I woke up again last night from a terrifying nightmare about Dr. Baran imprisioning me in the hospital and forcing me to take medication against my will. The nightmares are all the same, it always is in a room with Dr. Baran sitting at the head of the table the social worker sitting across from me and the other staff sitting around. Dr. Baran relentlessly questioning me. I wake up screaming and my boyfriend tells me it’s just a dream and he will never let that doctor or anyone do that to me again.
No one knows the true pain and torture I suffered in the hospital at the hands of that psychiatrist. The emotional torture I was put through. I still remember my lawyer telling me I want to be able to give the judge a stellar report and I said yes no problem. The monday before court when I spoke with her and she told me that the notes that Dr. Baran had written said I was consistently paranoid and disruptive left me shocked and in awe. I said, paranoid I have never been paranoid in my life and you spoke to me for yourself and disruptive all I do is keep my mouth quiet and talk to my peers. I couldn’t believe that a psychiatrist would lie. I felt like I was living a dream. Still I had to stay strong as this was what Dr. Baran wanted, she wanted me to act out so that what she put on paper would be true and accurate.
I remember that as if it were yesterday, the memories are an imprint in my mind. I choose to take this experience and turn it around and make it a positive one. I want to help others who have suffered from abuse in the mental health system because of psychiatrists such as Dr. Baran have a voice and know that they are not alone. Over the past year I have literally gone broke advocating for myself in a system that doesn’t allow people with mental illness to have a voice when such conduct by a medical professional is committed. I have taken the steps necessary to hopefully one day work with politicians such as my representatives so that this doesn’t happen again to anyone else. It has been daunting, an emotional roller coaster, at times I have felt like giving up on the process but that is exactly what the system unfortunately is set up for a person to do, GIVE UP! I am not giving UP! I have a VOICE and it will be HEARD.
Recently there have been land mark cases that have been settled and will set precedent for future students with not just mental illness but any disability. It is unfortunate that colleges/universities feel the need to discriminate against a class of people that are so vulnerable, but this past week a class action lawsuit that was against Portland University ended in victory not just for the students that were discriminated against but for future students in this country. Another case that was recently noted in Newsweek, a Princeton University Student who suffered from a mental illness and thought by seeking help he was doing the right thing only to find out that when he returned to campus, he was locked out of his dorm. This case also was won and set forth a victory for students with disabilities.
In these two cases mentioned it is unfortunate that the colleges bullied these students into feeling like they had to turn over personal medical records in order to return to school. Last year a similar incident happened with me and the school I was attending, Fordham University. The biggest difference is they didn’t get my medical records. What they received was what their policy demanded and that was it. The key is that the more information you supply to the university and which is found in these cases, the more room they have to further discriminate. Not only that but what right do they have to even ask for this personal information. The answer is NONE unless it is an extraordinary circumstance. As I learned my extraordinary circumstance was a doctor at the psychiatric hospital I was at violating HIPPA Privacy Protection and contacting my school. There was no incident on campus, I was never a behavior problem, I honestly didn’t even know who the dean was and didn’t even know what the dean did. The fact of the matter is that I tried to work with the Dean and explain that not only was he violating the ADA laws but my civil rights and that I had supplied them with a letter from my psychiatrist and complied with their policy. It wasn’t enough, I spent two months trying to communicate with the school. I spoke with my dean that I directly report to, the disabilities office, the associate director of field and assistant dean and I kept on being told to speak with the dean of student life. After trying to communicate and going around in circles I was given no choice but to hire an attorney to protect my civil rights and file a complaint with the office of civil rights.
This was last March, fast forward to August and I went to mediation with the Office of Civil Rights and Fordham University, which ended in myself and my lawyer leaving because the school I felt was being unreasonable. They wanted me to waive consent for my psychologist to speak with anyone in student life. ( literally) Then have him fill out a form that was discriminatory and was not a general medical form for all students.
It is now February of 2014, OCR hasn’t completed their investigation and I am obviously still not in school. I have had my life put on hold because a psychiatrist or representative of the hospital felt the need to violate HIPPA and call my school. In return the school did not do their due diligence and even ask for a consent form to see if they had one. They took the information and ran with it. They violated my civil rights and discriminated against me, even after I complied with their policy. I am almost done with their program, but because of the way classes are scheduled I probably will not be graduating now until 2016 instead of this year.
In ending, Fordham University is an excellent school and the professors are wonderful. I have enjoyed every moment I spent in the classrooms and grown since I enrolled their. The administration on the other hand I couldn’t say the same. We have to be careful and not taint the educators and punish them for the wrongdoings of policy makers and enforcers of the policies.
