I’ve learned an awful lot about how to file complaints and what it all comes up to is finding and filing with the government agency that has oversight over whoever is screwing with you. I only have found one instance in which this doesn’t work and that’s family. For personal reasons, I need to segue here and say a few words about the abuse and maltreatment that comes from your family.
I loved my three sisters and felt very close to them. I counted them as my greatest resource. I don’t know when that stopped. I took antidepressants every day for twenty-six years. Sometime during those years, my sisters’ relationships with me went rancid. I’ve spent a thousand hours trying to figure out how and when it all went bad but I really don’t know.
When I stopped taking psych meds, I woke up to discover that my sisters no longer were an asset; they were the biggest liability I had. I would be firmly launched on my recovery from depression and then I’d have a phone conversation with one of my sisters—they live 270 miles away—and spend about a week lying awake at night, reviewing our past, trying to find a future, and crying.
I’d take three steps forward and they’d drag me back two steps. I tried every strategy I could think of to get them to know who I was becoming and give up who I had been but they wouldn’t do it. They kept dragging me back into a sordid despairing kind of sickness. At a time when I was becoming an activist who was sitting in boardrooms with executive directors, my sisters were dragging me back to being a total looser and the family scapegoat.
It took me three years to finally accept that my sisters would not change and that the only thing I could do was estrange myself from them. My fiancé died when I was twenty-seven. Burying him was easier than separating from my sisters. Right down to the cellular level, they were a part of me but they would not let me grow. Failure to support growth in others is one of the most evil sins. It only took me about ten years to get over Bob’s death to the point where I could remember the joy of loving him instead of the pain of losing him. I’ve been estranged from my sisters for ten years and the pain is still raw but I am good and healthy and strong. It is a choice that many of us have had to make. Okay, now back to how your therapist and psychiatrist are not your family: you can file complaints against them to force them to stop mistreating you.
Virtually everything in our society is now regulated by some government agency—particularly if you are poor, and being mentally disabled leads to poverty really quickly. You can’t work, you go on Social Security Disability and—bingo bango—you’re legally poor. You don’t have to be poor to complain about your care providers but you do have to be poor to qualify for assistance from some agencies.
Half the time, the government is paying for your care and therefore has a foot in the door to decide your quality of care. The other half the time, Big Daddy government thinks that you, as a citizen, are too stupid to refrain from buying snake oil so they are protecting you from yourself. (They did this by creating the FDA [Federal Drug Administration] which has legalized and institutionalized snake oil, but that’s a matter for a different blog.)
Simply, the government is involved in everything, so you file your complaints with the government. Sometimes it actually works. Perfectly intelligent, experienced, and moral workers in the psychiatric system have resources at their disposal that they’ve never heard of. Nobody’s telling them. Nobody’s passing the word on what to do if you’ve been screwed, so here’s me, Annie, giving you the book. This is for all people, not just workers. Let’s start with PAIMI: Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness, which is a federally-funded program out of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness
Agency: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Beneficiary Eligibility (082):
Individuals with significant mental illness or severe emotional impairment (children) who are at risk for abuse, neglect, or civil rights violations while residing in care or treatment facilities have service priority. Persons with significant mental illness and severe emotional impairment living in the community, including their own home, may be served as determined by their state protection and advocacy systems
For more information, go to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance at https://www.cfda.gov/?s=program&mode=form&tab=step1&id=fea5dc4e45d508925501523e7c27d188. This will tell you how to apply for an agency grant, as well as inform you that you don’t need to file an environmental impact information statement. Apparently helping crazy people does not impact on the environment.
PAIMI is funded by the feds but run by the states and your state probably has it. Google PAIMI and the name of your state to find more information. In New York State, PAIMI is run out of Legal Aid. You call them up and ask for help. At the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, they start by asking you if you are the person applying for services, and then telling you that they won’t talk to you if you aren’t. This is insane. The person most in need of—hey, it’s called protection and advocacy—is the guy who is so discombobulated that he literally doesn’t know his own name. See also http://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/being-disappeared-into-cpep-part-iii/