Nellie Bly pretended she was crazy and got herself committed, all to help improve conditions in a New York City mental institution.
“The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out.”
The stylish and petite Bly, who had a perpetual smile, set about her crazy-eye makeover. She dressed in tattered second-hand clothes. She stopped bathing and brushing her teeth. And for hours, she practiced looking like a lunatic in front of the mirror. “Faraway expressions look crazy,” she wrote. Soon she was wandering the streets in a daze. Posing as Nellie Moreno, a Cuban immigrant, she checked herself into a temporary boarding house for women. Within twenty-four hours, her irrational, hostile rants had all of the other residents fearing for their lives. “It was the greatest night of my life,” Bly later wrote.
The police hauled Bly off, and within a matter of days, she bounced from court to Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward. When she professed to not remembering how she ended up in New York, the chief doctor diagnosed her as “delusional and undoubtedly insane.” Meanwhile, several of the city’s other newspapers took an interest in what one called the “mysterious waif with the wild, hunted look in her eyes.” Bly had everyone hoodwinked, and soon enough, she was aboard the “filthy ferry” to Blackwell’s Island.
Take a perfectly sane and healthy woman, shut her up and make her sit from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on straight-back benches, do not allow her to talk or move during these hours, give her no reading and let her know nothing of the world or its doings, give her bad food and harsh treatment, and see how long it will take to make her insane. Two months would make her a mental and physical wreck.”
As soon as Bly arrived at Blackwell’s Island, she dropped her crazy act. But to her horror, she found that only confirmed her diagnosis.
“Strange to say, the more sanely I talked and acted, the crazier I was thought to be,” she wrote.
In 1991 Duff, then fourteen, came out publicly as lesbian.
Reportedly concerned about her daughter's sexual orientation, Duff's mother had her transported against her will to Rivendell Psychiatric Center in West Jordan, Utah. During the drive from California to Utah, Duff covertly called journalist Bruce Mirken, a friend who then wrote for both the Los Angeles Weekly and The Advocate. The two had had plans to meet for dinner prior to her forced detention and upon hearing of her situation, Mirken phoned Public Council, a public interest legal aid society which secured pro bono services of corporate attorney Gina M. Calabrese of the Los Angeles firm Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. Duff was admitted to Rivendell Psychiatric Center on December 19, 1991, at age fifteen.
Although Rivendell was not officially affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Duff later said that she was visited by Mormon missionaries during her six months at the Utah facility and that the treatment she received was heavily influenced by religion. Duff says that Rivendell therapists told her that a gay and lesbian orientation was caused by negative experiences with people of the opposite gender and that having a lesbian sexual identity would lead to sexually abusing other people or engaging in bestiality. Duff was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and clinical depression.
Duff was subjected to a regimen of conversion therapy. This involved aversion therapy, which consisted of being forced to watch same-sex pornography while smelling ammonia.
She was also subjected to hypnosis, psychotropic drugs, solitary confinement, and therapeutic messages linking lesbian sex with "the pits of hell." Behavior modification techniques were also used including: requiring girls to wear dresses, unreasonable forms of punishment for small infractions similar to hazing like having to cut the lawn with small scissors and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush and "positive peer pressure" group sessions in which patients demeaned and belittled each other for both real and perceived inadequacies..
On May 19, 1992, after 168 days of incarceration, Duff escaped from Rivendell and traveled to San Francisco, where she lived on the streets and in safe houses.
Theophilus Packard held quite decisive religious beliefs. After many years of marriage, Elizabeth Packard outwardly questioned her husband's beliefs and began expressing opinions that were contrary to his. While the main subject of their dispute was religion, the couple also disagreed on child rearing, family finances, and the issue of slavery.
When Illinois opened its first hospital for the mentally ill in 1851, the state legislature passed a law that required a public hearing before a person could be committed against his or her will. There was one exception, however: a husband could have his wife committed without either a public hearing or her consent. In 1860, Theophilus Packard judged that his wife was "slightly insane" and arranged for a doctor, J.W. Brown, to speak with her. The doctor pretended to be a sewing machine salesman. During their conversation, Elizabeth complained of her husband's domination and his accusations to others that she was insane. Dr Brown reported this conversation to Theophilus (along with the observation that Mrs Packard "exhibited a great dislike to me"). Theophilus decided to have Elizabeth committed. She learned of this decision on June 18, 1860, when the county sheriff arrived at the Packard home to take her into custody.
Packard spent the next three years at the Jacksonville Insane Asylum in Jacksonville, IL (now the Jacksonville Developmental Center). She was regularly questioned by her doctors but refused to agree that she was insane or to change her religious views..
Elizabeth realized how narrow her legal victory had been. While she had escaped confinement, it was largely a measure of luck. The underlying social principles which had led to her confinement still existed. She founded the Anti-Insane Asylum Society and published several books, including Marital Power Exemplified, or Three Years Imprisonment for Religious Belief (1864), Great Disclosure of Spiritual Wickedness in High Places (1865), The Mystic Key or the Asylum Secret Unlocked (1866), and The Prisoners' Hidden Life, Or Insane Asylums Unveiled (1868). In 1867, the State of Illinois passed a "Bill for the Protection of Personal Liberty" which guaranteed all people accused of insanity, including wives, had the right to a public hearing. She also saw similar laws passed in three other states.
Up to 6,000 elderly people could be dying prematurely each year because of widespread over-prescription of powerful drugs to dementia patients in nursing homes.
Experts say anti-psychotic drugs can leave patients immobilised and unable to speak and are often used unnecessarily to keep dementia sufferers quiet for overworked staff.
But the drugs can increase the risk of death by 50 per cent, and family members are often left in the dark about their use.
High doses of potent drugs
One of South Australia's leading geriatric experts, Dr Craig Whitehead, testified at a coronial hearing into Mr Burns' death that he believed the overall dose over the next five days was excessive.
"He did have a very high dose of halperidol, which is a very potent anti-psychotic... I think he had about 35 milligrams," he told the hearing.
"I would ordinarily give, in that circumstance, at best, 5 [milligrams] orally."
In fact, Mr Burns was given 45 milligrams in five days, as well as other anti-psychotics and sedatives.
The coroner heard that sometimes he was drugged because he was restless or wanting to go for a quiet walk in the corridor at night.
"And even the coroner said, 'Well, what else is the man meant to do in the facility? What's wrong with going for a walk?'" Ms Playford said.
Thousands affectedUp to 60 per cent of nursing home residents are on psychiatric drugs, and up to 30 per cent are on powerful anti-psychotics.
Professor Le Couteur says in many cases doctors are treating people with dementia in order to make life easier for the carers and the health workers.
He calculated how many patients are dying six to 12 months prematurely each year because of the over-use of anti-psychotics, and got figures ranging from 500 to 6000.
"I think the answer is thousands," he told Lateline.
"I think there are probably thousands of deaths where can attribute to these medications.
He said he was not aware the figure would be so high.
"I was shocked, very sad for the elderly people," he said."People with dementia are human beings and they need to be treated with respect and sedating them because of their behaviour just feels wrong as a human being."
While not commenting on specific cases, Queensland specialist geriatric psychiatrist Professor Gerard Byrne says there are likely to be hundreds of premature deaths each year with thousands more adversely affected.
"I think it's likely to be hundreds, if not, thousands severely adversely affected each year in this country," he said.
"I have certainly seen on a fairly regular basis, older people with dementia that have been prescribed antipsychotic medication either inappropriately, or in excessive dose or for too long a period.
"The problem is that they seem to be used indiscriminately and significantly overused, really."
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest