Last night I had a phone call from a fellow who had just discovered my blog. He was frustrated and overflowing with stories of the abuse he’s suffered at the hands of the psychiatric system. He also was off on a wild goose chase, filing complaints in places where they wouldn’t do any good, so I’m going to devote the next few blogs to explaining where and how to file effective complaints against therapists, doctors and agencies, not to mention the occasional receptionist.
We’re going to cover things like PAIMI (Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness), the CQC (Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities), OPMC (Office of Professional Medical Conduct) and a few other acronyms your therapist has never heard about. We’re going to talk about filing complaints about both private and public agencies, and at the local, state and federal level, e.g., I know a civil rights lawyer at the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
The first step in a complaint comes when you feel hurt. You, as a child of God, have the right to be treated with respect and courtesy, no matter what the employees of the psychiatric system believe. You also have the right to competent, effective treatment. If you’re not getting it then you have the right to complain. You have the right to hold care givers to the standard of performance that has been set for them by their various oversight agencies, not by their mean and venal selves.
You must understand, particularly if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, that you are still a valuable person. You are not trash; you are worthy. Nobody has any reason or right to treat you as anything less. No one has the right to judge you, either. You should not be degraded, humiliated, frightened or physically constrained or damaged. Your civil rights should not be denied.
If you have been hurt then you should complain. The best way to file a complaint is in writing and by mail. Words spoken aloud can be twisted, misunderstood or forgotten but words on paper don’t go away and can’t be removed with a delete button. Words on paper sit on somebody’s desk and demand to be attended to. They can be filed, copied and passed around. They are patient and wait for the right time and person. They accumulate and tell a story.
Of course, you always can address your complaint orally or file it by email and sometimes that’s the right choice for you. Don’t hesitate to complain just because you don’t have the time, energy or skills to write a letter. But, whatever method you choose, do complain. Do make your voice heard. If you don’t, then two things happen: (1) the person with whom you are dealing will continue on a path of increasing abuse, and (2) you will become a progressively more passive victim. You must complain to save yourself.
Somewhere, at some time, you have to decide to stand up for yourself and push back against those who abuse their power over you. Any power that is not constrained by an equal and opposite power will take over your life. When the psychiatric industry convinces patients that it can do whatever it wants to then all your freedoms are at risk. Power is an inky black pool that spreads like toxic waste. It has no boundaries unless we establish them and enforce them. We must push back against those who insult and degrade us. The excesses of psychiatric workers must be met with the strength of the patients. We must make clear that there are boundaries beyond which they may not go—boundaries that we will enforce. (http://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/push-back/ )
What a complaint does is push back. It says, “You’ve got to stop treating people this way because it’s wrong.” This is all based on your self-respect. If you are lacking in self-respect and need some lessons, read your bible. In 2001 I stopped taking psych meds and started reading the Holy Bible. What I found was confirmation from God that I was supposed to be cared for:
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
In short, if you don’t help me when I’m in need then you go to hell. God says so. That is the authority, and all the authority, that you need in order to file complaints.