ENUSP -Forced psychiatric interventions constitute a violation of rights and disable care

Human rights context

Since 2006, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) calls for a paradigm shift to break away from paternalistic laws and paternalistic attitudes towards persons with disabilities, and shift to respectful support of decision-making based on the person’s own will and preferences. The implicit call of the UN CRPD to put an end to forced psychiatric treatments has been made explicit by several publications of the CRPD Committee, and especially by the Guidelines to Article 14. The Guidelines make clear that the detention of persons with psychosocial disabilities under domestic legislation on the grounds of their actual or perceived impairment and supposed dangerousness to themselves and/or to others “is discriminatory in nature and amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”[1]

 

Nevertheless, two UN treaty bodies currently are in conflict with the standards set by the UN CRPD: the Human Rights Committee[2] and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) in their document “Rights of persons institutionalized and medically treated without informed consent”. Yet the Human Rights Committee admits that forced measures are harmful: “The Committee emphasizes the harm inherent in any deprivation of liberty and also the particular harms that may result in situations of involuntary hospitalization.” [3] The Human Rights Committee even recommends States parties “to revise outdated laws and practices” and says that “States parties should make available adequate community-based or alternative social-care services for persons with psychosocial disabilities, in order to provide less restrictive alternatives to confinement.” However, despite this, the Human Rights Committee acknowledges the possibility of forced measures, provided they are applied “as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be accompanied by adequate procedural and substantive safeguards established by law.”[4]

Also the SPT allows forced commitment and forced treatment, but they go even further by saying that abolition would violate the “right to health” and the “right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment”. For instance, the SPT states “…placement in a psychiatric facility may be necessary to protect the detainee from discrimination, abuse and health risks stemming from illness”[5], “The measure [treatment without consent] must be a last resort to avoid irreparable damage to the life, integrity or health of the person concerned…”[6]. In addition, the SPT acknowledges restraints as a legitimate measure: “Restraints, physical or pharmacological … should be considered only as measures of last resort for safety reasons”[7], and further allows for “medical isolation”[8].

It is interesting to note that before the publication of these two documents mentioned above, the thematic report “Torture in Health Care Settings” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/HRC/22/53), urged an absolute ban on forced psychiatric interventions, in order to ensure that persons with psychosocial, intellectual and other disabilities be free from torture and ill-treatment. However his voice apparently was not heard, as well as other voices documenting numerous violations of human rights in psychiatric institutions. One of them is the report of FRA issued in 2012, which reveals the trauma and fear that people experience, and states that “the extremely substandard conditions, absence of health care and persistent abuse have resulted in deaths of residents in institutional care.”[9]

 

Therefore, it can be seen that the arguments in favour of the administration of forced measures are based on false grounds, because as has been proven by numerous sources, including CPT reports and the sources mentioned above, psychiatric institutions in no case can be considered a safe haven from discrimination, abuse, torture and ill treatment. With regard to medical considerations and care we put forward the following:

 

Forced psychiatric interventions are not care.

Care is supposed to result in improved well-being and recovery. Well-being – or mental health – is a very personal, intrinsic value, which cannot be produced by force. Caring for one another is one of the best things that people can offer to each other. On the contrary, forced psychiatric interventions are very traumatizing, and result in suffering and more psychosocial problems. It makes the situation worse, and is amongst the worst things that people can do to each other. There is a huge difference between forced interventions and care. They are the total opposite of each other.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions disable care.

Forced psychiatric interventions are counter-productive to mental health and care, and represent a “breach of contact”. This can be seen on the one hand, for example, with nurses who stop trying to communicate or provide support, and resort to forced interventions. It can also be seen on the other hand, in the feelings of misunderstanding and trauma of the person subjected to forced interventions, which disable meaningful contact. It is obvious that good contact and communication are necessary for good mental health care. The end of communication, as is induced by forced psychiatric interventions, is a very harmful practice, which makes meaningful contact, and therefore mental health care in itself, impossible.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions do not result in safety.

Due to suffering, increased psychosocial problems, and a lack of any support for recovery caused by forced psychiatric interventions, the risks of escalation increase, and can even result in an endless circle of struggle and escalation, as our experiences show. The common argument given “to protect from harm or injury to self or others”, is not based on factual evidence supporting this statement. Forced psychiatric interventions do not result in more safety, but lead to more crises, and subsequently to greater risk of escalation.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions indicate a deficiency in mental health care.

Forced psychiatric interventions are more of a mechanism for (attempted) social control embedded within an underdeveloped and structurally neglected (and politically abused) system of mental health care that is built on the horrible remnants of the past, rather than on skills to support mental health and well-being. Underdevelopment and insufficient funding of the mental health care system is in place because of the extremely low political priority given to mental health care, consequently explaining the extremely low level of funding. It is impossible to deliver quality care without proper funding and attention to quality standards. However, due to historical stigma, mental health care remains unpopular with society, i.e. voters, and therefore politicians. In case of dire shortage of funding, the best possible solution for the system is to keep things calm, by delivering lots of harmful and in many cases unwanted medication to isolated people and calling it medical care. However, real mental health care is possible when efforts are made and sufficient funding is provided.

 

A world of options between “last resort” and “no care”

Many persons, including many States, cannot see beyond a very narrow “black and white” approach regarding psychosocial crisis situations, with only two options: either forced treatments (torture), or doing nothing (neglect). This simply isn’t the full picture. Between these two extremities, there is a largely undiscovered world of options for real support and real mental health care in psychosocial crisis-situations, with aspects such as: non-violent de-escalation, prevention of crisis in the earliest stage possible, focussing on contact and openness instead of repression, building trust and providing real support in acute crisis-situations. (Ex-) users and survivors who have experienced this are the best positioned to be involved in this shift of paradigm.

 

Real development of mental health care is urgently needed.

