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

Chicago Lakeshore Hospital

Name of Facility: Chicago Lakeshore Hospital

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

Number of Stars: 1

Description of Experience: I was admitted to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in 2017 based on an unfounded belief by a family member that I might be suicidal (which I in no way was). I have a 30-year history of chronic, treatment-resistant depression (without a single suicidal incident). The episode that resulted in my hospitalization, however, was an isolated occurrence of distress based on a situation with my wife earlier that week, which turned out to be groundless and was completely resolved earlier, after which time I was, if anything, feeling better.

Nevertheless, the family member I mentioned above felt it necessary call the police (who approached me as I was calmly enjoying a donut and coffee in front of a local donut shop), resulting in my being hauled off to Northwest Community Hospital for evaluation, and based solely on a phone call between the Psychiatric Liaison and the psychiatrist on call. I was sent to Chicago Lakeshore early the next morning and placed under the “care” of another psychiatrist. I was never suicidal nor was I having any suicidal thoughts.

In spite of my insistence that the whole affair originated from a short-lasting episode in which my depression played no part, throughout my week-long stay at Chicago Lakeshore, the psychiatrist remained doggedly fixated on it, raising the subject at every one of our daily meetings, fiddling with my antidepressant medication dosage, which was already being well-managed my regular psychiatrist, who had been treating me for some 14 years and who has my complete trust. Yet the psychiatrist persisted in treating the actual precipitating incident as irrelevant. After 30 years of coping with depression, I could very well discern the difference between it and a very short-lived situation, which, unlike depression, does not abruptly evaporate the moment the underlying cause is resolved.

The hospital offered daily group therapy sessions, which I declined, since, again, the precipitating incident had been completely resolved. Virtually all of my other time at the hospital was spent lying in bed in a state of growing rage over my situation and the doctor’s incompetent and negligent handling of it. My hospitalization was the result of a total disregard or misinterpretation of the facts of the incident and caused me significant emotional distress and difficulty interacting with my family.

If the various hospital personnel involved had taken care to perform a competent evaluation of the situation and take subsequent action based on the facts rather than supposition and unfounded assumptions, it would have dispelled their notion that I was a suicide risk and avoided a completely unnecessary, traumatic and ultimately harmful week of involuntary hospitalization. The overall effect of my hospitalization, far from being therapeutic, was to leave me far more distressed, enraged and agitated – resulted in a deepening of my depression – which continues to the present day along with a deep sense of rage at the harm it has caused.

Considering the facts, how any competent mental health professional could find a rationale for requiring hospitalization of someone who has neither displayed any behavior nor expressed any thoughts indicating an intention to attempt suicide totally escapes me. But hospitalized I was – either because the Psychiatric Liaison took poor notes, was not paying attention to my comments when she interviewed me, did a poor job of communicating her information to the psychiatrist on call or because he misinterpreted the information provided by the Psychiatric Liaison, I have no way of knowing.

I only know the result: that he ordered me hospitalized based on a serious or at least superficial understanding of the facts of the situation or based on a lack of a complete understanding of those facts. The end result was an utterly unwarranted order for my involuntary hospitalization in a psychiatric facility, a hospitalization that would prove to provide no benefit, protect me from a nonexistent risk, and ultimately cause me considerable distress.

The doctor at Lakeshore visited me daily throughout the week, again fixated on my depression as my core issue. On Wednesday (I believe) we had a discussion of the dosage of the antidepressant I have been taking for many years. I told him that until sometime the previous November I had been taking 40 mg. per day, but around that time I began to experience something like panic attacks, and my regular psychiatrist reduced the dose to 10 mg., after which the problem ceased.

He expressed the opinion that a 10 mg. dose was too low and told me he would me increasing my dose to 20 mg. The following day, however, he informed me that the admissions people had (incorrectly, obviously) recorded my current dose as 40 mg., but despite my insistence that this was clearly an error during the admissions process, he then told me that he was now going to increase my dose to 60 mg. He had clearly not referred back to his notes from the previous day before making this decision.

Friday of that week arrived, and I spoke briefly with the social worker assigned to me , who indicated that there was no reason I could not be discharged as soon as the doctor signed the discharge order. Late in the day, I encountered the social worker  as he was about to leave work and asked him about the status of my discharge. He informed me that the psychiatrist had simply failed to sign the order before leaving, with the result that I would remain confined to the hospital until Monday.

On either Saturday or Sunday (I do not now recall which), the psychiatrist on call for the weekend visited me, and I explained the psychiatrist’s confusion about my antidepressant dose, resulting in it’s being reduced again to 20mg.

