Hope and Engagement, Not Control and Coercion, in Psychiatric Care

November 21, 2014 5:43 PM

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Too much attention is paid to violence perpetuated by persons with mental illness and the associated solutions that focus on control and coercion. I'm writing in response to Steven Seager's op-ed titled "Where Hell is Other Patients" that was published in the New York Times on Nov. 10, 2014. Seager argues that violence against staff members and other patients is due to "untreated psychotic patients" having too much freedom. He blames the legal system for not requiring court-ordered treatment (e.g., medications) and he blames hospitals for not providing trained security guards or special units to separate patients from each other. Nowhere in the piece does he call for better care, more nursing staff, or any process or model that can be effective in creating safe treatment environments. He simply calls for control, coercion and isolation.

For decades, violence on inpatient psychiatric units and violence and psychosis have been topics of discussion reflected and perpetuated by their inclusion in film. The themes of control and coercion on inpatient psychiatric units is evident in films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (1975), Gi...

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