Unfortunately for decades, the real development of good care practices has been undermined by the existence of forced treatments, which has enabled caregivers to turn their back to the crisis situation, and leave the person behind without actual care, repressed and stripped of their dignity. This should stop. Forced psychiatric interventions constitute a very serious human rights violation. They can never be called care and cannot be considered a safety and anti-discrimination measure, because they lead to exactly the opposite.

 

We believe in the creative potential of humanity and the possibility to solve complicated problems when appropriate efforts are made. But in order to allocate the appropriate resources and generate enough creative efforts, appropriate motivation is needed. The UN CRPD standards give us and should give policymakers such motivation to realize and state publicly that the status quo in psychiatry is totally unacceptable and must be changed to a humane system of real care.

 

The discrepancies in the recommendations referred to above, even among different entities of the same organization (United Nations) must be eliminated and the provisions of the CRPD must prevail.

 

This is a challenge, but by thinking and acting together, it is possible to make this a reality.

 

We must keep in mind just one thing as a basis for this objective:

 

 

Forced psychiatric interventions constitute torture and ill-treatment and

must be banned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] CRPD Committee’s Guidelines on article 14 Liberty and security of person, III, para.6 (September 2015)

[2] General Comment No.35, para.19 (30 October 2014)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] SPT, Rights of persons institutionalized and medically treated without informed consent, para.8

[6] Id. para.15

[7] Id. para. 9

[8] Id. para.10

[9] European Fundamental Rights Agency: Involuntary placement and involuntary treatment of persons with mental health problems, 2012. Available at: http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/involuntary-placement-and-involuntary-treatment-of-persons-with-mental-health-problems_en.pdf

Fiona Walsh – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): Civil Liberties, Equality and Upholding Human Rights

The 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising (Easter Rebellion) is currently being marked in Dublin City and Ireland. The Rising was launched by a small number of Irish Republicans at Easter time 1916 aiming to terminate British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. One of the principles of the Proclamation guaranteed:

‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’

In the context of those presenting in emotional distress today in Ireland in 2016 however there is still no guarantee that civil liberties will be respected and the reality of equal rights/opportunities for those perceived to be suffering from ‘mental disorders’ is not on the horizon just yet.   Diagnoses are based on subjective interpretation of ‘symptoms’ by Irish psychiatrists and other professionals who typically see individuals in terms of perceived deficits, brain disorders and inherited genetic defects. There are some more enlightened professionals who think in terms of ‘support’ and supporting decision making for those in distress as opposed to those who however compassionate and well meaning think in terms of ‘control’ ‘risk’ and substitute decision making. Many survivors of psychiatric abuse dread the paternalistic ‘best interests’ approach which typically has been used to deprive them of their basic human rights and to define what has contributed to their distress and what might support them to come through it.

 

Typically individuals in Ireland present in a voluntary capacity via their General Practitioner (GP), out of hours service or to the Accident & Emergency Unit of their local public hospital or to one of the private facilities. I am not aware of any psychiatric unit that does not use coercive practices of some sort.   Most who present in a voluntary capacity on the first occasion are not made aware on entering the facility they can be detained and forcibly treated, albeit on the 2nd opinion of another psychiatrist, which usually validates the first opinion. If you do not agree to Diagnosis and Treatment, then you may well be subjected to detention and forced drugging, seclusion, restraint, ECT etc. Under international human rights law this is could be regarded as Torture. The first thing that typically goes is the individuals clothes, access to fresh air etc, access to phonecalls/visitors , even your children until it is established that you will essentially play ball. Mothers can as I did receive threats such as ‘you know we have the option to contact child protection services’. True informed consent for any ‘Treatment’ including around serious side effects of medication must be sought yet typically is not and usually information not provided automatically either way so that the individual can make or be supported to make an informed decision. For those that know how the system operates and disagree with the medical model fear permeates and is increasingly stopping individuals in distress from reaching out to get the support they desperately crave in a given crisis. Reports of individuals taking their own life rather than submitting to coercion are sadly not uncommon and increasing in frequency in Ireland. Members of our Traveller Community have an increased incidence of suicide seven times higher than the rest of the population and fear often prevents travellers seeking professional support.

 

Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Aodhan O Riordain published a ‘Road Map for Ratification of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ on 21st October 2015.   Introducing Capacity Legislation features on this road map. Accordingly on 30/12/2015 our President Michael D Higgins signed the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. Rather than respecting the principles of CRPD though our Departments of Justice and Health and Government bizarrely based the legislation around ‘Mental Capacity’ providing for a ‘Functional Capacity Test’. Prof Brendan Kelly, a prominent Irish Psychiatrist has had huge influence and uses the CRPD to even defend administering Electroshock against the expressed wishes of an individual (family/loved ones have no rights either in respect of those with involuntary status).  Minister Kathleen Lynch refused to listen to the voice of Civil Society Capacity Coalition, chaired by Eilionoir Flynn, Deputy Director, Centre for Disability Law & Policy NUI Galway and essentially deprived Irish Citizens of the Right to have Legal Capacity respected in law. In addition the legislation denies the right to make a legally binding Advance Healthcare Directive in the context of emotional health, even in respect of ECT. Although the word ‘unwilling’ was recently removed from our Mental Health Act 2001 , the word ‘unable’ still remains, essentially allowing forced detention and drugging to continue unabated. As a survivor of Psychiatry (my experience is relatively mild in many respects) I sat in the Public Gallery of our Houses of Parliament (Dail and Seanad) saddened by the refusal of our Minister and Government to uphold the principles contained in CRPD and respect Human Rights, despite being challenged by brillant Human Rights advocates including Jillian Van Turnhout and Katherine Zappone in our Seanad and Padraig Mac Lochlainn along with other elected representatives in our Dail Chamber. At a recent NGO Forum on Human Rights in Dublin Castle , ‘United Nations Council, ten years on’ (which UN Rapporteur Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar was invited to speak and attended) Layla de Cogan Chin, Dept of Justice left attendees in no doubt with the Dept line that the Irish Government will essentially pick and choose what rights will be respected and that CRPD will be ratified with reservations/declarations.

