If you live in America, you may already know what a wellness check consists of, but for those who’ve never had the police called on them to “check on their safety” then I’m going to let you know exactly what happens and how you will be treated, at least how you will be treated in Dallas, TX.
First, the paramedics will come. If, like me, you were not actually suicidal, you just made a bad decision and took some pills with alcohol (wanting to be numb from a day at the gynecologist and after being rejected by someone important) then the paramedics will believe you and if you seem okay; they will medically clear you. They might even go as far as saying you appear “lucid” and “not under the influence of substances.”
But then the cops will come. They won’t believe a word you say because they already have a set agenda, take you to the hospital as a threat to yourself. It doesn’t matter if you plainly, calmly, cooperatively say, “I don’t meet criteria. I have no SI (suicidal ideation). I have no HI (homicidal ideation). I have no command hallucinations. I’m not hearing things or seeing things that aren’t there. I’m safe.” Clear as a sunny day. It won’t matter.
If you refuse to go, that’s okay, they’ll still take you. They will pat you down, rubbing up and down your body. They will handcuff you in your own home (and lie about it on the detention paperwork) and put you in their car like you’re a prisoner. And you might as well be because they’re treating you like you’re guilty of something. And heaven forbid you ask if they can loosen the handcuffs a little bit because they’re cutting into the bone in your wrist. They’ll just tell you, “they’re loose enough, it is the way you’re sitting.” Oh, you mean on them because you insist on having me cuffed in the car, too, despite the fact that I was calm and non-combative the whole time?! I was practically sedate.
You’ll take a little drive to the hospital where sevreral people will ask for your hands and you have to explain that you can’t comply because you are handcuffed, despite not being a danger to anyone. Despite behavior that suggests you wouldn’t be a danger to anyone. While here, you will be made to strip off all your clothes in front of a complete stranger. She will close a curtain and say, “undress”, so that she can check your clothes, article by article for anything dangerous as you stand there, naked and exposed. Because when you plead not to have to take off your bra and underwear, she will insist. You internally panic because you have a history of sexual assault but you comply because you’re in freeze mode.
Then you’ll be made to put on a flimsy gown, which you will have to stay in, while seated in the hall for close to 6 hours, because that’s how long it takes to get you in a room with someone to tell them the exact same things you told the police. And, while you wait in your flimsy gown, mostly naked underneath, you will be in the hall, exposed and surrounded by strangers (one of which you will later find out has become your client at work). One such stranger tasked with being your guard.
After 4 hours, you might get a room. Once in the room, they will take your blood and ask for urine. Then after another hour you will have a chance to talk to a doctor. She will ask to see all the places you’ve ever cut yourself, no matter how intimate those places are. She uncovers you, pulls up your gown, touches the scars on your thighs. She asks more questions. She says, “I see no reason why we can’t get you out of here but you will have to wait and talk to the psychiatrist.” So you wait another hour.
A young guy, the psychiatrist, comes in along with a young woman, the social worker. You go over the same exact things you told the cops point blank, you go over the same exact things you told the doctor. You list all your dreams and aspirations and protective factors and all the things you’re doing to maintain self-care. And finally, finally they decide you can officially be discharged. But they don’t communicate this to anyone.
For another half hour, you lie in your room, in your flimsy gown, with a stranger sitting quietly in a chair. Finally, someone mentions, “you can discharge D3.” And the ball starts rolling. After 10 minutes I’m given my things and left alone in the room to get dressed. But there is the matter of how do I get home? It is an hour walk and it is almost 5am and I had to be up for class by 7am. I’ve had no sleep.
I tell the people at the desk that the social worker said she would get me a cab. They seem to know nothing about this and mention the bus. But thankfully, someone does call the social worker who verifies, “I am calling a cab for her.” So someone takes you down to where the cab is to meet you. You wait another 20 or 30 minutes for it to show.
When you finally make it home, you think “I’ll just get a power nap in” and you set your alarm. It goes off at 7am and you never even hear it. You wake up naturally at 10am as the awareness that you’re going to miss your very first day of practicum settles in. This is the most pivotal day of the class. It sets the foundation, gets the students oriented, and I am missing it because the police didn’t listen when I used my voice plainly, clearly.
Yesterday, I was taken to the hospital against the advice of paramedics and against my own will. I was dehumanized, treated like a criminal. And all for what?! Someone else to actually listen to me 6 hours later?! The best part of all of it? I’ll probably get a bill for that night and if I do, I am marching my ass into the Dallas police station and I am giving it to them to pay because I did not belong in that hospital, on that night. I wasn’t treated like a successful 30 year old woman who has no reason to lie. I was treated like a liar and a petty criminal, as if I was some shoplifter trying to steal my own life.
This kind of behavior is not tolerable. If we keep letting bullies bully us then what do we even have left? How can we feel safe in a system where those who are supposed to protect and serve, refuse to actually do what is in the best interest of you, the citizen? Dallas PD, Officer Kirkland, Officer Rivera, Officer Williams, Sgt. O’ Brein, get your shit together because I will NEVER stand for being bullied by you again. You will never set foot in my home again. You aren’t welcome in my space. I have a voice and I will be damned if it doesn’t get heard. I am speaking out for everyone with a mental illness who has been treated like a criminal.