Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tell Me Your Psych Unit Search Stories

I'm planning to write an article on strip search policies at psychiatric hospitals and that's why I asked anyone who has been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit in  the last three years to take my Strip Search Survey.  Roy pointed out to me that I didn't define 'strip search' and that his hospital does not do this---they ask patients to change into a gown and search their clothes, but not their bodies.  I did assume that people would define strip search as the visual inspection of the skin after the removal of all clothes, and that being told to change with some sort of privacy --in a bathroom, behind a curtain, while a nurse of the same gender holds up a gown or a sheet but isn't looking-- is not a strip search. 

Will you help me with my article?  Can you tell your stories in the comment section and let me quote you?  I will not use 'names' but quote "one commenter said,"  and you are welcome to give your feedback as "Anonymous."  I would like to know what state the hospital you're talking about is in, and if you are a patient, a psychiatrist, a nurse, a family member.  I'm interested in stories of how being searched was handled well and how it was handled badly, stories by hospital personnel.  I know some of you have told your stories here before, but I didn't ask for permission to quote, so feel free to repeat yourself here if you don't mind being quoted.    Also, if you were strip searched, I'd like to know if it was because of a blanket policy at the hospital versus a specific concern the staff had about you and any danger you might pose to yourself or others.


Liz said...

when i was a teenager in a residential treatment facility (in louisville, ky) in 2002, i was strip-searched, to a degree. i had to stand in a bright room in my bra and underwear. towards the end, i had to pull my bra out to shake it, showing i was carrying no contraband. while i wasn't naked, i was an exceedingly modest teenager. i was also embarrassed about my weight, and saw "morbidly obese" written on my chart. i found the experience to be humiliating and degrading, but the (female) nurse completing the search told me it was policy--that there were no other options. the two staff members looked me over and filled out a human girl diagram with my tattoos and scars.

i struggled with the idea of going on a pass out to eat with my mother after a couple of months there, because they told me i would have to be strip-searched again upon my return. later on during that hospitalization, i brought a razor back with me and cut myself in my bedroom, resulting in 60 stitches. strip searching me did no good, in that case, because i brought the razor in my cd player.

as an adult, during my most recent hospitalizations, i was not strip-searched. the most recent time, i was told to strip in the restroom (alone) and hand out my clothing. i was then given a gown to put on in its stead. my clothing was examined and searched, to be returned the next day. i was asked if i had brought anything dangerous with me to the hospital; i hadn't. this was a metropolitan hospital in cincinnati, ohio. this was not a terrible experience for me, though other aspects of being hospitalized were more disturbing to me. when i felt myself losing control, I returned to that hospital.

as an adult, the search process was completed with as much dignity as was possible considering my history of self-destructive behaviors.

Anonymous said...

After you have been held ER for 15 hours and they are ready to admit you to psych ward,nurse brings you to your room, stands there as you strip and hand her your clothes. She watches, takes your clothes, seals them in a bag, hands you a gown and leaves.I forgot to say that your door has a square window cut into it. Blanket policy.If they were really scared I has stuff on me they would have searched me in ER. For what you are asking, the graphic is something else.

Anonymous said...

Dinah, thank you for doing this.

Roy, I have an objection to even what your hospital does. Again, if regular patients aren't being asked to do this, even at hospitals that have safety issues, why are psych patients being asked to do this?

Again, this is stigmatization at its worst.


rob lindeman said...

If you're going to write an article on strip searches, you ought to define what a strip search is. Liz's experience sure sounds like a strip search, even though she didn't need to take off every article of clothing. Nevertheless, the experience was humiliating, degrading, and anti-therapeutic. I suggest broadening the definition as much as reasonably possible.

Dinah said...