 

Increasingly Irish survivors are looking to United Nations and the International Human Rights arena to expose the inability/indifference of the Irish Government and Psychiatry Profession to respectively legislate and usher in reform so that those who seek support can do so free of fear and terror of coercion. For some layer by layer of their human dignity is stripped away and they have to recover from the Diagnosis and ‘Treatment’ in addition to what brought them in contact with services in the first place.   In my own case presenting in a voluntary capacity agreeing to take all prescribed medication, still resulted in an attempt by treating Psychiatrist in 2011 to attempt sectioning on the basis of a second opinion of her choice not mine. My apparent ‘crime’ was that I did not agree with given diagnosis or that medication would be of therapeutic benefit.  A dear friend of mine, fellow human rights defender and member of Recovery Experts by Experience (REE) , at 77 years of age has to live daily with the fear of having ECT forced upon her despite having a power of attorney and Advance Directive made. Why should any Psychiatrist have the power to totally disregard her expressed wishes and disrespect her right to Legal Capacity should she ever become distressed in the future? Why should any human being live with the daily fear of having forced ECT again? As a member of Recovery Experts by Experience (REE) we made a submission to UN ICCPR in 2014. Tallaght Trialogue advocacy also submitted two reports under UN ICESCR in addition to contributing to joint parallel report from Civil Society, coordinated by Noeline Blackwell on behalf of FLAC. As a member of Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy I presented in person in June 2015 to UN ICESCR Committee in Geneva (speaking notes link below).

 

The UN CRPD reflects that each Human being has a right to be treated equally (Article 5) and have their will and preferences respected, that their legal capacity (Article 12) is inherent and above all that their human dignity must be respected. My hope is that the standards in the Convention that prohibit forced detention (Article 14) and treatment will propel Irish elected representatives to seek, resource and fund alternative approaches to coercion such as Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices Approach (see http://hearingvoicesnetworkireland.ie/ ) , Crisis Houses, Peer Support & Advocacy … Survivors of Psychiatry deserve to have their voices heard not silenced as is the case in Ireland where tick a box engagement is typical and ‘Experts speak to Experts’ time and time again without the voice of lived experience.

 

Thank you Tina Minkowitz and fellow advocates at CHRUSP, Eilionoir Flynn & past and present Colleagues, CDLP NUI Galway , Fiona Morrissey Lawyer & Researcher and to all who contributed to the CRPD and advocate to have the standards enshrined upheld. It is time the incoming Irish Government embraced the principles of Civil Liberties and Equality in the 1916 Proclamation and ratified the CRPD (signed 30th March 2007) and Optional Protocol without declarations/reservations. Why not embrace the opportunity without further delay to respect Legal Capacity (Article 12) and the will and preferences of individuals and treat every citizen equally regardless of physical disability, psycho-social disability or a perceived disability? A Democracy that silences the voice of Civil Society is not what the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation aspired to, nor is it appropriate for the survivors of psychiatric abuse past and present in 2016. It is time for Irish Legislators to be challenged by those charged nationally to uphold human rights to step up to the plate and respect and ratify the CRPD and Optional Protocol. Accordingly I unreservedly support the Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment.

 

Signed: Fiona Walsh, Human Rights Defender & Survivor of Irish Psychiatric Abuse

Dated: 28th March 2016

Member:

  1. Recovery Experts by Experience (REE)
  2. Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy (on facebook & twitter @TallaTrialogue)

 

Speaking notes ICESCR Review Ireland June 2015 , Fiona Walsh, Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy (pages 19/20 FLAC newsletter)

http://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-news-25-2-aprjun-2015/

http://hearingvoicesnetworkireland.ie/

 

Irish Examiner Newspaper Article 20/01/2016

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/yourview/electroconvulsive-therapy-is-still-given-to-patients-who-dont-want-it-377065.html

 

Dr. Fiona Morrissey, Lawyer & Mental Health Researcher: Article in Irish Examiner dated 21/11/2015 and link to her research regarding Advance Directives

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/assisted-decision-making-bill-why-changes-are-needed-to-current-laws-366167.html

 

Article in Irish Independent 15/11/2015

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/mentally-ill-still-forced-to-endure-shock-treatment-34201655.html

Eilionoir Flynn CDLP NUI Galway – Blog Posts on www.humanrights.ie

http://humanrights.ie/author/eilionoirflynn/

Prof Brendan Kelly, Psychiatrist, letter to editor 22/11/2015

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/dont-deny-them-this-treatment-34223005.html

Roadmap to ratification of CRPD issued by Irish Dept of Justice

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Roadmap%20to%20Ratification%20of%20CRPD.pdf/Files/Roadmap%20to%20Ratification%20of%20CRPD.pdf

Olga Runciman – ‘A true story filled with lies’

I wrote this piece from a place of anger and outrage and it was never intended for anyone’s eyes or ears and is therefore completely raw.

A series of circumstances resulted in Michael Rassum reading it and he said I can put music to this. The result is our spoken word ‘A true Story Filled with Lies’

Why did I write it? Because this person whom I call Peter (not her real name) died of her psychiatric drugs and despite it being a clear cut case her family and I watched how psychiatry closed around itself, protecting itself and they got away with it. For years her family have sought justice just like so many others. They never got it.

Her death was the reason that we were a group who joined together and created the organization ‘Death in Psychiatry’ an organization for those who have lost a loved one to psychiatry and to stop others suffering the same fate. Dorrit Cato Christensen who has also contributed to this campaign lost her daughter and she is also one of the founding members of the organization and is today the chair.

Psychiatry has been unable to prove that it is dealing with a biogenetic illness and, likewise, its drug treatments fall dismally short of what is considered good evidence based medicine. On the contrary the evidence especially long term, point at an increased risk of chronicity, brain damage, early death – up to 25 years shorter and, as in ‘Peter’s’ case, sudden death due to drug induced arrhythmia of the heart.

