Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Writing the Book: Hospitalization Part II

Well...I didn't do much this week except tell stories about how great my tour of the psych ward was last week. (How funny does that sound?) I know I mentioned last week that I need to do another interview with someone who has experience working in inpatient facilities. This time I need someone who works in a state institution, because state-run facilities are different from private facilities.

I posted on a social networking site to see if any of my friends, acquaintances, or colleagues had a connection to Twin Valley, our local state facility. And you know what? One of my friends was supervised by a guy who did his postdoctoral work at Twin Valley. So she put us in contact with each other.  (Katie, you're the best!) He and I have emailed back and forth a few times, and we're going to meet next Thursday to talk. 

I'm pretty excited because he's a forensics specialist. He does things like evaluate whether someone is competent to stand trial, and whether they were "sane" or "insane" at the time of an offense. He's been very enthusiastic about helping me out, and I know I'm going to come out of that interview loaded with lots of great information.

Let's see, what else can I tell you about my visit last week? Well, I know I told you how they'd suicide proofed everything. One thing they had done was use piano hinges on the doors instead of regular hinges. Regular hinges -- especially on big, heavy institutional doors -- stick out (see top picture at right), and someone could loop a sheet or something over it and hang themselves. (Hanging seemed to be the big concern.)   There's no way to loop something over a piano hinge (see bottom picture at right), and the hinges go from floor to ceiling, so there's no gap between the door and the jamb, either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Writing the Book: Hospitalization

I'm currently working on a chapter about psychiatric emergencies like suicidality and homicidality, and what happens when people are hospitalized.  As part of my research, I went and visited a local private hospital's psychiatric unit.  Since I had only ever toured a state institution before, I was impressed by just how nice the ward was.  It was like -- surprise! -- a hospital.

Everything had been suicide-proofed, so nobody could cut themselves or hang themselves from anything...including the pipes inside the toilet tank.  (How, you might wonder, would someone hang themselves from the pipes inside a toilet tank?  Well, they tie something to the pipes, wrap the something around their neck, and lean forward until they pass out.  Obviously once they pass out they just become dead weight against whatever's around their neck.  But as I said, nobody could do that on the unit.  The tanks were sealed and locked down.)

Now I'm working on connecting with someone who has spent time working in a state institution, because there's a difference between private hospitals and state-funded institutions.  Because you know how much money goes toward mental health care in our communities?  Not much.

Here's a picture of the old insane asylum that used to stand in Columbus, Ohio.  I believe the date on the picture is 11-7-1909.  According to some accounts, this was the largest asylum in the world at one point, with 1,300 beds.  It seems to me that Bedlam must have been bigger, but it's still an interesting bit of trivia.