The Reality of a Wellness Check

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.

 

25 Thoughts

  1. Holy shit KD, that’s horrible! I hope you get some answers as to why you were treated the way you were. Totally unacceptable. I think all first responders–especially police–should be given mandatory training on mental health issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m speechless, that should never happen ever. Even if you were a threat to yourself you should still be treated with compassion and like a human being. If you can use this experience to fight the system then you should. Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I am definitely trying! I don’t care how much of my own story I have to share to blow this wide open. I’ve called and emailed local news sources. I got the badge numbers of the officers who responded. I’m about to get the paramedic report from last night. I’m going to get the Dr. records from the hospital (which I will have to pay for but whatever). I may not be able to bring them down but I can sure as hell put them on blast.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Condolences. I’m a bit confused, however, by your use of the word “welfare,” at the top. I usually associate that with public assistance payments. No need to clarify (you’ve got enough to deal with), but just for your information.

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      1. Thank you, KD. I never have heard of it phrased that way. Here is what I was referring to: https://www.sapling.com/7614079/welfare-check. The dilemma seems to be that the language is used in two different ways. Under those circumstances, one might wish to make the clarification immediately or alter the phrase so that there is less chance of confusion.

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        1. I understand, that’s why I put welfare and wellness in the title. I’ve heard the term used both ways. I wonder if it is maybe a geography thing, too? Called one thing in some places and another elsewhere. Just musing.

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          1. It could be that I’m the only one who was confused. I suspect, however, that the phrase “welfare check” as it is used for financial assistance to the impoverished has a wider use for two reasons: 1. it has been used that way for a longer time period and 2. more people receive money for such assistance than receive state authorized visits to determine their emotional or physical health status. I have no data on this, just a hunch. But your point is well taken, KD: it could also be that in financially prosperous communities with few in the underclass and high employment rates, the expression might be used more often in the way you did to focus on the unwanted intervention you suffered. Anyway, you taught me something I didn’t know. Thank you,

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  4. KD, I am so sorry you went through this. It’s terrible — the police force in your country, emboldened by your terrible presence, feel entitled to a wide range of dehumanizing behaviours. Honestly, I’m glad your whiteness protected you — so many victims of police homicide are mentally ill people of colour. Also, I’d think really really carefully and take a lot of cautions before suing == it’s not just that you will likely use, it’s that the process might be incredibly traumatizing and also dehumanizing, since the law is in cahoots with its enforcing arm, the police. Maybe it would be useful to connect with victims’ rights people, or mental health advocacy groups to see what’s possible? There is little likelihood that you will really be abel to hold thesis particular officers accountable for doing what seems like their jon (even if they did it terribly and with no care), but maybe you can connect with the department (or advocates who work with the police) to report on the traumatizing effects of their protocol. Again, I’m sorry that in a moment when you were trying to take care of yourself you experience this level of violence. I hope you’re doing better.

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    1. Thanks and yes, I’ve definitely thought about my level of privilege and how it could have been much worse… which just saddens me further to know that’s happening to people like my clients. I know I have no ability to sue. And I am debating whether or not to file a formal complaint because even though I have proof that they lied about restraint, I don’t think that’s enough to do anything. It does count as falsifying evidence, however, so something is better than nothing. I do plan on getting in touch with some advocacy groups. I think it is the only realistic course of action.

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  5. This is absolutely unnacceptable! Can’t you perhaps get in contact with a news channel in your area and share the story with them? That way it gets out and people are more likely to pay attention. Just my thoughts.

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    1. I’ve been in contact with one of the major new stations actually. I’m waiting on the body cam footage and 911 transcripts to provide more evidence for the story. That will take about 2 weeks. Until then, I wait.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, yeah! I’ve spoken with a lot of lawyers and they say I have no case. But maybe the news will still see a story here. And if not the news, then I’ve already joined several advocacy groups. I never knew this was what happened. I think everyone going into the field should know this stuff to better advocate for clients.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, honey. I’m sorry. I wish this wasn’t such a common reality in the U.S., but I know it is. If working in health analytics didn’t give me access to data to support it, just the sheer number of traumatized bloggers from Chicago to Dallas and East Coast to West Coast would be enough to illustrate it. I firmly believe the way the U.S. handles welfare checks and sectioning is a form of trauma. And, well, that’s the tip of the iceberg of what is so often abusive and wrong in our mental health system. I am so sorry you went through that. You are not alone. And, many of your future patients will come to you after having been through that type of dehumanization. Remember that in the future, because since you *are* a successful woman working in the field, seeing that pain and fear and trauma in the eyes of someone already in crisis means you can be one of the ones who help take it away. You didn’t deserve this happening, but now you know it does, I hope someday you can be a voice for good for others who have been treated that way by the system and it has made it worse, not better.

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    1. I really appreciate your comment and I really hope that I’m still going to be able to stay in the field. With the school trying to kick me out within my last three semesters, things are seeming kind of bleak. The things that others have valued in me are things that this program had pathologized and made me feel bad for, wrong for.

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