The time I had to dwell on my incompetent treatment and separation from my family, far from being therapeutic, left me in a far worse mental state after leaving the hospital than prior to my admission. My rage, for all the reasons I mention above, continues to fester within me to a degree where I frequently become too agitated to do anything productive or interact with others.

If you should ever have to deal with either of these psychiatric “professionals”, do yourself a favor and insist that they not be involved in your “care” so they will not have an opportunity to inflict the same damage on you that they did on me.

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

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Gross disregard of the facts related to my situation

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

News Articles on Elgin Mental Health Center

Name of Facility: Elgin Mental Health Center

Location: Elgin, IL, USA

Articles

 

Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital

Name of Facility: Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital

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

Number of Stars: 1

Description of Experience: I was forced into the Alexian Brothers “school refusal” program during my sophomore year of high school after missing too much school because my parents were keeping me home to hide evidence that I was being physically abused and then claiming that I was the one refusing to go because I was “too anxious” to go to school. One of the biggest red flags is that no one involved in the Alexian Brothers program questioned their version of events. No one asked me what my reasons were for missing school. Furthermore, even though my parents claimed I was skipping school because of anxiety, I was never treated as a patient with anxiety, but was instead essentially treated as a “difficult” child with “behavior problems” who was just refusing to go to school for no reason.

Every kid in the program was constantly belittled by the staff. Our feelings and thoughts didn’t matter. We were continually told that we were the source of problems and upheaval in our families, and if we tried to argue, we were told to shut up.

Patients in my program as well as in others kept “in line” with how the staff wanted us to behave with the threat of being moved to inpatient programs or having their time in the outpatient program extended. Because this was a program for teenagers, we were told we had no rights whatsoever and the staff could decide to do what they wanted with us. For those of us in the “school refusal” program, we were told our parents wouldn’t care because we were so difficult they’d be glad to be rid of us. Police were called on patients who were late or who missed a day of the program, and those patients could be forced into inpatient treatment. Again, we were all teenagers, so most of us were dependent on parents for transportation and it didn’t matter if being late wasn’t our fault.

The most important thing I can say about Alexian Brothers is this: I was not suicidal when I went in. I was suicidal when I came out.

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

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: I’m autistic and was being severely abused at home.

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2009

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Name of Facility: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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

Number of Stars: 3

Description of Experience: In March of this year (2017) I voluntarily admitted myself into the inpatient psychiatric program (More so my ex-boyfriend [who I was still living with] and my family (mostly) my mom coerced me into doing so. I had had a manic episode, had not slept in at least 72 hours (plus I had huge bouts of depression for at least a month before that).

I checked into the ER, saw multiple nurses and doctors, then a psychiatrist, and finally was told they thought it best I was admitted. I then waited forever! From the time I got to the hospital, to the time I actually got into the psych ward was 12 hours- I don’t know how I made it.

When I got there, I hadn’t slept in over 80 hours and was completely delirious. I was forced to strip naked and have every nook and cranny of my body inspected. Then every single one of my belongings was taken away from me (apart from my underwear, bra, socks, leggings, and shirt) My boots had laces, so I couldn’t keep them and my hoodie had a drawstring. This one very rude man took away EVERYTHING else, including all my makeup and even my chap stick. I told him I had very dry lips and I needed it but he refused to give it to me. They took away my birth control and refused to let me have any (for 2 full nights) until a doctor THERE prescribed it… which gave me extreme anxiety (oh yeah, but they forbid xanax there, so I couldn’t even take anything to help me out with that).

It’s the middle of the night, so I sleep thru the morning sessions and wake up for lunch. The food there actually wasnt terrible (not great, but definitely better than anticipated). I then attended a group therapy session (where I made my first friend (over my uncontrollable laughter about a pun he made)). So I became friends with him and this other dude (I was told “hey you’re the second normalish-person I’ve met yet, hang out with us!”). So that was cool until the nurses gave me some drug I’ve never taken before (without explaining anything to me) and suddenly was unable to form a coherent sentence or think clearly, so I staggered to my room and went to bed.

Next day: everyone is supposed to receive a folder with an itinerary, articles, worksheets, and you are supposed to be assigned to a certain group. Guess what?! Nobody told me anything about who my regular nurse would be, who my social worker was, or what group I was in. The staff was SO unhelpful- those front desk employees won’t even look at you if you have a question. They treat you like you are an animal and have no respect for you whatsoever, SO I just went to whatever meetings the friends I had made attended.

