Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Martial law declared in Michigan!

I love my job. Usually. But not this week. Got one of those throat-in-your-heart crisis calls yesterday. Lady says she just wants to alert us her friend's coming to the ER and told her that "if you don't help him, he has a gun and he'll go back to his car and use it". The rest of the information she told me suggested her friend was quite at risk for harming himself, if this last chance to seek help wasn't heeded. She didn't say he was threatening to harm anyone else, she didn't say he told her he was planning on bringing in any gifts to us that might go "boom", she just gave me his name and said she wanted to be sure we helped him. She was worried about him finding out she was the one who called and thus declined to give information about herself. Rather than pressure her for more information, my mind was working on making sure we could help this fellow when and if (hopefully) he arrived. I advised my coworkers and boss, and we called security so they would be aware there was a possibility he'd be armed. Common sense.

What I was not expecting was for the police to come in (thanks to another invititation by security) and drill me, before this guy even showed up. Who called me? What was her name? Why didn't I get her name? [What kind of little police doo-bee are you?] What's her phone number? How old is she? It was especially irritating because, after this

man's friend did come in, was cooperative, and was pleased with the outcome of his assessment, another cop called me at home asking me the same questions!!! I tried to be helpful but finally I said, "I told all this to Officer so and so three hours ago." "Oh, you did?"

Well, yes I did, and by the way, why do you need to know anyway when 1) he's come in asking for help, 2) no one has committed a crime, and 3) he's actually in a secure treatment setting?

Should have flashed my own KGB badge.

Occasionally...well, not really occasionally, quite frequently, actually, mentally ill people will either decide the president of the United States is personally screwing up their life (I mean seriously, like ordering a special unit being inserted in their chest by aliens at night so that he can make the mentally ill person do things he or she doesn't want to do, which obviously is quite a pain), or they will go to a re-election rally and get up really close to the front and threaten to kill the president. The first incident doesn't usually draw attention unless the mentally ill person calls the White House line over and over and over and over again until it drives the operators crazy, or sends an e-mail to the Secret Service or CIA about his or her woes. The second incident draws immediate attention. But either way, we often get Secret Service people crawling around (sorry to use that word crawling, but they always seem kinda reptilish to me) saying "Has so and so ever been here? What can you tell us about him?" "Nothing." "Uh.....he signed a release of information." "Can you show it to me?" "Oh...uh...gee, I guess I don't have it with me..."

I have their full sympathy when someone has made a direct threat against anyone, let alone the leader of the free world. But whenever we've had contact with them, it's not been the case. The perpetrator has generally been someone diagnosed with schizophrenia, that diagnosis that tends to produce the more odd delusions that wouldn't be able to be acted upon anyway (especially if you are now locked on a hospital ward having been stuck in the butt with a cocktail of Haldol and Ativan. He is going to send death rays from his mind. He is going to cause a terrible event to happen (again, by thinking about it, not by sabotage he could actually work out). But, along comes the SS (hey, now there's an acronym)..."Did he tell you about these 'death rays' of his?"

Don't you guys have a President to protect, or something?

Working in the mental health field always comes with some Faustian bargains, if you have any sense of principles at all. I know I marched into community mental health out of college with the idea that "Mental Illness" didn't exist and that involuntary commitment was evil; how dare we take another's rights away? 20 years later I have petitioned probably a hundred men and women myself for involuntary commitment, believing that they were ill enough not to know they needed treatment and that they were in danger of harming themselves or someone else because of that illness. But damn me, damn all of us if we don't try as best we can to protect everyone's dignity to the best degree possible in that process.

And in the meantime, I hate law enforcement of any kind being at the hospital. They drive me nuts.

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