I had a brief conversation with Senior legislative Assistant Ryan Lehman for Representative Sean Patrick Maloney. We spoke about the civil rights violations and stigma associated to recent legislation with gun violence and mental illness and how it affects individuals rights to exercise the second amendment.
Please feel free to review my notes which were sent directly to Mr. Lehman
phone conversation with Ryan < Click here to review notes
Next week I will be having a phone conference with a federal politicians senior legislative aide on mental health and gun legislation. Since the tragedy of Sandy Hook in New town Ct there has been an assault on mental health and a direct impact on citizens second amendment rights. The NY Safe Act which was passed in the dead of night by Governor Andrew Cuomo, because of his rush to judgement that Adam Lanza’s mental health was the cause of the mass shooting in New town Ct , it is now known that after a year long criminal investigation by the state of Connecticut that he would have been found guilty of capital murder because his mental health had no baring on the out come of the crime and it was in fact pre-meditated.
Governor Cuomo in the NY Safe Act ordered all mental health professionals to report a mentally ill person ” which is likely to engage in harm to self or others”. The reporting requirement has been extended to physicians, nurses or Licensed Clinical Social Workers.Before I go further I want to explain what the above means for people who have a mental illness and own a gun. What this means is, if you are seeing one of the above mental health professionals and they deem you a threat to yourself or others they are required to report this to the Department of Community Services, which in return will put all of your information, including diagnosis, social security number, address etc into the Department of Criminal Justice database and then work with the State police to determine if you have applied for or own a hand gun. First I want to say there are unqualified professionals ( LCSW and Nurses) making these decisions to place an individual at risk of losing jobs, their hand guns and so on. Second of all who is checking on these “qualified individuals” to make sure that they are doing a diligent job. We would like to think that all professionals due their due diligence, but you have many cases like mine where due diligence are not done and powers of the medical profession are abused. The next question I want you to think about is ” If you weren’t going to apply for a hand gun, How would you ever know if your information was submitted? ” There is no reporting requirement that a “qualified professional” must tell the patient.
Next I want you to think about the executive order that our President has put out regarding gun control policy.”These new executive orders would allow the federal database access to mental health records by offering an exemption to existing laws that protect patient privacy, essentially overriding the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule protections, in place for individual’s medical records.States that were once required by law to protect personal medical information will now be required to submit their patient’s private and confidential records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).” Read more: http://benswann.com/a-mental-health-assault-on-the-second-amendment-by-executive-order/#ixzz2sZYiZeOF HIPPA was put in place to protect our confidentiality and privacy with our doctors. Now the Obama administration wants to, because your mentally ill, say were going to override that and mandate that your private medical records go into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. That’s a violation of our civil rights and a direct assault not only on mental health but the second amendment right. Our Veterans come back from war and suffer from PTSD, they are highly trained in firearms, because they have a set back the government has the right to stigmatize them and say were going to take your guns. Nonetheless, we who suffer from mental illness should not be treated any differently from someone who suffers from cancer.
When the Obama administration decides to go into Chicago and address the guns that kill the children, teenagers, parents, sisters and brothers because of gang violence, poverty, drugs, criminal behavior and the sorts then come knock on my door and speak to me about stigmatizing the mental health community and creating laws that violate our civil rights. When his administrations creates federal laws that mandate any person associated with gang killings or initiations with a maximum sentence of life in prision then go and knock on a Veterans door for their guns because they fought a war for our freedom and came home scarred with PTSD because of the trauma they saw. Let’s address the real issues of guns and not take a whole class of people who we know don’t have a voice and are afraid of standing up for themselves, in fear of being stigmatized and abused by the system. People kill people, not guns, not illnesses, but causes like gang violence, poverty, drugs, lack of parental control and so on. When we finally come to the conclusion that we need to fix the mental health system, implement checks and balances, protect our vulnerable, get rid of big pharma, the politics involved, implement more therapy and less drugs and work together then maybe one day this world will be a little better off.
There are so many areas of the mental health system that need to be fixed and my story is only one, but this interview with Senator Deeds just broke my heart and I couldn’t finish watching it. We who suffer from mental illness need to fix the system and work together with politicians so that our lives and are better. It’s not just the responsibility of our parents, family members, friends and the government. It is our responsibility, When AndersonCooper said, it is just as hard as someone living with cancer to deal with the disease every day and mental illness is no different, I couldn’t agree more! I struggle all the time with depression, but I make sure I take my medication and when it fails I go see my doctor and ask what can we do. The pain we suffer from mental illness is no different from any other medical condition. We bleed the same blood as anyone else! The difference is the mental health community does not speak about it, we suffer in silence, we can no longer afford to do this, our rights are being taken away more and more, the care is deteriorating, the psychiatrists are not taking responsibility like they did so many years ago, the checks and balances are not in place and we need to stand together with someone like Senator Creigh Deeds in support of policies. Make recommendations on how the system can work better. Remember no idea is stupid, no question is dumb, the only reason stigma still exists within the mental health community is because we the people who suffer from it ALLOW it to exist!!!