I agree that Liz's story sounds traumatic. I asked for 'stories' so I could capture these events without the black and white strip search question. Since I already posted the survey without a precise definition, I thought I would give people a chance to tell me more, and to tell me the good ways things have been handled as well. Remember, I'm the "please complain" person.
Even if I don't use the responses for quotes in the the article, I will link to this post so that people ("people" being a target audience of psychiatrists) can read these responses. Thank you for helping me with this. It's a hard topic to write about.

I do believe that the staff have a right to reasonably protect themselves, and an obligation to protect patient on the unit, but I'm hearing there are sensitive and respectful ways of doing this, as well as terribly distressing ways.

jessa said...

suburban Chicago, IL:

2003, Hospital A: I was taken to the "tub room" (room used for "grooming time"), a large room with an enormous mirror and a locking door. I had to take off my clothes in front of a nurse (female, same gender) down to my underwear. I shook visibly as I did so. She made me spin so she could see my whole body. Then she gave me a gown to wear while she check my clothes and the rest of my belongings.

2004, Hospital B: I was taken into my room, nonlocking door closed, into it's bathroom, nonlocking door open. A female nurse told me to take off my clothes, which I did, shaking down to my underwear. She told me I needed to take off my underwear, too. I covered my face with my hands, crying, and she pulled my underwear down and my bra up so she could see what she needed to see. She gave me a gown to cover up, which I did hastily, before putting my underwear back in place.

2006, Hospital A: I was taken to my room, nonlocking door wide open, but out of the direct line of sight through the door. The female nurse told me to take off my clothes and I started shaking and sobbing into my hands covering my face. The nurse kept saying, "oh, it's no big deal, it's not that bad," when it clearly was very bad for me. I shook and sobbed and took off my clothes. She said she needed me to take off my underwear, too, and I shook and sobbed and said, "no no no no no." She unlatched my bra and took it as far off as possible for a person whose hands are on her face. She pulled my underwear down to my knees. She gave me a gown, which I put on hastily, then I pulled my undergarments back in place. She cheerfully said, "see it wasn't that bad!" and left me with a couple blankets and took my clothes and other things. I wrapped myself up in the blankets as tightly as I could, curled up as small as I could, and had a panic attack for the next hour.

2006, Hospital B: I had been a partial hospital patient for a week before I was admitted inpatient. I was in my assigned room when the nurse, female, said she needed to search me. I asked, "can I refuse? what happens if I refuse?" She didn't answer my question. She repeated that she needed to search me. I refused. She said that if I didn't want to be searched, I should have behaved so that I wouldn't have to be admitted (!). I still refused. She said she had to search me or she could lose her job. I refused. I curled up tightly so she couldn't search me by force (I was sitting on the floor). She left. I assume she made something up to put on the form because she didn't get fired. I wish I had said that if she was more concerned about her job than the well being of her patients, maybe she should lose her job, but I didn't.

jessa said...

Also, I have been inpatient at Hospital A at times and have not been strip searched. They tell me it is their policy to do it when they do it. Other policies on this ward changed throughout my admissions based on who the staff was at the time, so I really don't know if these policies were real and current ward policies or not.

Both Hospital A and Hospital B are in wealthy areas, both in the wealthiest county in the state. Possibly relevant? I would otherwise think that these searches would be more common in poorer areas.

Hospital C, not listed, in St. Paul, MN, did not strip search me at any admission, of three, in 2004 and 2005.

rob lindeman said...

I'm glad I read Jessa's posts before I ate lunch. These stories are absolutely nauseating. You call this "compassionate care"?

Folks, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Protests of "No, not I!!!" will not excuse these enormities. The care of the vulnerable mentally ill in this country stinks to High Heaven, and must be reformed. If the shrinks themselves don't speak up, who's gonna do it?

rob lindeman said...

I'm glad I read Jessa's posts before I ate lunch. These stories are absolutely nauseating. You call this "compassionate care"?

Folks, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Protests of "No, not I!!!" will not excuse these enormities. The care of the vulnerable mentally ill in this country stinks to High Heaven, and must be reformed. If the shrinks themselves don't speak up, who's gonna do it?

