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Abuse to Patients in the Mental Health Care System

Updated on June 12, 2014

Introduction.

Welcome to a brand new hub on mental health awareness. In this hub we are going to be covering a wide variety of topics, scenarios and experiences both from myself and from other people I know. I would like to add a disclaimer that I am not a mental health carer, but a "mental" patient who has experienced these types of abuse first hand from so-called professionals that want to help.

I am in no way trying to put people off of the healthcare system, nor am I talking about every single doctor, nurse or anything else.

Form of Abuse that take Place.

People think that mental health carers are kind, loving people with a lot patience and the mindset they truly want to help and be a good person. In some cases this is true, but others it is not. People often do not realise that many forms of abuse take place in this section of the healthcare act and how upsetting and distressing it is. We're going to cover each topic separately with examples.

So what forms of abuse exist?

  • Emotional abuse of the patient - twisting their words, writing down things that did not happen, causing them stress, threatening them with forced care they do not need, keeping them in the dark, smirking, laughing or displaying inappropriate negative body language to the patient. Telling the other doctors things about them that are not true/were not mentioned. Making the patient feel physically or emotionally threatened or bad about themselves.
  • Verbal Abuse - rude or nasty comments, derogatory phrasing, discriminating age, gender, race, religion or mental illness. Laughing at them or telling them they are very unwell. Verbally putting the patient down.
  • Medicinal Abuse - in some cases people have been piled up and piled up with medication to the point they are overdosed, ill or suffering with long-term problems from the use of medication in some cases that they do not even need. Too quick to shovel the medication down people's throats when it isn't required.
  • Intimate Abuse - in some hospitals where the inpatients stay on a section, or on a voluntary admission, there have been cases of intimate abuse to both male and female patients from staff/nurses/doctors there.
  • Poor or Refused Diagnosis - Very common, it is where the doctors refuse to tell the patient what they have been diagnosed with but tell everyone else, they diagnose too quickly or generically e.g. someone with Bipolar symptoms diagnosed as having a personality disorder or hormonal problem or someone with Schizophrenia as being Manic. Refusing to give a proper diagnosis.
  • Patient Neglect - Not just in hospital with their actual care, but for outpatients who are being left in the dark, neglecting to see signs of a serious problem e.g. suicide, self-harming, a bad episode. Not taking the patient seriously, giving them the wrong or harmful medication, misdiagnosis, not giving the patient the help they need.
  • Personal Information being Handed Out - Where the personal details or information of a patient is exposed, passed around or given out to unwanted people without permission.


So what can we do about this? As a mental health care patient there is very little you can do. Nobody will listen to your concerns, thoughts or fears and will pass it off a a form of psychotic episode. I have personal experience with bullying from a psychiatric nurse on an outpatient basis. I will cover each topic in a separate hub below so if you are interested, please keep reading.

The Emotional Abuse We Endure

Many patients experience emotional abuse on some level. People will automatically assume that because the patient is needing mental health care rather than physical that they are incapacitated, unable to make rational decisions or think for themselves. This is extremely untrue, almost every patient knows what happened, is able to understand what is currently happening and how they feel. Mental Health Care Patients are the same as anyone else and often have a very good intelligence level but people will not listen to them.

For this research I have used my own experiences and the experiences of people I know. Each have come back with the same points:

  • I was forced into doing something I didn't want to do.
  • They spoke at me rather than to me and treated me like a child or an animal.
  • I felt threatened or patronised.
  • I left appointments feeling far worse than when I went in.
  • One carer in particular was the problem.
  • They were diagnosed wrong by a nurse and rediagnosed by a doctor.
  • They were threatened that if they didn't agree with everything the nurse/doctor said the mental health act would be enforced and they would be taken away.