To force treat people with drugs that carry with it a risk of brain damage, death and little evidence of any long, term benefits what so ever, is an unspeakable act of institutional violence.

This piece is a true story the only thing that is changed is the name and gender. It is in three sections. “Death”, “Big Pharma, the Unholy Alliance” and finally the funeral called the “Winds of Change”.

I am today a psychiatric survivor, but this could have been me.
Or you or one of your loved ones…

Please support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment.

 

Robert Whitaker: Medical Science Argues Against Forced Treatment Too

The argument that is usually made against involuntary commitment and forced treatment is that these actions, under the authority of a state, violate a person’s basic civil rights. They deprive a person of liberty and personal autonomy, and do so in the absence of a criminal charge. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities upholds that position by prohibiting discrimination in relation to these rights. That is a morally powerful argument, and it should stand at the center of any protest against forced treatment.

However, there is another argument, one of adjunctive value, that can be made against involuntary commitment and forced treatment. Medical science argues against forced treatment too.

The “state,” in order to justify involuntary commitment and forced treatment, will argue that such coercion is necessary to provide “medical treatment” to individuals who, because of their impaired state of mind, won’t give their consent to such treatment. The implication is that if the “psychotic” individual were of sound mind, he or she would want this treatment, and thus the state is serving as a helpful guardian. But this “medical” argument falls apart upon close examination.

First, there is evidence that psychiatric hospitalization itself—whether voluntary or involuntary– leads to an increased risk of suicide. In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen looked at the psychiatric care received by 2,429 individuals in the year before they committed suicide, and after matching this group of completed suicides to a control group of 50,323 people in the general population, and after making adjustments for risk factors, they concluded that the risk of dying from suicide rose as people received increasing levels of psychiatric care. Taking psychiatric medications was associated with a six-fold increased likelihood that people would kill themselves; contact with a psychiatric outpatient clinic with an eight-fold increase; visiting a psychiatric emergency room with a 28-fold increase; and admission to a psychiatric hospital a 44-fold increase.[1]

In an editorial that accompanied the article, which was published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the writers—all experts in suicide research—observed that these were robust findings. The Danish study, they wrote, “demonstrated a statistically strong and dose-dependent relationship between the extent of psychiatric treatment and the probability of suicide. This relationship is stepwise, with significant increases in suicide risk occurring with increasing levels of psychiatric treatment.” This link was so strong, they concluded, that “it would seem sensible, for example, all things being equal, to regard a non-depressed person undergoing psychiatric review in the emergency department as at far greater risk [of suicide] than a person with depression, who has only ever been treated in the community.”

These researchers concluded that it is “entirely plausible that the stigma and trauma inherent in (particularly involuntary) psychiatric treatment might, in already vulnerable individuals, contribute to some suicides. We believe that it is likely that a proportion of people who suicide during or after an admission to hospital do so because of factors inherent in that hospitalization.”[2]

Second, from a medical point of view, the “therapeutic relationship” between “patient” and “doctor” is understood to be an important factor to a “good outcome,” and forced treatment regularly leads to a breakdown in that relationship. The personal accounts of people who have been forcibly treated regularly compare it to torture, rape, and so forth. Moreover, these accounts cannot be dismissed as the writings of people who are “impaired” in their thinking, either at the time or later; such personal accounts often reveal an extraordinary level of detail and clarity.

Third, forced treatment regularly involves injections of an antipsychotic, and such initial treatment is regularly a precursor to long-term treatment with such drugs (and often in a coercive manner). However, there is now substantial evidence that such drug treatment over the long term does harm. For instance:

  • There is evidence that the drugs shrink brain volumes, with this shrinkage associated with an increase in negative symptoms, functional impairment, and cognitive decline.[3]
  • The drugs induce tardive dyskinesia in a significant percentage of patients, which reflects permanent damage having been done to the basal ganglia.
  • Martin Harrow, in his longitudinal study of psychotic patients, found that medicated patients fared worse over the long-term on every domain of functioning. The medicated patients were eight times less likely to be in recovery at the end of 15 years than those off the medication.[4]

This is simply a quick review of the medical case that can be made against forced treatment. But even this cursory review tells of treatment that increases the risk of suicide, can prove devastating to the “therapeutic relationship,” and may set a person onto a long-term course of medication use that has been found to be associated with a variety of harms and poor outcomes. As such, the argument that involuntary commitment and forced treatment are in the best “medical” interest of the “impaired” person falls apart when viewed through this scientific lens, and once it does, involuntary commitment and forced treatment can be clearly seen for what they are.

They are not a means for providing necessary “medical help” to an individual. They are an assertion of state authority and power over an individual, and that assertion of authority violates the person’s fundamental civil rights. Any societal discussion of involuntary commitment and forced treatment needs to focus on that issue, and not be distracted by the “medically helpful” claim.

 

[1] C. Hjorthøj, Risk of suicide according to level of psychiatric treatment—a nationwide nested case control study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2014) 49: 1357-65.

[2] M. Large. Disturbing findings about the risk of suicide and psychiatric hospitals. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatry Epidemiol (2014) 49:1353-55.

[3] J. Radua, “Multimodal meta-analysis of structural and functional changes in first 
episode psychosis and the effects of antipsychotic medications,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review 36 (2012): 2325–33.

[4] M. Harrow. “Factors involved in outcome and recovery in schizophrenia patients not on antipsychotics medications.” J Nerv Ment Dis (2007) 195: 407-414.

 

 

José Raúl Sabbagh Mancilla (México)

In this article the author, as a therapist, presents his unconditional support to the absolute prohibition of forced treatments. He states that these types of treatment without consent are counterproductive and unsustainable. He highlights the importance of the standards that the CRPD imposes and the need to prohibit methods that annul the legal capacity of people with psychosocial disabilities.  

 

Mi nombre es José Raúl Sabbagh Mancilla, practico el acompañamiento terapéutico en México desde el año 2010. En estos años de práctica he escuchado la situación de algunos sujetos que han recibido diagnósticos como esquizofrenia, paranoia y daño neurológico.

