five-star ones aren't news either. I would have expected that sort of extreme polarization from a system that so strongly amplifies differences in privilege and power. The thing that impresses me are the number of reviews here that are like "Okay, here's what you should expect from this place. I was okay with X and Y but really fucking upset by Z, and here's how that affected my recovery. You might have different needs and priorities."

Normally that's information that gets passed around by word of mouth from one crazy person in recovery to another, and that isn't PR-friendly enough to make it onto an official testimonial page or shocking enough to make it into the local news. Having it out in the open is a big deal.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:36 AM on September 28, 2017 [27 favorites]

Ach, yeah. I used to identify as Bi years ago and am glad nobody ever diagnosed me as mentally ill and tried to cure that. As it turns out my preferences changed eventually anyway though I've had other mental health issues before and since not specifically related to sexuality.

These kinds of accounts of people seeking help and finding their own candor and sincere desire to get help used against them to dismiss them and treat them as subhuman defectives hits close to home these days, as even people close to me have pulled the "you've admitted to having delusions in the past therefore I can't trust or interpret anything you say as anything more or less than delusion now." That is the worst kind of gaslighting and it's definitely not strictly a gendered problem or only a male tool of emotional and psychological abuse. Mental illness still seems to be a pretty great equalizer when it comes to social stigma and casual, low-level hate speech. Everybody seems to agree "crazy people" aren't necessarily fully human and deserving of equal respect.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:46 AM on September 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Though here's what I perceive as the end result of these reviews - "Crazy people can't be trusted to tell the truth about their experiences--some of them even admit they were delirious/hallucinating--so why should anyone believe a single thing on this blog? I'm sure none of the abuse or neglect actually happened."

Just what those with mental illness need.

Wherever there is a person sharing their personal experience on the internet, a two-bit internet assclown will eventually be by to invalidate that experience because they personally have no experience with it. I've started referring to this as the Paul Ryan Effect and hope it will catch on.
posted by notorious medium at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

They also have a machine for coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), but they’re lying because they’re both decaf.
posted by ovvl at 8:16 AM on September 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

In terms of treatment, I've had a surprising amount over the years, but now my experience are rather old because my last hospitalization was in 2012. And, honestly I've been to some pretty fantastic places. Like places with internet access, and cell phone privileges. Places with equine therapy and shit. That were actuely specialized in my problems, low staff ratios, good visiting policies.

More so, as an LCSW and from some personal experience, I know how stark the programmatic differences are in the good programs (the depth of group, regularity of therapy, how often you see a psychiatrist, responsiveness to symptom presentation)

Different disorders require different approaches, and some people do honestly need run of the mill med adjustment in a safe place. But we really do treat especially the severely mentally ill with a horrid standard of care especially compared to what is out there.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:26 AM on September 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

They also have a machine for coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), but they’re lying because they’re both decaf.

Oh god, yeah, this is real and weirdly insulting when it happens to you. On my last ward it was just "The allegedly-caffeinated coffee becomes a lie at 10 AM," but fuckin' still. I was displeased.

I mean. I understand why they do it. It seems like half of the Really Bad Shit that happens in psych wards, the story starts "So this one patient couldn't sleep..."

But when you're at a point in your life where you can't be trusted with headphones, door locks, light switches, wardrobe choices, cigarettes, or unapproved snacks, you kinda cling to whatever parameters of your existence you're still allowed to regulate on your own, you know?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:47 AM on September 28, 2017 [11 favorites]

There were years that I should have gone to an inpatient ward, or at least there were years that I felt like I wanted or needed to. I never went because I was always told how horrible the experience would be. I think a lot of people like me have a very negative impression of psych wards, and I guess in its own way it's a reflection of stigma against mental illness. For me, at least, inpatient treatment was a line I was scared to cross, because I was led to believe that it meant forfeiting any and all control over my treatment and wellbeing. The result was that I spent many years suffering as I tried to hold things together.

This is actually the first time I've heard that there are psych wards people don't hate. Mind blown.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:19 AM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is actually the first time I've heard that there are psych wards people don't hate. Mind blown.

Yeah but you frequently don't get to pick where you go.

The Northwestern reviews check out.
posted by PMdixon at 1:29 PM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The people running this website and the people contributing the reviews are doing an incredible, painful service. I've thought for a long time of trying to do something like this myself, but I'm glad I was beaten to the punch, because after a time it would have gotten to be too much. It would have changed my life, had it existed earlier. This site doesn't need reviews from family members or anybody else but the patients who have endured what they've endured and finally been allowed to speak freely, allowed to validate each other.

And here's the thing: in another version of that life, one where I walked into a psychiatric hospitalization with zero information and naive hope (a thing that changed the entire shape of my life that came after), I can see that version of myself being like "these are lies, or exaggerations, or something something the system is there to help us! Reach out!". But they're not and often you can't. And I envy people who can believe that they are on my worst days. I envy the version of myself who didn't know I wouldn't be able to contact my loved ones, who was branded non-compliant when I refused drugs, who was asked unacceptable and irrelevant sexual questions by male doctors, who was dismissed, refused, bullied, dehumanized, AND YET due to whiteness, femininity and passing as straight, class signifiers, was objectively treated with more humanity at points than some of the other patients around me.

I've made a personal decision recently to stop using the word "stigma", to replace it with psychiatric ableism, with discrimination, with so often just cruelty or abuse. I declare a ban on platitudes, on "seek help", on a vision of a world in which or psychiatric system's brokenness is easier to not think about, even when you do know.
posted by colorblock sock at 2:05 PM on September 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

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