Chicago Lakeshore Hospital

Name of Facility: Chicago Lakeshore Hospital

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Chicago, IL, USA

Number of Stars: 1.5

Description of Experience: I’ve been to this hospital twice, once in 2014 and again in 2017.

When I was admitted in 2014, I was 17 and a senior in high school, so I was on the adolescent floor. I was admitted for a suicide attempt. The stay mostly consisted of group therapy sessions. The staff facilitating these sessions were extremely unprofessional; in one particular session I was discussing why I was being hospitalized (which had a lot to do with how poorly my high school handled my mental health issues) and I was repeatedly told it was my fault that I was depressed and suicidal to the point where I was sobbing.

I meet with my psychiatrist only twice, once the morning after I was admitted and again about 2 days before I was released to evaluate my mental state. Both meetings were extremely short.

I was admitted again in October 2017, this time as an adult, for suicidal ideation. Despite my bad experience with this hospital before, I returned to Lakeshore because of its LGBT program. This program amounted to absolutely nothing. I requested to be put in one of the rooms designated for the LGBT program but was not, even though the rooms were open. There were no LGBT-specific therapy sessions or groups. I requested to be referred to by certain pronouns, but they hardly, if ever, happened.

The ward was mostly occupied by substance abuse patients. They mental health and substance abuse patients are in separate wings, but there were so many substance abuse patients that they had to be placed in the mental health wing. Most of the group sessions focused on substance abuse. While I understand this completely, it did result in most of my time being spent in the dayroom reading or watching TV.

The sessions I did participate in were fine. Usually it was sitting in a circle in the dayroom and talking. There was an art therapy session that I enjoyed a lot. I wish there were more things like that.

You have to be cleared for most things, including going down to the cafeteria for lunch/dinner (as opposed to it being taken up to you). Unfortunately, your social worker probably won’t get around to that until your stay is basically over. You hardly ever actually see your social worker unless you basically demand it. I had to see my social worker to get things sorted out with my school. I already had a lot on file with my disability resource center, so that was relatively painless.

All in all, this hospital met the bare minimum of not allowing me to kill myself on their watch. It didn’t do too much beyond that.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Lesbian and non-binary

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2014, 2017

Bellevue Hospital

Name of Facility: Bellevue Hospital

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Manhattan, NY, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Description of Experience: Let me start by saying my experiences outpatient, non psych, were always very good at Bellevue. But inpatient psych is a neverending nightmare.

There is no respect for the patient as a human being with autonomy. I checked myself in voluntarily, but as soon as I walked in they made it involuntary, which is standard. Then the nightmare began. It took about 4 hours to get to the first interview. Then I was in another area for another six hours. It was freezing cold and there was just a vinyl couch and you could have a sheet for warmth.

Once they brought me into the actual observation area, it took THREE DAYS before they placed me in a ward. Three days with bright fluorescent lights that never turned off. On cots in the hallway with nothing to do- thank God I brought books. I had brought my medication but they took it away. I needed it at 7 PM but they kept saying the doctor was coming to talk to me. I asked about every hour for my medication. It really really messes me up to not take it. By 3 AM I really was crazy, screaming for my meds. Finally at 4 AM new staff came on who told me the doctor had gone home at ten. The previous staff had just been lying.

A pattern I saw at Bellevue was that they wanted to give you the opposite of what you wanted. For instance, I could not sleep and wanted to. The next cot over, the woman did not want to sleep. They forced her to sleep with an injection of Haldol. I begged for one as well, and they refused.

Once I got to the ward I was put in a room with a roommate. Thank God mine was really nice. A person addicted to coke who had tried to commit suicide, ours was an unlikely friendship, but there were so few people there capable of rational discourse it was a godsend that we were together.

The staff had the hobby of setting people off. I was not sure if I was right about this till my nurse sister did a three month tour of another much better psych ward, and was shocked by the sadism.