El objetivo de este escriño no es dar una respuesta acerca la naturaleza de las causas de estas formaciones psíquicas, más bien considero que la posición de un clínico que, desde un saber absoluto y científicamente incuestionable, determina el estado general de estos sujetos, que además decide acerca de su futuro y obtura toda validez de sus decisiones, dificulta más su restablecimiento y una inclusión respetuosa a la vida en la sociedad. Estas acciones son clínicamente insostenibles y tienden a tener como consecuencia un mayor deterioro del estado de la persona.

Es por eso que, de acuerdo con la Convención sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad, apoyo incondicionalmente la campaña por la Prohibición Absoluta de los internamientos involuntarios y las intervenciones psiquiátricas forzadas. Es importante que, en el accidentado contexto global de defensa de los Derechos Humanos, dejemos de sostener prácticas que, disfrazadas de un tratamiento ineficaz, implican una mayor cosificación de personas que en su propio padecer se sienten ya sumamente cosificadas.

In Italy, we don’t have a law against torture, by Erveda Sansi

 

contro psicofarmaci_col_rid

Drawing by Vincenzo Iannuzzi

 In Italy, the situation in the psychiatric field, with almost no exception, has worsened from the period of questioning psychiatric institution, in the beginning of the sixties. Then, Italy has been at the forefront of the closure of mental hospitals. Not only Giorgio Antonucci, Franco Basaglia and many professionals, but also a good part of the common people, realized that psychiatric hospitals were not places of care. Civil society, then, was sensitive to the issue of smash-down asylum culture. Publications appeared, there was an open debate, workers and students organized themselves and entered in asylums to see the conditions in which their fellow citizens were locked up. They protested and denounced the deplorable conditions the internees were forced to live in.

However, since several years, we observe a re-institutionalisation process and, at the same time, in some Italian hospital’s psychiatric wards happened many deplorable facts, due to forced treatment, institutionalization and forced restraint. Some of these facts have become infamous after that committees and relatives have asked for justice, as in the case of the well liked teacher Francesco Mastrogiovanni, 58 years old, that was debated also on national television channels. Franco Mastrogiovanni, after a forced psychiatric treatment the 4th August 2009, (because of a road traffic offense: circulation, at night, on a street closed to traffic), has been heavily sedated, tied to the bed of Vallo della Lucania’s hospital psychiatric ward, and left to die after four days of abandonment. During the 80 hours hospitalization he was nourished only with saline solutions; he was tied hands and feet to the bed, in such a position that his respiratory functions where compromised, and he was sedated with high doses of psychiatric drugs, without supervision from the staff. At wrists and ankles there are 4 cm wide grazes. A hidden camera recorded everything; the video is of public domain. At the trial the responsible physicians were found guilty and sentenced to 3 and 4 years detention, that, with the mitigating clauses, they won’t have to serve. The 12 nurses were acquitted because “they obeyed an order”. The Committee truth and justice for Francesco Mastrogiovanni, asks for truth and justice. Watch also the film 87 ore (87 hours), gli ultimi giorni di Francesco Mastrogiovanni (Francesco Mastrogiovanni’s the last days) by Costanza Quadriglio.

 

In Italy some deaths due to forced hospitalization and/or prolonged or short-time use of mechanical and chemical restraint have been reported by the press, television and network (this mean that there are a lot of other such “incidents”, we don’t know):

27 October 2005: Riccardo Rasman dies during a coercive treatment by the policemen, for a hospitalization against his will, in a psychiatric ward in Trieste.

21 June 2006: Giseppe Casu, guilty of having wanted to pursue his peddler job in the village square, dies in a psychiatric ward in the hospital “Santissima Trinità” of Cagliari, as a consequence of a thromboembolism, after a forced hospitalization and having been heavily sedated. He was tied hands and feet to the bed, for 7 days and was sedated with high doses of psychiatric drugs against his will.

28 August 2006: A.S., the 17th of August 2006 is admitted to the psychiatric ward in Palermo, for medical investigations. A.S. died after 2 days coma, the 28th of August, probably for excessive doses of psychiatric drugs.

26 May 2007: Edmond Idehen a 38 years old Nigerian man, went voluntarily into the psychiatric ward of Bologna’s hospital “Istituto Psichiatrico Ottonello – Ospedale Maggiore Bologna”. As he tried to leave the hospital, because he did not feel cared, the doctors forced him to stay, with the help of policemen. Edmond Idehen died as a consequence of a hearth attack while nurses and policemen held him down. He was also strongly sedated with psychiatric drugs.

12 June 2006: Roberto Melino, 24 years old, dies for a hearth attack; he entered voluntarily the psychiatric ward of Empoli’s “San Giuseppe” hospital. As he tried to leave the hospital, he was forced to stay by the doctors, and obliged to take high doses of psychiatric drugs, in spite of his evident and serious breath difficulties.

15 June 2008: Giuseppe Uva, 43 years old, was brought inside a police station, because he was driving in state of high alcoholic level. There he was subjected to ill-treatments. After 3 hours he was forced to an obligatory hospitalization in the Varese’s “Circolo” hospital and was forced to take psychiatric drugs. He died because of the stress provoked by the mix of alcohol and psychiatric drugs.

30 August 2010: Lauretana La Coca, 32 years old, entered voluntarily in Termini Imerese’s “Salvatore Cimino” hospital. After 10 days of hospitalization her condition got worse, till she got into a comatose state and died.

Giuseppe D.: A man, more than 70 years old, was interned in Reggio Emilia’s psychiatric prison. His problem was that the neighbour’s daughter is a psychiatrist. His lawyer took a legal action to the European Court of human Rights, but until now there has been no answer, so the Pisa’s student group “Collettivo Antipsichiatrico Artaud”, together with “Telefono viola” from Milan, decided to release the documentation relating to this case in Internet, according with Giuseppe D.’s will, his lawyer, and his relatives.

