So I have mixed feelings on the psychiatric community in general. Therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, the lot. I mean, they can do a lot of good. I have managed to have good experiences in therapy, and I the meds I am taking are helping me a lot. I strongly believe that mental health does count as health, and that psychiatric problems count as medical problems.
But I do think there are some problems. And I don’t just mean “need a find a therapist who’s the right fit” kind of problem. For instance, there’s the racism problem that I talked about before. Not necessarily overt racism (though I’m sure there’s at least some of that too), but more the subtle, insidious sort of racism that people who try to be decent can still fall prey to. The kind of racism that leaves us with inexplicable differences in autism across races, later ages for non-white children to get diagnosed, and very few people talking about it or even acknowledging the problem.
However, that is not the problem I am here to talk about. I am here to talk about the suicidal problem.
I think I’ll just say it outright – I will never, ever, tell a therapist or psychologist or any sort of psychiatric person if I’m suicidal. NEVER. I think the way they handle it is atrocious, and ultimately causes more harm than good. If nothing else, their methods cause ME more harm than good, and their ham-handed approach does not tend to allow for any sort of nuance or personalization of treatment.
I’ve been an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital (or “mental ward’ as my dad likes to put it) on three occasions. I’ve seen callous, uncaring nurses, overworked doctors and nurses alike, reduction in the patient’s humanity, even in the “better” places. I’ve heard that they do help some people and that’s great, but they have never, ever helped me. If I should ever need help because I am suicidal, a hospital is NOT the right answer. It isn’t even close to the right answer.
Yet it’s the only answer that the psychiatric community at large seems willing to give. There’s just nothing else. I once was watching a discussion about this online and saw a therapist defend this position. The line of logic was roughly “if they are admitting to being suicidal than they obviously want help, so we hospitalize them.” This blatant display of “hospital = the only answer” really disturbed me.
Now, I’ve already talked about what I think are healthy ways to talk to a suicidal person. If absolutely nothing else, they would help me and I doubt I’m alone. Ultimately, though, hospitals “help” by reducing privacy, reducing choice, reducing independence, and a high degree of intrusiveness. It’s true, it’s likely to keep patients alive. But for me, that’s about all it’ll do. Instead of addressing underlying issues, the treatment that is supposed to keep me “safe” would only exacerbate the problem. My depressions are often triggered by feelings of helplessness and dependency and lack of choice. Taking all those things and shoving them in my face is harsh and cruel and will only serve to make my feelings worse. Yet do therapists think about that, about who I am and how I would respond and what I might need, if they were to hear that I am struggling with suicidal urges?
Until that changes, I simply will not share any suicidal thoughts I may have. It isn’t actually difficult for me – I almost never share when I’m feeling that way anyway. Not even with those I am very close to, so keeping it from a group I consider to be high-risk is not in the least bit difficult. Also, it really doesn’t say anything good that I categorize people who are supposed to be there to help as “high risk.” In fact, it would take an extreme degree of trust and confidence for me to share thoughts and feelings like those, no matter how much I might want to ask for help. That’s just the way it’s going to be.