Anonymous said...

All hospitals I've been in have been in WA and voluntary. I'm also going to note the reasons for admittance, because I think there has been an evolution to this issue.

1996 (Hospital w/psychiatric wing "A") - No strip search. I had no possessions, so they didn't have anything to search. Admitted for self-harm and suicidal ideations. Diagnosed: Clinical Depression

1997 (Hospital w/psychiatric wing "A") No strip search. Admitted for suicide attempt. Diagnosed: Clinical Depression & Borderline Personality Disorder

2005 (Private Psychiatric Hospital "B") No strip search. Admitted for self-harm and suicidal ideations. Diagnosed: Bipolar II

2007 (Private Psychiatric Hospital "B") Strip search (removal of all clothes except underwear, gown provided as clothes searched) Admitted for self-harm and suicidal ideation. Diagnosed: Bipolar I, GAD and PTSD (the reason for this is my psychiatrist worked on staff and had a more complete profile of me)

2008 (Private Psychiatric Hospital "B") Strip-search (removal of all clothes, including underwear and visual inspection of body) Admitted for self-harm and suicidal ideation. It is important to note that in this instance they did this inspection because my psychiatrist was concerned about the extent of my self-harm and they did end up sending me to the ER for 12 stitches.

Unfortunately, I have more hospitalizations than this, but you get the essence.

In the case of hospital B, when I went there the first time there was an adult unit and a children's unit. In the adult unit, patients spanned the spectrum from floridly psychotic to depression. We were not segregated. There were some instances of people freaking out (throwing things, screaming, escaping), but the staff was outstanding and I never felt not safe and in instances where there was conflict with staff and patients they genuinely seemed to listen.

And then when I went back the second time, the hospital had radically changed their approach. Psychotic, manic, violent patients were held on one unit and the dual diagnosis/"soft" (depression, anxiety, etc) patients on another. How they approached management of patients had radically changed and the influx of patients who were there to dry out or going through detox created a really difficult environment. I could go on at length about this approach, but suffice it to say I will take the raving schizophrenic over an angry in denial meth addict going through withdrawl any day. But the fact is that the hospital makes more money from the addict than the crazy person.

As to the issue of strip search. One of the reasons that Hospital B implemented this practice was not only a matter of safety, but equally about stopping people from smuggling drugs and alcohol in. Which they had problems with. They also eventually stopped letting visitors bring patients food for the same reason, contraband being smuggled in.

(Sorry this so long, I have a lot to say!) The first time they had me remove all my clothes and underwear was traumatizing. Staff was indifferent and I was confused because I hadn't encountered this before. But the one time that they did the full inspection of my body, which was more invasive, I didn't have a problem with at all, because the nurses knew me and I knew them and they took me to a locking bathroom in the admissions area (not on unit so they locked). That door lock and their honest (but very firm) concern made a world of difference.

Signed - Frequent Flyer

Anonymous said...

If a patient has to take off her clothing while a staff member observes, I consider that a strip search.

Like an anonymous poster mentioned, I was also in the ER for several hours without being strip searched. It was only upon transfer to the psych unit, 9 hours later, that I was strip searched. The reason? It was policy. Subsequent admissions at other hospitals did not have the same policy. I kept my clothing on and fared a lot better emotionally.

I understand the arguments for and reasons why some hospitals have singled out psych patients for this practice. But, I think it's wrong. I live in a large city in the U.S., a city with a lot of violence. Anyone who has worked in a hospital knows that violence is not limited to psychiatric patients, it's sometimes family members or ex-lovers or just patients who are mean. Regarding the issue of contraband, all units in a hospital have patients with substance abuse issues and with that the high liklihood of drugs/alcohol being smuggled in. Hospitals don't take the extreme approach and strip search patients upon admission to the GI or Neurology units just because some patients who are admitted have substance abuse issues or because security was called for assistance with some other unruly patient or family member a week ago.

Can you imagine being admitted to have your gallbladder out and told well it's policy that we have to strip search you because we've had a patient who was violent and another who had substance abuse problems, and someone was smoking in the bathroom on a unit with oxygen tanks, and people will surprise you, and we can never be too careful, and we have to keep other patients and staff safe. Safety first. So, please take off your clothes while I watch and if you don't, then we have no choice but to make you.

Even though security gets called on every hospital unit, and even though there are patients with substance abuse issues on every hospital unit, hospitals don't strip search everyone. Sadly, the practice seems only to apply to patients being admitted to some psych units in certain hospitals. I'm relieved not all hospitals do this to psych patients, or I wouldn't be seeing the psychiatrist I see now. I would be too afraid of him.

There may be patients who do not have a problem with being strip searched. This does not justify the practice. There may be patients who wouldn't care if the gynecologist stays in the room and watches while the patient takes off her pants or patients who don't care if the gynecologist uses drapes rather than leaving the entire body exposed at one time. This wouldn't justify the practice of not respecting patient privacy and dignity.

It's hard enough to be a psychiatric patient as it.

ClinkShrink said...

But every neuro, surgical or medical patient who gets admitted gets a physical examination, which functionally is equivalent to a strip search. It's just not called a strip search. Discuss?

rob lindeman said...

Don't psyche patients get PE's too? I used to do PE's on the kids admitted to our psyche unit! You don't do these any more? And if not, why not?

If so, then why do med/surg patients get a physical exam buy no strip search?

Anonymous said...

"But every neuro, surgical or medical patient who gets admitted gets a physical examination, which functionally is equivalent to a strip search. It's just not called a strip search. Discuss?"

I didn't get a physical examination when I was admitted for inpatient surgery a few years ago. The medical clearance took place a couple weeks prior. When I arrived for the surgery I swapped my clothes for a gown in privacy, put the clothes in a bag (didn't turn them over to a nurse to be searched), and toddled over to a bed to await my Versed coctktail. The nurse and I joked about the IV margarita. I assume nobody checked my person for contraband while I was unconscious.

When I go in for a physical examination, I'm given a gown and left in privacy to change into it. Nobody searches my clothes. The doctor knocks on the door and asks if I'm ready before she enters the room. After the exam, she waits until I put my clothes back on to discuss any issues with me. Throughout the process the nurse and doctor treat me with utmost respect.

A physical examination is (I assume) meant to be theraputic. It feels theraputic. I willingly consent to it each and every time. A strip search is anti-theraputic. It's based on the assumption that the patient's illness makes them dangerous and untrustworth. It's humiliating and degrading. I very much doubt anybody consents to it truly willingly.

On a separate issue, it would be interesting to conduct a poll of psychiatric workers to see how many of them have been assaulted by a weapon smuggled in from the outside. I'm guessing there just aren't many.


Anonymous said...

The total irony is that once they started giving me passes to go out for a couple of hours they were supposed to search me and my stuff every time I cam back but they never did. The nurse would glance up and wave me through. People brought in all sorts of contraband including razors (to shave their legs) makeup mirrors(not allowed because they are glass) pills from home (come in handy when you'd rather not take what they want to give you but good luck when it comes to the blood tests). I figure if that was possible, anyone could have brought in a gun. No metal detectors. And people did have major meltdowns and go back to being involuntary and having privileges taken away, by which time the the gun would already have been there. So, I think that the prelim search is really just done to let you know what a piece of human garbage you are to make sure you know how the caste system works.

rob lindeman said...

"If a patient has to take off her clothing while a staff member observes, I consider that a strip search."

Agreed. Even this doesn't happen in the course of a PE. I think the analogy fails, Roy

Anonymous said...

Surely this is not hard to write about. You just have to know: 1) what 'strip search' actually means (strip search, partial strip search, electronic strip search) 2) what a few hospitals are actually doing in various circumstances to various types of patients where violence is prevalent and where it isn't 3) how the practice of some form of strip searching affects certain patients. Then see how we're applying the 4th amendment in other arenas and look at whether you think hospitals are in line with that. Too many "ifs" and "it seems" here. Happy researching.

Jen said...

First, A PE is absolutely not equivalent to a strip search. A PE is also voluntary in that you will not be forcibly sedated and restrained if you refuse. You are permitted to leave AMA; no such thing exists without at least 72 hours post admission to a psych ward. I am offended at the analogy, honestly.

Second, I was strip searched 2 years ago. It was in a private university, top five hospital in new york city, new york state. The admission was voluntary, for depression. I was told that I was being searched because it was the policy because they needed to mark all scars and open wounds present on my body in case more appeared later - to prevent litigation. I protested I had no history of violence against myself or others and no diagnosis of personality disorder. I was told the policy was across the board. I protetested that the other branch of this same hopsital, where I had been a month earlier, did not strip search me. They matter of factly said that I was lying because it was a hospital wide policy.

I was directed to take off all my clothing except underwear and bra, and turn around holding out all my limbs one at a time. There were two women (I am female) present. The door was closed. I was then asked to remove my bra, replace it, and then lower my underwear front and back, then replace it. I was then told to replace my clothing while they continued searching my belongings. One nurse seemed apologetic. The other was angry that I was questioning the procedure.

I was biting back tears of shame, humiliation and flat out terror, despite never having been abused in any way. It was a gross violation of my privacy and personhood.

rob lindeman said...

"A PE is also voluntary in that you will not be forcibly sedated and restrained if you refuse."

My God, I forgot about consent. There's your major differentiator right there.

Anonymous said...

ClinkShrink - I did not have a physical examination involving the removal of all my clothes when I had back-surgery nor in the multiple drs appts, MRIs, or nerve tests I had preceding the surgery. I have been in the ER a couple of times in recent months (non-psychiatric) and never had a physical examination involving the removal of all my clothes. Nor was that needed at my subsequent follow-up appts with my primary care dr.

Signed - Frequent Flyer

Anonymous said...

Clink, I've been through hospital ERs for assorted physical issues - appendicitis, kidney stones, ovarian cysts, etc, over the years. Never had any kind of PE involving removal of clothing, including those exams of the most intrusive variety, like pelvic exams. Certainly nothing without consent. Only when voluntarily hospitalized for depression was I strip searched. I'm female, 5"1, 100 lbs, no personality disorder, long history of depression, no history of personality disorder, violence, or self injury. I'm the furthest thing from a threat.

Jane said...

I feel really sad that people have had such bad experiences. Some of these strip searches sound unnecessarily harsh. Like it would be harsh even for a physical exam. I agree with the people that a hospital gown should be utilized every time for modesty. I don't know why that is not a given. Even if the staff really believes in the searches, why can't they just search body parts one at a time via maneuvering of the hospital gown.

But then I also really believe in karma. What goes around, comes around. A hospital cannot be that insensitive and not have that come back to haunt them down the line. I started thinking about Nurse Ratched from Cuckoo's Nest. I felt like McMurphy was her karma. She was such a controlling, evil nurse for so long that she finally got her comeuppance. God sent her McMurphy to punish her. I feel like it was more blatant in the book that she had lost control because of him. In the movie, they just show the chief ending her reign (destroying the window (barrier) to the outside world) and running away at the end. But in the book, all those voluntary guys start checking themselves out and leave her behind before the chief does that. If I remember the book correctly, I think that's what happens. One by one, they convince themselves McMurphy fled the hospital, and they decide to check themselves out and follow suit. I wish they had shown that in the movie. Show all those men walking out on the nurse. They also didn't show that the staff had turned on her well before the patients did. The staff didn't like her either, and you get the impression in the book that the only reason they tolerate her is because she keeps things running smoothly with her control of the patients...until McMurphy.