2 April 2010: Eric Beamont, 37 years old, the 2 April 2010 was hospitalized in Lamezia. After 2 days he entered coma, so the doctors transferred him to the Catanzaro’s “Pugliese – Ciaccio” hospital, where he died. There is the suspect that the death of Eric was caused from a high dose of benzodiazepine. Diagnosis was: subarachnoid hemorrhage[1]

28 May 2015 Massimiliano Malzone died during a forced treatment.

11 July 2015 Amedeo Testarmata died during a forced treatment.

29 July 2015 Mauro Guerra died during a forced treatment.

5 August 2015 Andrea Soldi died during a forced treatment…

Unfortunately in this article we have not described isolated occurrences, but an emblematic situation of violation of human rights in the Italian psychiatric institutions.

These are just some of the “incidents” that came to the limelight, but many more of them are not known when they happen, because, for example, people who live in loneliness are involved, or people whose relatives have given their consent, or simply when people want to get rid of a person perceived as annoying. We The Mad Hatter Association, constantly of forced psychiatric treatments, during which treated people suffer heavy damages. Forced treatments are often made on request of relatives, when patients refuse to take any longer the psychiatric drugs, or when their behaviour is perceived as disturbing. A friend of us (I.M.) tried to escape, but he was chased and filled with drugs; shortly after he was found dead at the bottom of a ravine. He was 40 years old. Another friend (A.S.) was walking on a path between fields and was stopped by police, because he was known as a “mentally ill” person. Then they called the psychiatrist on duty and told him: “He was walking near the railway and could possibly have in mind to commit suicide”; so they locked him up. I know this person, who often walks in the fields, where, however, it’s easy to be located near the railway, because of the constitution of the territory. He had never the intention of committing suicide. Another acquaintance of us died, throwing himself under a train, terrified by the fact that his mother, according to the psychiatrist, would refer to forced psychiatric treatment for him. Another one (U.S.) has suffered of heavy harassment, after having reported his superior’s embezzlement, noticed during his duties as a municipal technician. He was subjected to forced psychiatric treatment, kidnapped by police in riot gear. While he was sleeping, his door was smashed down, and he was thrown on the ground face down and handcuffed. He says that at least they could have tried to open the door, which was not locked. Now he is terrified and he even fears the dark; he is forced to take psychiatric drugs.

We can not think of de-institutionalization before we have dismissed the rules that allow forced psychiatric treatment, that allow to hold a person against his will, without having committed any crime, without the right to an equitable process, based on the alleged dangerousness and only because this person was diagnosed with a mental illness.

The so called “Basaglia law” the law nr. 180 from 13.5.1978, then joined and actually regulated by Law 833/1978 articles 33, 34, 35, 64, establishes the “Accertamenti e Trattamenti sanitari volontari e obbligatori” (“Forced health verifications and treatments”). In 1978 the law nr. 180 imposed the asylums’ closure, and the elimination of dangerousness or/and public scandal as criterion for forced treatment. But in the most Italian province, asylums didn’t close. So it was necessary to make another law, (because these asylums were too expensive), the law n. 724 from 23.12.1994, art. 3 paragraph 5, which dispose that these asylums had to be closed within the 31.12.1996; again disregarded, differed until the end of 1999. In 1996 the asylum inmates in Italy were 11.516 in 62 public asylums and 4.752 in private asylums.

According to this art. 180 law, forced treatment and included forced hospitalization, are possible if there are the following conditions: 1) a person “suffering mental illness” requires urgent medical treatment; 2) refuse the treatment; 3) it’s not possible to take adequate measures outside the hospitals. Forced treatments has a maximum duration of seven days, but can be renewed if necessary and then extended if it persists for a reasoned clinical need (it’s not an exception that the duration is extended for months and years). For forced treatments and the consequently limitation of personal freedom, there must be a request signed by two physicians, an administrative validation from the Mayor is required, followed by the validation of a judicial review by the Tutelary Judge.

Legislation of forced psychiatric treatment provides ample scope for arbitrariness and it is in strong contrast to the human rights regulations, that aim at preserving even people with disabilities from inhuman and degrading treatments. For those who commit a crime, it is expected that the judicial authority, within certain specific procedural rules, sanctions or imposes restrictive measures. We constantly deal with innocent people in forced psychiatric treatment, who can no longer find a way out of the psychiatric institution.

“I have to confess”, said a psychiatrist, “to have a person completely in my power, made me feel a kind of sadistic shiver”.

In Italy the CRPD was ratified in 2009, but just at now we have not a law against torture, torture is not a crime, torture is not forbidden in Italy. So, those who torture does not violate the law. In the meantime a lot of intermediate psychiatric institutions (also called little asylums) were built. They are public or private and reimbursed from the State. A very great business is behind. Some other examples: Lazio Region President Polverini’s decree on Lazio hospital system: the number of beds in Psychiatric Institutions raise from 369 up to 629; more 70%. 50 beds for the public structure and 210 for the private structure trigger the chronicization circuit.

260 beds = 90.000 life days subtracted to the people at the cost of 10.000.000 €.

Didn’t the Basaglia Law foresee the closing up of madhouses?

  • Professor Antonucci, what is, to date, the status of implementation of the law 180?

– Apart from some single exceptional case, what proposed Franco Basaglia is not realized, but it continues a job that Basaglia obviously would not approve: authoritarian interventions, taking people by force and bring it in psychiatric clinics, which are the continuation of the asylum. The asylum was established by the authoritarian intervention: I take a person against his will, then I submit her to a series of forced interventions, which are the essence of the mental hospital”. (http://www.psicoterapia.it)

The deplorable situation of the six Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals recently became more visible, after surprise-inspections of a parliamentary committee. The videos of the visits, showed by the national television, and the press releases can be found on the web. A parliamentary report had already been made in June 2010, but the photographs show a situation that until now has not yet changed. People held for decades for minor offenses, whose penalty would have expired long time since, if not repeatedly and automatically renewed.

Here below we report some data extracted from the text of the parliamentary relation on the June 2010 inspection of the 6 Italian psychiatric prisons (forensic institutions) still active (Senator Ignazio Marino, physician ,was Chair of the Investigative Committee on the National Health Care System). After the 1978 “Basaglia law”, madhouses had to be closed, but the 6 psychiatric prisons mentioned above keep doing the same job. Senator Marino was also concerned about the increasing of electroshock (from 9 institutions allowed to give electroshock before 2008, now we have more than 90 psychiatric institutions who dispense ECT).

The regulations and logics that manage these psychiatric prisons (forensic institutions) (in Italian OPG-Ospedale Psichiatrico Giudiziario), are the same inherited by the fascist Rocco Code (1934). 40 % of the 1500 actual convicted should already have been released, for detention terms expired, but they see their penalty end terms deferred in order of their supposed social dangerousness.

Nine people each cell, dirty bathrooms and bed sheets; dirty nurses’ gowns as well. In Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (Messina), 329 convicted are overcrowded in cells built in 1914. Dirt everywhere. One patient was found naked, tied up to his bed, with a haematoma on his head. Aversa, built in 1898. 320 people locked up six by cell, in inhuman conditions.

NAS (Antisofistication and health nucleus of Carabinieri (Police)) reported and denounced all this to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but this office is often made by the same persons that sentence patients to life.

In the Secondigliano OPG, the psychiatric prison is interior to the jail. Here stays since 25 years a patient who was sentenced two years. Burns and black eyes are not reported on the clinical diary. Feet and hands go gangrenous.

In Montelupo Fiorentino OPG they are 170 in a very scruffy building. In Reggio Emilia OPG they are 274 where they should be 132. 3 showers serve 158 patients. One is tied up to his bed since 5 days for disciplinary reasons. 3 in 9 meters square. “The OPG (psychiatric prison) are one of the “silence zones”, explains Alberto, of the Pisa Antipsychiatric Collective dedicated to Antonin Artaud, “and they show the political use of psychiatry. The consume of psychiatric drugs is more and more pushed, the electroshock comes back “in fashion”, perhaps to “heal post partum depression”. And a law lies in ambush in order to bring the forced hospitalization terms from 7 to 30 days”. After the scandal came to light, on 17 January 2012 the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the definitive closure of the OPG by 31 March 2013. The closure was extended until March 31, 2015. After the closure of the facilities in 2015, according to Law Decree n. 211/2011, converted into Law no. 9/2012, have been replaced by residences for Execution of Security Measures (R.E.M.S.). We have to closedown the Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals, instead of changing the name of them. If we don’t shut dawn these places once and for all, we cannot talk about de-institutionalization. Close them not in order to transfer their users to other psychiatric institutions, but to give these people a life dignity.

A research (source: British Medical Journal) conducted in 6 European countries (Italy, Spain, England, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany), that have closed asylums in the 70s, saw that between 1990 and 2003 an increase in the number of beds in forensic psychiatric hospitals, in psychiatric wards, in so-called safe houses. Supported housing is seen as an alternatives to asylums, as a sign of de-institutionalization, but they are rather a form of institutionalization. Also forced treatments are increasing. It is not clear the reason why the number of beds in Forensic Psychiatric Hospital increased, since there is no correlation between crimes like homicides and de-institutionalized persons.

It would be important to spread the awareness that forced treatments, like the restraint is an anti-therapeutic act, that makes cures more difficult, rather than to facilitate them. Physical restraint is not exercised only in the field of psychiatry. The areas of operation where should be discussed the problem of legitimacy, usefulness and appropriateness of physical restraint, do not consist only in hospitals, but also in nursing homes for the elderly, therapeutic communities for drug addicts and nursing homes for people with disabilities related to congenital or early acquired disabilities. An improvement in psychiatric nursing practice, characterized by the renunciation of physical restraint, would be a strong signal in order to spot out the problem also in other operating environments, urging those who work in this field to act with similar treatment practices, rather than restrictive ones.

Referring to the psychiatric drugs there are rules of the Convention on Human Rights, which require user’s fully informed consent, before administering, even if he’s disabled. Most psychiatric drugs are prescribed for a long time, sometimes for life, without informing the user on their effects, and without any help in the resolution of his real and existential problems. Psychiatric drugs can cause neurological diseases, that sometimes become irreversible. Akathisia, dyskinesia, are very unpleasant effects and can throw a person in despair. Often the user is encouraged to continue taking the drugs even when he asks to withdraw them, and it is almost impossible to find professionals who help and give directions for withdrawal. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, working with institutions as WHO (World Health Organisation) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration), wrote hundreds of pages on the harmful effects of psychiatric drugs. Peter Lehmann, who tested the effects of drugs on himself during his hospitalization in a psychiatric clinic, has published and continues to publish the results of his research for which he uses pharmaceutical and medical literature. The effect of psychiatric drugs is known, but the billion-dollar business behind it is too big to lose it. Peter Lehmann is the first survivor of psychiatry to be awarded with the honorary degree, conferred him by the clinical psychology faculty of the Aristotele’s University of Thessaloniki, for his work as researcher and activist in the field of mental health.

A person who starts to take drugs, in most cases will be induced to take them for life, because they create addiction problems. The psychiatric user develops a very strong dependence toward the psychiatric service too. For the psychiatrists, lack of compliance is in fact intended in it self an aggravation of the disease. Then the conditioning that takes place, goes in the direction of dependence from psychiatric services, of becoming “childish” and “chronic patient”.

Although in almost all European countries asylums and psychiatric hospitals have been eliminated or substantially reduced, this does not mean that in the new post-asylum structures, asylum-dispositifs have been eliminated. People are, with few exceptions, completely sedated by psychiatric drugs, even though apparently there are implemented programs such as art therapy. The intake of psychiatric drugs is induced also in order to make the user unconscious.