First of all, THERE WAS ZERO THERAPY. Yep. None. It was a holding tank. Second, you could NOT see a doctor. There was a psychiatrist who would come in at a run and race through the unit once a day, as we all ran and tried to ask our questions~ when can I leave? My meds are wrong? Etc. He slammed the door in our faces. It must have been a requirement that he physically enter the space, which he did for less than 5 minutes. I was trying and trying to get his attention about my meds and he would not talk to me. I finally got so frustrated I sat down and started hitting my head against the wall behind me. I was carried to my room and he actually came in. He said if I was going to act like that, no wonder he would not see me. I said actually it worked the other way.

My sister, a nurse, visited me after three days. She saw me and ran out and I heard her screaming WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SISTER?!?!? They had drugged me so I could barely talk. Turned out they were mixing up my day vs night meds. She got that fixed.

Meds were humiliating. When it was time for meds, we each had to stand at our room doorways. We were not allowed to sit on the floor. We were not allowed to move our chair to the doorway. We just had to stand and wait. This was about an hour and a half twice a day. When they made a mistake with my meds they would not review with me. They simply refused to give me any of my meds and wrote that I had refused. They started me on Risperdal without my permission, and I have not been able to get off of it since.

After that roommate went, I made friends with the only other intelligent life force in the ward. He was a punk rocker with a long Mohawk and lots of tats. Again IRL we had nothing in common but you cling to the humanity you find, and we talked and talked. The staff hated this. They hated him. Well, they hated all of us, but hated him vehemently. They would try to separate us from talking to each other, for no reason. I do not recall what they gave as an excuse, but they forbade us to talk in the common area. We were not allowed in each others rooms of course, so there was just the hallway to talk in, outside my room. Again we were not allowed to sit on the floor or bring the chairs out.

One time we had sat down and a custodian came through and made a racial comment to the rocker. He and I screamed back at the man. The staff came and several of them closed in on him and gave him a shot he did not want, to calm him down; and basically carried him away. I needed something to calm me down. They refused, even though it was on my chart to give me ativan as requested. Another example of doing the opposite of what patients want. I begged for hours. They gave me some six hours later.

The outdoors access was a space on the roof with a basketball hoop and a picnic table. It was enclosed in chain link fence which covered the top, too, like an aviary. If we were “good” we could go out for 20 minutes three times a week. I started to climb on the chain link fence- what else was there to do- and they did not let me out again.

My sister brought me some purple nail polish and they let her put it on me (she could not leave the glass bottle). Then my punk rocker friend wanted it too, but as my sister was putting it on his three inch nails, the staff made her stop. It was not appropriate. No reason.

After a week the doctor told me I was to go home. I knew I was still not safe. He had barely spoken to me but he decided I was able to leave. Then my boyfriend asked me to go to Europe with him. So I wanted to go. Suddenly the doctor changed his tune and said I had to stay. Always trying to make patients as unhappy as possible. I thought I was going to have to sue for my freedom. My outpatient psychiatrist afterwards told me there had been a big debate on whether I should be allowed to go to Europe. NOT whether I would be healthy or safe. Whether I DESERVED to.

Why doesn’t anyone have oversight about psych wards? Some agency needs to pro-actively come in with questionnaires for everyone; and there should be good patient advocates. Why do they allow psych wards to have no treatment? What other medical condition can you go inpatient with and receive no care?

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: None. Cis white girl

SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital

Name of Facility: SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Wentzville, MO, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Description of Experience: Awful hospital experience. I willingly admitted myself and my time there ranged from downright terrifying to comically miserable. The staff are rude and unprofessional, most of them seeming as though they’d rather be anywhere else. The atmosphere was dirty and food stains from spills remained on the tables for days at a time.

Group therapy was required, though not particularly constructive seeing as though most everyone was there for different reasons. It was impossible to find a doctor and when you did meet with him, the encounter was short and essentially boiled down to “when am I getting out?” “I don’t know.” “ok.”

During my stay…
– I was refused HRT whilst being told repeatedly that it was the cause of my mental health issues. (When it finally WAS given to me, it was with several pages of printed-out prayers?)
– I was openly discriminated against by the staff for being trans, then threatened with sedation and removal of visitation rights after becoming angry.