Originally posted on Anderson Cooper 360:
Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds is on a mission to fix America’s mental health system. Deeds fought to get his only son Gus the treatment he needed but, instead, he says “the system failed him.” Last November, Gus was put under an emergency custody order at a Virginia hospital. When doctors failed to find an available psychiatric bed, Sen. Deeds was forced to bring Gus home. The next day Gus attacked his father with a knife, before turning a gun on himself. Creigh Deeds survived, and told Anderson “there are so many good memories. That’s what I need to focus on.”
Watch part two of the interview
I never know where to begin. I have trained myself over the past year to remain strong and fight my way through everything that has happened. I feel the emotional pain and I break down in private. Sometimes I cry endlessly in my car because I think that if someone sees me crying I am weak. I remember being in the hospital and having to hold in my tears, my lawyer telling me the judge had to have a stellar report. I thought to myself what crime did I commit? A stellar report? I am here for depression, but I will do what I have to, to save my life as I was in the fight for my life. Everyday after that I kept quiet, the tears that I felt, my heavy heart, it was all kept inside. Sometimes I would put my head in my pillow and cry, but I was careful to make sure the staff at the door didn’t hear me. That would have been used against me. Almost a year later this is still fresh in my mind, I suffer from nightmares, have been stripped from everything in my life for seeking justice for the abuse and trauma that was done to me. Some days are easier than others much easier, but others are so hard. I walk into my apartment and my cable is shut off, my bills are piling up, everyday is a new call from a new creditor, my phone every two weeks is being shut off and the list goes on. I ask myself how I do it, where do I find the strength to go on? What is it that keeps me going? The answer is always the same it’s knowing that one day I will be helping so many, that I know justice will be served, all my work that I have done would be in vein, the support I have from family, friends, strangers etc.. there’s so many reasons. I look forward to the day when the law prevails and all my hard work pays off. When all my hard work helps so many others!!!
I often wonder if people, their families, loved ones and friends are aware of the constant civil rights violations that affect persons with mental illness. When I look for articles to post on my Facebook page that I believe will educate the public and provoke thought about what people with mental illness face and how their rights are constantly violated, they are discriminated against on all levels, scapegoated and abused, sadly I look at Dr. Jeffrey Liebermans twitter account and surely I will find an article that he posted which has some type of civil libertites violation against people with mental illness or use of scapegoating in gun legislation.
A few days ago I saw an article written in the New York Times blog: The Politics and Government Blog of The Times. The title of the article was Obama Announces Gun Control Actions. To no surprise of my own, within this newly proposed legislation that Obama will be asking Congress to approve legislation that includes and I quote “Department of Justice is proposing to clarify that the term ” committed to a mental institution” includes involuntary outpatient as well as inpatient commitment.” Now this would “supposedly help “states determine what information should be made accessible to the federal background check system. ” The Department of Health and Human Services would be asked to relax some privacy protections ( HIPPA Privacy Protection Act) to identify more easily those who suffer from a mental illness and who should not have a fire arm.
Let’s take a look at this a little more closely. The federal government is asking to change the definition of “committed to a mental institution” okay so does this mean by court order, psychiatrist who is determining this? Are there any checks and balances in place to ensure that everyone on all sides the court, psychiatrist, hospital etc is doing what their supposed to and ethically? Further once you open up pandoras box to change the definition of the term ” committed to a mental institution” what else is the federal government going to change. Next, we look at ” RELAXING the HIPPA Privacy Act protections, which are put in place so you are not subjected to any mistreatment, including but not limited to discrimination, civil rights violations, abuse etc.. Your information would be available in a federal background system, Is that NICS? Does that mean when you apply for a job, that will come up? How will you be notified if your name is submitted? Is the federal government not issuing a letter stating that your information was put into this system and Why not? The much larger picture is the clear civil rights violation. The Obama Administration knows that they can scapegoat the mentally ill because we don’t have people to speak up for us like the NRA, Al Sharpton, ACLU or anyone else.
I watched The Mike Huckabee Show this weekend on Fox News and he said it best, The government first has to devalue a class of people ( like the mentally ill), just as they did to the jewish people in Germany, then they go and they begin to enforce laws that are a clear violation of persons constitutional rights! When are we as people, loved ones, family members, friends and community going to stand up for the mentally ill just as you would for people with Cancer!