Erwin Redig, a German psychiatric survivor, says: “There are people putting us under pressure to force us to take them (psychiatric drugs). If we do not take them, our changes embarrass them. If this is our case, we must make clear to ourselves that we are swallowing drugs for other people’s welfare, because they find us unpleasant if we do not”.

“The dispositif of discomfort-complex, that operates in a small residence, acts more broadly in the society”. Neuroleptic drugs affect thinking, block the flow of thoughts, and make people flatten. I relate the words of a healthcare professional: “As soon as psychiatric drugs are given to people, they literally get extinguished. To what extend is it fair to cancel the person?” Although in the European countries, the asylum psychiatry and the psychiatric hospitalization of users have given way to communities, the psychiatric institution culture has not changed. The patterns of asylum residentiality are still active. But most of all it is still alive an asylum mentality, therefore it is important for everyone to be aware how much everybody’s mentality is crucial in creating or not creating devices that belong to psychiatric institutions; operating devices that constitute a widespread operating module. “Residential Intermediate Structures”, foreseen in Italy by the 1983 law, should have had the provisional nature as their specificity; therefore they should not constitute either a definite admission or a final place for forced hospitalization; they should have been  transitional housing, that could break prejudice and exclusion logics. In March 1999, by a special decree, to the Italian Regions was imposed the definitive closure of the asylums, under threat of strong economic sanctions, because despite the birth, on paper, of the new “local services”, mental hospitals were still crowded with patients.

Named by the derogatory title of “asylum residuals”, for these people that nobody wanted, residential structures accounted for an illusion of freedom; they founded themselves to be again in a mental institution. “Many patients”, writes one of them in an autobiography, “have never been so well in terms of comfort, but nevertheless they are in a state of fearful desolation”.

An induced need of security, the defence from a potentially dangerous mind sick person that at any time, during an outbreak, could commit heinous actions against others or against himself; shortly, on the basis of this need and of this false scientific fundamentals, we build the myth of the need of post-asylums psychiatric institutions. If we don’t get reed of the psychiatric prejudice, the “mental health” institution remains. There are many alternatives pursued by individuals, associations or institutions, but they are deliberately ignored. The responsibility for solving the problems of institutionalization, is not up only to psychiatrists or to mental health professionals, but to the whole civil society. Everybody contributes to the asylum mentality. Users as well, who have internalized the psychiatric diagnosis and can no longer live without it.

Mary Nettle, chairman of Enusp until 2010, expects an increasing involvement of users and survivors of psychiatry in researches about psychiatry; while they often are excluded or not paid on the pretext that they are not professionals.

Although many examples exist that  prove that you can accompany a person in troubles out of his problems, through dialogue and support in the resolution of the objective and material difficulties, and helping him to get awareness of his own rights, these experiments and their positive results continue to be deliberately ignored.

 

I will never forget, by Irit Shimrat

a work in progress

I will never forget, though I wish I could, what psychiatric brutality feels like. Being taken to hospital by the cops, by brute force, in handcuffs, though my only crime was confusion.

Being stripped naked in front of male orderlies. Being shackled to a gurney on the psych emergency ward. Being painfully jabbed in the ass by a nurse wielding a needle filled with a drug that had immediate, nightmarish effects. Being ignored by chatting nurses as I whispered, then said, then screamed that I had to go to the bathroom. Being left to lie in my own shit for hours as they discussed boyfriends and hair styles.

Being wheeled to a concrete cell, furnished only with a mattress on the floor and a metal toilet and tiny sink, an observation window in the metal door, and a camera in the corner of the ceiling. Being left there for days, under the glaring fluorescent light, with someone coming in three times a day to leave a sad, bland meal in a plastic tray on the floor. Performing for the camera and writing on the walls with my shit as the drugs that were supposed to knock me out made me crazier and crazier.

Finally being released onto the ward, but being slammed back into solitary confinement every time I “acted out.” Slowly and painfully learning to conform, so as to earn such “privileges” as being allowed to wear real pajamas, then my own clothes; being allowed out for a cigarette; being allowed to make a phone call. Being mocked and brutalized by burned-out nurses.

Finally being allowed visitors, only to have them stare at me in horror and pity, as I shuffle like a zombie, much too drugged to make conversation. Eventually learning the magic words that got me out: “I understand that I’m sick and need to take these drugs for the rest of my life.” Drugs that had already resulted in dry mouth; flaking skin; extreme constipation; painful muscle spasms; inability to sit, stand or lie still – not to mention their effects on my mind: the terror, the agony, my absolute failure to be able to hang onto my self. The certainty – my only certainty – that I had died and gone to hell. That I was being punished for crimes I couldn’t remember. That I would never be able to live in the world again.

I was wrong in that certainty, but it’s been a hard road back, and I’ve had to travel it many times. Always, when I’m back out in the world, I find myself suffering from the effects of institutionalization, terrified of the loneliness, of having to take care of myself, of not being able to make it outside the bin. I’ve had to suffer the withdrawal symptoms from whatever they were forcing me to take, which I stop taking as soon as I get out. I’ve had to punish myself, hit myself, scream at myself for having been such an idiot as to get locked up again. I’ve had to go through weeks or months of wanting to kill myself to make sure this never happened to me again. I’ve had to slowly rebuild my life. And I’ve had to live with the permanent effects, physical and emotional, of being poisoned with psychiatric drugs and traumatized by institutional cruelty.

My life has been a sheltered one, on the whole. I was born and raised in a comfortable middle-class family, with lots of parental love and support and no violence or neglect. I have never been raped or beaten or hungry. Nevertheless, I got bored as a teenager, took lots of drugs, and ended up going crazy, several times, over the years. But being crazy wasn’t, of itself, a bad thing. If I had been allowed to go through it – if I had been treated with kindness and compassion, and encouraged to explore my thoughts and visions and make sense of them – it could have been the wonderful experience that it always started out as. It could have enriched me.

The only really bad thing that has ever happened to me is psychiatry. It has damaged my body and mind, destroyed my self-esteem, and forced me to re-invent myself, again and again, every time it tore me apart.