One of these days, these hospitals will get their "McMurphy." A really rambunctious patient who will not put up with that kind of crap. And whoever is in charge of hospital policy will go down just like Nurse Ratched did. When anyone is too harsh, it comes back to them. I really believe that.

On a side note, the guy who played Dr. Spivey in the movie is an actual psychiatrist. He was the medical director of the hospital Cuckoo's Nest was filmed at. And he said in an interview that he didn't think Cuckoo's Nest was anti-mental hospital or that it was offensive....except for one thing. He had no problems with all of the cursing or references to sex. The only thing he was really offended by was Nurse Ratched. Even for back then, when I'm sure it was really harsh, he thought the nurse depicted in the movie was way out of line and was not the norm for mental hospitals.

You can only be a Nurse Ratched for so long, and be totally unreasonable, before your colleagues start complaining and the patients start rebelling.

That could be why Dinah says she enjoys her work so much and doesn't feel like the enemy of her patients. Maybe she's just nicer to them, so they have no reason to look at her like that...

Anonymous said...

ClinkShrink writes, "But every neuro, surgical or medical patient who gets admitted gets a physical examination, which functionally is equivalent to a strip search. It's just not called a strip search. Discuss?"

I think others have done a good job addressing the difference between a strip search and a physical exam. Making someone take their clothes off under threat of force or actual force is completely different than a patient consenting to a physical exam. They're not even close.

Once when hospitalized with a renal problem, I was writhing in the bed and a nurse took my pants off so she could cath me. I was in so much pain and my bladder felt like it was going to explode. If I could have found a cath kit I would have cathed myself. I'm grateful to that nurse, and I'm not at all traumatized by what she did. She helped me. I knew if at any point I had told her to stop, she would have. She didn't take off my pants to make the hospital feel better, or to follow some policy, or to give the staff a false sense of security. She did it to help ease my pain.

Contrast that with the shame I felt when I was admitted as a voluntary patient to the psych ward and upon admission I am told to take off all my clothing in the presence of a nurse. I tell her I am not comfortable with that and she can search my pockets but I do not want to take off all of my clothing. I have made no threats to her or any of the staff, and I am a voluntary patient admitted for depression. I have no substance abuse issues. I tell her I am no threat to her or her staff. I cry and I beg. She simply says, "I'm sorry but it's the policy." I learn that if I do not comply she will bring in reinforcements and they will remove my clothing by force. I am not grateful to her because she didn't do it to help me. She did it because of some warped policy. The result was trauma and increased depression.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, I have had my clothes stripped off of me after a car crash and when delivering my kids. That was fine and necessary. I got to keep my shirt on when I had the babies. A parade of doctors, nurses, meds students and orderlies saw me at some point during childbirth. I didn't care. It's so completely different.

Sunny CA said...

I agree with Rob's comments on this issue.

Jessa said "She said that if I didn't want to be searched, I should have behaved so that I wouldn't have to be admitted (!)."

Jessa's statement resonated with me as this was the general attitude of inpatient staff all through my hospitalization. The staff on my ward (large private hospital and I was an well-insured private-pay patient) intentionally inflict pain on patients (and tell them they are doing so intentionally) with the expressed purpose of teaching the patients "a lesson". The abuse is for two reasons: (1) to make the patient docile while in-patient and (2) to convince the patient they'd better not return.

Do nurses and other staff purposely abuse patients on cardiac wards so they will "behave and take their meds" when they are released? Would they strip search a cardiac patient because he/she should have "behaved" and if he had "behaved" (by eating right and taking his meds) he would not have had to be re-admitted?

My psych ward only allowed family during one hour a day. Without family and other neutral people to monitor behavior of staff, the staff can treat the patients any way they want during the other 23 hours. There seems to be an accepted culture of psych-patient punishment designed to encourage patients to not return in-patient and on-ward to be docile, sit quietly in groups for 8 hours a day, and take all meds while on ward.