I had my own room, which was super nice.. and it was really big and a good escape between sessions just to rest or contemplate. The beds were very uncomfortable though.

My social worker was very nice (but it took me 4 days to see her and then I only saw her the second time when I was leaving).

I had maybe 6 nurses while I was there because my primary nurse was on vacation so they kept alternating them. Ya know, It would be great if the hospital would assign you a nurse that was actually there, instead of one that would be there 5 days after your admission.. just sayin.

I also had 3 psychiatrists: my primary, the weekend coverage, and a sub when my primary was out sick. I think that’s way too many psychiatrists for 1 week. Hospital policy is that Xanax is not tolerated, but I had been taking 3mg daily for 2 years. After 2 days I experienced severe withdrawals, but no one would listen to me. I was sweating, then freezing, couldn’t hold a cup of water due to the shakes, could not think straight, was laughing deliriously, had severe insomnia, started hallucinating- thinking the plants from the painting in my bedroom were coming out as demons trying to eat me alive. It wasn’t til a weekend day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I approached a man in a white coat and asked him if he was a psychiatrist. He said “yes, but what’s your name? … I’m not yours but Dr. so-&so will be seeing you later today”. I told him anyways what was going on and he pulled thru, told the other doctor, and she immediately put me on some Klonopin. Thank god, because I literally thought I was dying. It was so irresponsible to cut me off of benzos cold turkey in the first place, but at least I eventually got helped.

The substitute psych was a real “pleasure.” I was told I could go home in 5 days (pending approval from your doctor) and it had been 5 days, so I asked her about it. I had been waiting all weekend and was excited to see my assigned doc on Mon, but when I saw it wasnt her, I started crying a bit. She got pissed off with me and told me “even doctors get sick you know.” and then prescribed me Zoloft (which I have taken before with HORRIBLE results… she clearly didn’t read my charts). After I talked with my nurse, this doctor prescribed me another SSRI that i had already tried with HORRIBLE results. I refused, and my nurse was very understanding and didn’t make me take it.

Oh god, I feel like I have a million more things to say but I’ve already written so much. I CAN say that I met some amazing people there, and formed bonds that I will forever remember.

There was some AWESOME staff, and there was some TERRIBLE staff, but the other patients there made it bearable for me. I HATED not having my cell phone, but after a few days it didn’t bother me too much and I actually liked where I was. I definitely feel some nostalgia.

The facility itself is beautiful (it’s like a really manicured prison.. likely much prettier than your average psych ward.. including a pretty nice gym and lots of yoga mats too). They also have a machine for coffee (caffeinated and decaffeinated), but they’re lying because they’re both decaf.

I hate that I was here, and I hated so much of my time here, but by the end- I felt pretty content and came out a better person. I saw my regular psychiatrist a few hours after my discharge, and he told me this was the best/ most optimistic he had ever seen me ( so I guess something something worked!)

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient (7 days)

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

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

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

Northwestern Hospital

Name of Hospital: Northwestern Hospital
City, State/Province, Country: Chicago, IL, USA
Number of Stars: 3

Comment: I had never been in an inpatient program before this one. I spent 5 days at Northwestern and they were alright all things considered. Everyone had their own room and personal shower. There was a washer and dryer we could use with permission too.

I wasn’t /forced/ to go to activities but it did make a difference in how soon I got out as I preferred to read in my room but got scolded for that. I didn’t like any of the activities besides art and yoga personally. They had computers and phones we could use after meals until activities started again. Meals were pretty good and I’m vegetarian so I got a few extra options to choose from. There were visiting hours everyday but only 2 people could come at a time.

Some negatives were the workers. They were really condescending and wouldn’t tell me anything about the process or what they were thinking about how I was doing. My therapist was the worst as she would usually just ask me things like “why are you so sad?” or “why is that a big deal?” She basically told me I had no reason to be depressed or upset and was totally dismissive of the fact that I’m trans. (the general staff made an effort to call me by my chosen name instead of my legal one).

Nobody would use my pronouns even though dysphoria was a big reason I was in the hospital in the first place. The social worker was the same as the therapist. Also they wouldn’t give me my testosterone even though I brought it with me and it took 3 days for them to “approve” it. They also switched my meds twice just in the 5 days I was there. They wouldn’t listen to any of my opinions about what was going in my body.

Overall Northwestern was okay logistic wise but it didn’t help my mental state.

Type of program: inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?:  I’m trans (gender fluid)