I added .5 stars because the weekend staff treated me like a human, which was nice. Other than that, I left feeling worse than I did when I was admitted.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Being transgender.

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2017

Northwell Syosset

Name of Facility: Northwell Syosset

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Syosset, New York, USA

Number of Stars: 2

Description of Experience: I was twice denied a Koran & access to Imam priest. Misdiagnosed as bipolar for being bisexual from close minded family that does not accept me. Am well educated. I never tried to commit suicide. Screamed political complaints at home, annoying conservative cops who put me away for a few weeks to censor protests.

Psych ward is small 20 people & cold but clean with nice aides. No fresh air, dangerous electro-shock, padded quiet room, indoor bicycle, 2 TV in common room with Xbox & DVD player, old books, art room with 2 computers (if you attend group), good food including snack at night.

Besides discrimination & greed, I am concerned that during 2 of my imprisonments they had a possible undercover Muslim guy who was from another city, admitted having a gun which I never. Said he used PCP & tried to get me to do illegal deals. Sounds like entrapment in what should be a medical place.

Wish the hospital would hire a full time talk therapist & spend more than a few minutes with each patient.

Other people complained about Tardive Dyskenesia & diabetes from being over-medicated. I gained 100 pounds from side effects.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Bisexual, Muslim, High Functioning Autism

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2005, 2016

Gateway Regional Medical Center

Name of Facility: Gateway Regional Medical Center

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Granite City, Illinois, USA

Number of Stars: 4

Description of Experience: I was admitted on July 5th, 2017, for suicidal thoughts and self-harm. I had to spend hours upon hours upon hours in the emergency room before they brought me up to my bedroom (there was a special set of rooms for incoming psych patients). Everything was very confusing for my first day, but adapting was very easy. Literally almost all of my stay consisted of being stuck in one room with the other patients (we were not allowed to leave “the dayroom” except for at bedtime).

Legitimately all we had to do was play cards and talk. Since all anyone played was gin rummy (something I don’t know the rules to), I was stuck just spectating unless I could find someone to play Uno with. Boys and girls were separated–we weren’t allowed to sit at the same tables without a staff member present, and had to stay at arm’s length when about the room.

We had “Group” a couple times a day, and that was pretty much all we got treatment-wise besides medicine and “daily” unproductive meetings with therapists (they didn’t come in on weekends or certain weekdays). “Group” was not beneficial at all; the worst example of which I experienced was when one staff member spent an entire meeting either educating us on bestiality or bragging to us (a bunch of abused children) about how she horribly beat her kids. I don’t feel like I have to explain why that was out of line.

However, I would like to add that the food was actually pretty decent, and as a vegetarian I got my needs accommodated well (actually, I recommend to anyone who stays at Gateway to request vegetarian options–you can have grilled cheese for every meal of the day while everyone else has things like tuna salad sandwiches). All the requirements to be released were is to have two positive family sessions, which is where they sit you down with your family and have you talk for a bit. Not very hard really.

However, any kids who ended up there as wards of the state, foster kids, etc, could be kept for much longer. One kid had been in there for exactly 80 days as of the day I left because the government just didn’t seem to know what to do with him. The staff ranged from pretty great to terrible, although most fell in the unremarkable category. Only one person would really qualify as pretty great, and only one other would qualify as terrible (the aforementioned woman who bragged about child abuse). Sleeping was nearly impossible; the bedrooms were incredibly hot and stuffy and you had to keep your door open at all times so that bright light from the hallway spilled in.

Basically overall, I don’t feel like I gained anything from the experience except the added motivation to stop self-harming that was basically “I don’t want to end up in that ward again.” I don’t feel like my stay was productive at all besides that and the fact that I was finally diagnosed and began medication (I had kept quiet about mental health issues until the event that got me admitted). All in all, I don’t think anyone will get anything out of staying, but nothing was outright terrible except for how slowly time passed the first day I was there and how horridly my anxiety was acting up. Everything was just basically decent, with no real outliers besides the one terrible staff member.