Here is some of my story:


My first experience with emotional abuse was when I spoke to a psychiatric nurse and she was collecting some information for my psychological assessment the next day by a doctor. I gave her my symptoms and how I was feeling as best as I could and at first she seemed very nice. But things started to change and she began to smirk at me and make rude comments. She spoke to me in a tone of voice like how you would speak to a disturbed child or a dog, not as an adult human. When I would say things, she would cock her head to the side and narrow her eyes at me and I couldn't understand why. She told me in an extremely patronising voice, trying not to laugh "I don't think you're very well, little girl" I was outraged and humiliated. I asked her exactly what did she think was wrong with me and she told me I'm depressed and in desperate need of care because it is so bad, I would like to point out that I had no symptoms of depression whatsoever $6, this was clarified the next day after speaking to an actual doctor who diagnosed me with Psychosis - Schizophrenia. This woman held my hand, made a big show of everything and sat me down slowly to tell me I'm an extreme danger to myself and that I am a very abnormal person and I am just confused because my depression is so bad (which I did not have)

My next round of problems happened when I read the letter the woman had written for the doctor, she (the doctor) told me she would read it out to me and I should stop her if anything was wrong. I stopped her after every single sentence. The woman had written down I had called her abusive names, I was singing and rapping during the conversation and I had emotionally unresolved feelings towards my mother with whom I lived with and had no problems with at all, I never even mentioned her.

I explicitly requested this woman was to have nothing to do with me, to not have any of my information, to not read my notes or to ever speak to me again.

The damage was done and the reference kept, after my appointment I was checked in on by nurses twice before receiving another appointment which I was told I was being referred for sectioning. Now, as it turns out I find that the woman from the previous appointment that had caused the problems, was purposely sitting in on meetings and feeding them more and more lies about me and no matter what I said, they were going to believe her over me because I was the patient and she was the nurse. I may be a mental patient, but I am not silly and I do know what happened during that appointment. More notes had been passed around and I was sent for my sectioning assessment by a different doctor, this doctor was very nice and he agreed with me entirely that I wasn't dangerous or in any need of sectioning.

I then had a breech of personal information which I will explain in another segment.

The scenario caused me a lot of stress and upset. The things the woman said to me and how she made me feel made me want to cut and harm myself, I went home and cried every single day this was happening because of her and nobody took my complaints or me seriously because I'm "crazy". To a person suffering with a mental health condition that has gone for help to be treated in a poor or derogatory manner shouldn't be allowed to stand. Some people wouldn't be fussed by the tone of voice or what the nurse is saying, but to others it can cause an extreme level of upset and stress.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal Abuse. You guessed right, abuse that has been handed out verbally to a patient. Verbal abuse in the mental health care system is the same as anywhere else and can be extremely upsetting for the patient involved.

  • Speaking to a patient in a derogatory manner.
  • Making sarcastic, rude or upsetting comments on the person's physical or mental condition e.g. you're not very well, I feel sorry for you, you're an abnormal person.
  • Laughing or smirking at the patient.
  • Swearing or using inappropriate language.
  • Telling other health carers who will be working with you things that are not true.
  • Lying to you or refusing to tell you what is going on.
  • Making hurtful remarks to or about you to other people.

As you may have read above, I have had experience with some of this. There is no excuse for being verbally abusive to a patient. Some would argue that patients are verbally abusive, however, voluntary patients are rarely abusive unless they feel they are being treated unfairly. Often when it comes to Schizophrenia, thought disorders, Paranoia or other issues, the doctor will claim they did not say anything and pass it off as a paranoid symptom or hearing voices and say the patient is not able to make their own choices. I have personally witnessed this happen. Verbal abuse can be very outright or very snide and it is easily covered up. The best way to prevent it is to record the conversation, take notes on it or to have someone else with you at the time that does not have a mental health condition e.g. a parent, sibling or a friend.

TOP FACTS.