Anonymous said...

Anon writes, "you just have to know: 2) what a few hospitals are actually doing in various circumstances to various types of patients where violence is prevalent and where it isn't."

Excellent point. Let's look at the numbers. If we find that men commit more acts of violence in hospitals than women, should we strip all men? I wonder how this would make male psychiatrists feel. If we find that it occurs more often by people in lower socioeconomic groups, should we just strip all poor people? It's offensive to target one group of people and make them pay for the sins of a few. I was strip searched for one reason only - I was a psychiatric patient. I didn't deserve it. I was not a threat to anyone.

Jane said...

"There seems to be an accepted culture of psych-patient punishment designed to encourage patients to not return in-patient and on-ward to be docile, sit quietly in groups for 8 hours a day, and take all meds while on ward."

As someone who was once inpatient, I found a really good way to deal with that. Call them out on it. I don't mean yell, curse, act profane, etc, etc. But if they are actually trying to "punish" you by saying you brought the strip search on yourself, then reasonably and calmly explain to them that their behavior is inappropriate. This may not work the first time, but I guarantee that they will find it unnerving to see you so calm and collected and making so much sense. Continue with this behavior for the duration of your stay and by the end of it the staff may actually start being warm towards you.

That's what happened to me at least. I think they were intimidated by me at first. I saw the psych notes once and the doc said I came off as very "emotionally shallow." At one point, I swear this happened, a belligerent staff member apologized to me when I stared him down, calmly and cooly, for yelling and losing his temper with another patient. He later said that he really liked that patient and he acted like that because sometimes it's hard to see someone that you really like getting out of control (the patient was being rude and had some kind of temper tantrum earlier). I didn't even need to say anything. He knew why I was looking at him, and I made him feel like he had to apologize. By the end of my stay, they were actually warm towards me. I think they just thought I was an emotionless and creepy kid. But I think I somehow gained their respect somewhere along the line. One of them even said he put a good word in for me with the doc.

I have no clue why they liked me. I was a very serious person back then and I was very emotionally shallow. I rarely divulged even a small smile. I guess they found this quality endearing???

Really though, just stare them down and be cool and calm. No matter how belligerent or sarcastic they get. I noticed this even works with doctors who are rude to me. If I continue to be polite, they will stop being rude at some point.

It might sound bad that I am asking people to do this during a a terrible strip search (where a huge emotional reaction is warranted and not a sign of mental illness), but it might gain you some respect with the staff if you can show them you disapprove without losing your cool.

Anonymous said...

The huge emotional reaction during the search is to go numb and or go back to a place you have been before. I did what they wanted. That has nothing to do with why they treated me like crap. I was pretty complaint in the hospital. It is hard not to be compliant on such high doses of meds.

Anonymous said...

I was cutting in the ER exam room prior to admission to a community hospital. They took the blade and all the clothes but I was in a gown at the time. This almost seems lax to me.

Bathwater said...

When I was transferred for a "voluntary hold" after a suicide attempt I was striped to my underwear at the county mental facility.

They then took note of any identifying marks including scars and tattoos. IT was as close to taking photos without taking photos as they could get.

Dinah said...

Thank you to everyone who helped me with my article. I hoping you will help to make some changes. I'm sorry I couldn't use all your quotes. The article is up here:


Steve Daviss MD DFAPA said...

...and a clickable link is here...

Well-done article, Dinah.

Steve Daviss MD DFAPA said...

Sunny CA wrote "There seems to be an accepted culture of psych-patient punishment..."

There is nothing acceptable about "punishing" people who are admitted for treatment of a psychiatric illness. I'm not aware of research demonstrating effectiveness of punishment, nor is it something we are taught.
Every instance of such "punishment" should be documented in a letter to the hospital CEO and then to the Joint Commission if nothing is addressed.