Here’s the part where I talk specifically about my experience as a trans man, or just a LGBT+ person in general. Firstly, I was asked my sexuality by every single staff member in charge of treatment. Every therapist I met with, the pediatrician, the woman who showed me into my room, always asked me pretty early on, “Are you into guys, girls, or both?” Some tacked on an option of “neither.” This seemed to be standard procedure, but could have just been because I was trans. I was obviously offended by this, and nearly said something, but bit my tongue because you had to behave if you wanted to go home.

I was put in a bedroom by myself–everyone was given either a room by themself or a with a roommate (each was equipped with two beds), and I wasn’t allowed a roommate, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. Half the people in there weren’t allowed roommates either, (for anger issues or other reasons) so it wasn’t really seen as peculiar by the other kids. I was deadnamed only around less than 30% of the time by staff (I haven’t legally changed my name), which deeply bothered me but I could handle. I also was called “ma’am” a few times, which really bugged me.

I experienced no blatant transphobia or homophobia from the staff, and was treated as a man by therapists. I was also treated as a boy in the dayroom–I was supposed to sit with the guys and avoid the girls. I had been asked at the beginning of my stay what I preferred (they said the last trans guy they had asked to be put with the girls), and my decision was met with no objection. I wasn’t outed to any of the other patients, and was allowed to remain stealth (have people think I was a cis man). So, overall, no real complaints in how I was treated as a trans person aside from some deadnaming and misgendering. Treatment was much better than what I expected in that regard.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: I am FTM transgender (I identify as male but was assigned female at birth), pansexual, and a minor

Dominion Hospital

Name of Facility: Dominion Mental Hospital

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Falls Church, Virginia, USA

Number of Stars: 1

Description of Experience: When I was hospitalised back in 2015, I was recovering from a suicidal attempt and was on Prozac with Abilify. When I was admitted, the staff would constantly stare and whisper to each other about patients and made unprofessional remarks. The psychiatrist who only gave me five minutes of his time, assured me that I needed to lose weight and that good Muslims don’t attempt suicide.

When I was discharging, I learned that my insurance didn’t pay for the rest of the stay because the psychiatrist wrote that I am a normal adolescent who doesn’t need psychiatric treatment. I have been diagnosed by countless medical professionals and have been on antidepressants a year prior. When I was discharged and spoke to my primary psychiatrist and told him what happened, he tried to negotiate with the insurance company saying that the psychiatrist had obviously misdiagnosed me but insurance wouldn’t have it, even though I have made many claims for my therapy sessions and have picked up my prescriptions which was paid for by them. I do NOT recommend this place.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient Hospitalization

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Being a Pakistani American Muslim

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2015

Palmetto Health Baptist Columbia

Name of Hospital: Palmetto Health Baptist Columbia

City, State/Province, Country: Columbia, SC, USA

Number of Stars: 2

Comment: This is my experience in the pediatric ward, I have no idea what the adult ward is like. It was a horrible experience, the only reason why I’m giving it two stars is because the recreational therapists were very nice. While I was there, they refused to call me by my preferred name, despite my begging and pleading. They are also very strict; once I was doodling on my hand because I was all out of paper, and they sent me to my room to make me wash it off, and then refused to let me go down to breakfast because of it. It wasn’t even anything bad, just a few cat faces.

I was in a room next to a seven year-old boy, and once during quiet time (where we stay in our rooms doing something quiet) I heard a nurse go into his room and scream at him for laying down on the floor. No matter how much he cried she wouldn’t stop screaming, and it got to the point where it was getting to be too loud for me.

Finally, the psychiatrist I had was HORRIBLE. When I came back the first time, she made me write a 3-paragraph essay on why I had been readmitted, and then made me write a list of 100 coping skills. Overall, a horrible experience. If I had the choice, I would NOT be going back there again.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Transgender FtM

Year(s) : Twice in 2016 (once in January, once over the summer)