  • More than 50% of patients will experience some form of abuse.
  • People with a mental health condition are rarely dangerous to the public.
  • Not all mental health conditions (including Psychosis) require inpatient or medicinal treatment.
  • Doctors/nurses in some cases receive rewards, benefit or a bonus for sectioning patients.
  • The healthcare system earns more money from prescription medication so if they can find any excuse to give it out, they will.
  • Many patients leave appointments feeling worse than when they went in.
  • Some patients self-harm or attempt suicide in order to escape the clutches of the doctors/nurses, hospitalisation or the way they have been treated due to forms of abuse.
  • Patients can be abused mentally, physically or intimately on hospital wards.

Medicinal Abuse

The medicines used to treat Psychosis can be very expensive. There is often a set price for prescriptions and the majority of people have to pay for them. There are some cases where medicinal abuse can be a very acute problem.


  • The patient is misinformed about their medication.
  • The patient is given medication they do not need.
  • The patient is given medication they really do not want.
  • The patient is not made away of side effects.
  • The patient is given a medication that can do more harm than good.
  • The patient is misdiagnosed and given the wrong medication.
  • The patient is forced to take it.
  • The patient has been made ill from the medication and told to keep taking it.
  • The patient does not know what they are taking.
  • The doctor/nurse receives some type of reward.


The statements above are not true for every case, but in many cases a patient is dishes out at least one form of medication almost immediately. It is almost a standard procedure. I am not telling you or anyone else to stop your medication or to refuse to take it, but you have to be aware of everything that can happen from it. Medications have been known to damage the body and even cut short a person's lifespan, so please be very careful and do as much research as you can and don't just take something because your doctor says you need it. If you truly feel you don't need it, you cannot get a logical reason from the doctor why you need it or you feel the cons outweigh the pros then do not take it. If you are capable of strong, rational judgement it is likely you currently do not need medication.

Like with any form of medication, anti-psychotics can be very dangerous if misused or dished out incorrectly.

Intimate Abuse

Intimate Abuse is what it says on the tin. The majority of patients who have been intimately abused e.g. touched, forced or harassed in that manner have experienced it on a ward. It can happen to either male or female patients and ones who are severely incapacitated may not be able to fully understand what is happening. Abuse in the hospital wards is the same as in care homes, residential homes or anywhere else that people are being cared for by staff and are physically or mentally unfit to care for themselves, this makes them extremely vulnerable and an easy target for predators.

Not everyone is to be trusted and that includes doctors/nurses. Anyone could be abused by anyone at any given time. There are no restrictions to age, gender, religion, race or orientation.

If you or someone you know is going into hospital or a care home, please do your research and thoroughly check it out.

Signs to look out for: (more for severely incapacitated patients)

  • The person suddenly becomes extremely withdrawn.
  • The person tells you they are being abused.
  • They grab or touch themselves inappropriately.
  • There are unusual marks on the body e.g. bruising in more intimate areas.
  • They suddenly become fearful of doctors/nurses or someone in particular.
  • Their emotions become more extreme or they become violent towards the staff.
  • They do not wish to be left alone with a staff member/ other patient.
  • They request to be moved to a different hospital and refuse to give reasons why.
  • They try to contact the police.

Source

A Poor/ Unclear or Misdiagnosis.

This is one of the most common forms of patient neglect where they are wrongly diagnosed, given a poor or unclear diagnosis or not told what they are diagnosed with. It is often far more stressful for the patient to be kept in the dark than know what is wrong with them.

A wrong diagnosis can lead to all kinds of complications from stress to sectioning and everything in between. It is important the patient or person talking on behalf of the patient gets everything as accurate as possible. If the patient isn't allowed to have a say in what they feel is wrong, the doctor isn't doing their job correctly.

