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.