Please speak up to the right people to bring about change where this is happening. Treatment has nothing to do with punishment, and rudeness and disrespect is never acceptable. There are respectful ways to handle even the most intolerable behaviors; as Jane points out, this includes hospital staff behavior, as well.

Anonymous said...

I have been in box hill psych ward(melbourne australia) once as a vountary patient and about ten times as an involuntary patient. Im not an off the walls sectioned maniac , its just that i didnt think i ad needed treatment but i was too nsafe to not be there.
They know me very well and that i had dont bring objects in , yes i broke cd's there and found glass on monring walks but i dont bring in objects with me .
I have been sexually abused from the ages 8 to 15 , i hate my body -i wear bikinis in the shower.
This wasnt the most major time but it jsut made me feel extremley uncomfortable.

My second admission was one of the most daunting. I had come over via the main hospital after i had taken a massive overdose which left me comatised for 6 days.
I could barely stand let alone walk because of the side effects and the fact i had been in bed not moving. I got helped off the ambulance bed and they told me they needed to search me. I had been in a bloody hospital gown for the last week and in icu , its not like i could of taken anything.
Long story short , as they were telling me to take my top off i dropped to the bed my legs couldnt take it. they though i had been hiding something , when i tried to explain i didnt have the strength and they can search me while i sat down they called a code grey ( it gets security and several nurses from a different ward to come) and they held me to the bed and cut off all of my clothes . Half of them were men , it was so degrading and humilating and brought back one too many flashbacks i was hysterical and frightened beyond belief. It was bad enough lying to the bed with no clothes on but ehn they cut off my bra and knickers , i dont have a word to describe that feeling it was horrible . When they ere finshed they just got up and well walked out , leaving me there confused and ashamed. A nurse came back with a blanket while she went looking for something for me to wear fro the lock box , i went itno these little panic attacks in the corner of the room . I didnt think that it was fair at all.

Sorry it make no sense i dont relaly know what to say or how to say it , its all so clear in my mind but confused as it comes out.

Anonymous said...

how can you get strip searched lewdly?
any hosps. or rehabs known for something real bend and spread in front of a lot of staff?

EJH said...

It is an organizational evolution designed to put you in your place. A (sudo) sexual assault softens anyone up. I can't believe the mental health profession does not recognize PTSD as a side effect of these. The gowns identify you as different, sick. Furthermore, if you have no clothes, you can not refuse them, you can not leave. These are (mental) shackles placed on you. If they are so worried about contraband, then employees should be searched prior to the start of their shift.

Anonymous said...

The idea of forcibly strip-searching people who want to die enough as it is, pisses me off so very much. If I were admitted to a location that did such a thing my desire to die would sky-rocket by at least 100 percent. Being treated like that wouldn't scare me into "behaving and taking my meds" it would encourage me to follow through with the alternative of suicide rather than be put through that kind of trauma. This would be especially detrimental to people who have been molested, raped, taken advantage of, etc. This is some sick stuff.

Anonymous said...

I have worked in the Psychiatric field for over 15 years both as a floor nurse and a nurse manager and have never felt comfortable with the full body search. I believe it goes against people's 4th amendment rights and is traumatic and humiliating for the patient. Currently, I am working on a Evidenced base paper to research this topic. If your study is complete is it possible to see the results? Thanks, Elise

Dinah said...

107 responses

Summary See complete responses

Were you Strip Searched upon admission?

Yes 60 56%
No. 47 44%
If you answered YES: Were you a voluntary patient at the time of admission?

Yes 45 42%
No 19 18%
If you answered YES: What type of hospital were you in?

Private Psychiatric Hospital 29 27%
A Psychiatric Unit of a Community Hospital 27 25%
A State Psychiatric Hospital 10 9%
A State Hospital specificially for Forensic/ court-ordered patients 0 0%
If you answered Yes, did you find the experience of being strip searched to be very distressing?

Yes 47 44%
No 13 12%