Facts:

  • People are very commonly misdiagnosed as having depression and nurses in particular are very quick to say they have it.
  • It can take a long time to diagnose certain conditions especially if the patient isn't displaying or talking about symptoms.
  • Some mental illnesses produce the same or similar symptoms.
  • Sometimes a doctor will deduce you are having certain symptoms even if you do not mention them.
  • Your physical appearance is taken into account.
  • A doctor will assess every movement, every expression, every word and every sound.
  • Nurses CANNOT diagnose Psychotic episodes or forms of psychosis, only a professional psychiatrist can do that.
  • Mental illness is less likely to be diagnosed in people under the age of 16 as symptoms can present something else e.g. hormonal problem, stress or a non-psychotic issue.

Patient Neglect

It is as common in mental health as it is in any other form of health, social or educational care. Patients can be neglected for many reasons and in many ways whether it is physically, emotionally or socially and it can be very damaging.

There have been cases where people have gone to their doctors and said they desperately need help or they are going to kill themselves, someone else, commit a crime or do something awful and the doctor has not given them help, they have gone off and done it and the doctor has received almost no backlash for patient neglect based on the fact the person has a mental health issue.

In hospitals people are neglected for basic needs as well as their actual healthcare, their treatment, emotional consideration, intimate abuse and lack of attention.

Forms of Neglect:

  • Not taking the patient's thoughts or desires into account.
  • The patient feels worse after a session.
  • The staff do not take up a complaint properly about another patient/staff member (in or outpatient)
  • The patient is not being seen regularly enough OR being seen too frequently.
  • The patient begins to deteriorate.
  • Doctors/nurses fail to recognise obvious or worsening symptoms.
  • The patient is misdiagnosed repeatedly.
  • The patient is suffering physically via a health concern or from another person on a ward.
  • The patient is being kept in the dark.

Personal Information

As with anything, personal information should be treated with the strictest confidentiality. Sometimes this is not the case, especially in the world of mental health care.

Speaking from experience, my information was passed around the care team as I was an outpatient, they held meetings about me and discussed me. I thought it was only the doctor and the person I had an appointment with but it turned out to be the entire team even of people I didn't know. As I mentioned above, there was one nurse who tried to destroy me, lied about me and emotionally/verbally abused me whilst under her care and she continued to do so. My personal details and all the details of my appointments were being discussed with her after I requested for her to have nothing to do with me, my records or anything mentioned about me. I only found out after another nurse let it slip. They had gone behind my back.

  • Shortly after this, suddenly someone phoned my work at the local corner shop and told them I was dangerous, vicious, a threat to public safety and I had escaped going to hospital on a Section 3. All of which was untrue, my employer almost fired me because of this. I hadn't told any friends or family such details, nor could my doctors have done anything. Suddenly after this the woman from before stops discussing me or being involved in my appointments (After I questioned it)

Your personal information is being shared around an entire hospital of staff as well as your own doctor and other people on other programmes or teams. You do not truly know who has the information.

Signs your information has been sent out:

  • You start receiving anonymous/ abusive calls.
  • Someone phones your work or school.
  • People suddenly find out about your mental health condition when you didn't tell anyone anything.
  • People know your personal details e.g. address, medical record, workplace, family members or phone number.
  • People start treating you differently.
  • Someone tells you that your information has been put out there.
  • You are suddenly fired from work, excluded from school or college.
  • Your family find out.

The Conclusion

Mental health abuse happens all over the world to all genders, races, orientations and ages of people and it should not be taken lightly. If you even have the slightest suspicion a person you know is being neglected or abused by their health carer, you need to talk to them and make a serious complaint before it gets worse. We must not allow the neglect and abuse that happens to patients to continue.

I was friends with a girl suffering from a mental health problem and she was neglected for over a year. Now she has finished her course of treatment, the treatment and service she received damaged her so much she began drinking heavily, taking drugs, relapsing and self-harming which she previously did not do.

Please be aware I am not talking about every single case, every single person or every single hospital, but this is a form of awareness that needs spread.

Leave your comments down below, any negativity, hate, abuse or inappropriate comments will be removed and reported. Share your thoughts or stories below and I wish you all the best of luck and hope this hub may have helped someone out.

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