Sunday, May 31, 2009

Days 21 - 23 of 100

Day 21/100: Friday, May 29 @ 7:15pm to 8:15pm.

Day 22/100: Saturday, May 30 @ 7:45pm to 8:45pm

Day 23/100: Sunday, May 31 @ 7:45pm to 8:45pm

A voice that speaks out is to the silence what a candle is to the darkness.

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Reply to Friends Hospital

Friends Hospital sent me an email three days ago (May 26) offering to investigate into my allegations of abuse. The following is my reply. It was sent via email just a few minutes ago (Fri, May 29, 2009 at 4:38 PM).



Hello,

Thanks for contacting me and offering to perform an inquiry into my allegations of abuse. I only wish that your organization would have taken these steps sooner and on their own initiative rather than as a response to 17 days of sustained protesting outside your facility. It has now been more than four years since the abuse occurred, and not every victim of psychiatric abuse is going to want to endure the pain and embarrassment of broadcasting their victimization in such a public and apparently effective way. An organization like yours should not wait for a victim to go to such great lengths of seeking justice before getting involved. It should do a better job of self policing so that when a suspicious incident (such as the questionable sequence of events that transpired in my case) occurs, they will follow up with a thorough and immediate investigation. Better yet, they should have the mechanisms and procedural safeguards to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the first place. More than two years ago I tried to bring a civil suit (as a pro se plaintiff) against Friends Hospital and they hired an attorney who successfully had the case dismissed on legal shortcomings. If the high level administration \ board who hired the attorney wanted to, they could have initiated an inquiry into the allegations of abuse I described in my pleadings. Were these individuals interested in protecting the rights of abuse victims or merely in avoiding the monetary consequences of a civil proceeding? Your actions or lack thereof speak much louder than my words. I hope there is more motivating your current actions than merely PR considerations. As a facility that purports to be in the business of 'healing the mind', the welfare of your patients should have been the first and highest consideration, not a mere afterthought.

The second day of my protest, Friends Hospital did make an effort at responding. They sent out a security guard who after 20 minutes of observing me from his van came out yelling, trying to get me to leave my protest post. I was doing my best to ignore him, but then he threatened to call the police (even though I was on public property) and took out his cell. He succeeded in getting me to leave that day but I returned the next day and every day since and will be doing so for the remainder of my protest period. Why an organization would resort to such uncivil tactics to deal with abuse victims who speak out is beyond me, but please let anyone at the facility that thinks otherwise know that contrary to what happens within the closed doors of your facility, this is still a country that upholds civil rights and civil liberties, and that freedom of speech and the right to express dissent are fundamental aspects of those rights. Other forms of freedom, such as the right to be free from physical and psychological abuse are also rights that I hope your hospital staff can eventually be persuaded to recognize.

I apologize that my tone in this letter is less than cordial and I want to assure you that the coldness is not directed towards you personally. However, I can never be 'friends' with an institution that violates the most sacred and intrinsic rights that all human beings are entitled to. As far as the investigation, I want it to be rigorous and fully transparent. The 'closed door' type inquiry will not do. This is not an internal matter that concerns only you, but one that concerns the rights and welfare of psychiatric patients everywhere. I deserve to know the full details of the investigation (every step of the way) and the findings that result (every step of the way). I am not merely interested in the conclusion but I want to be kept up to date on all developments throughout the entire investigation process. Your patients deserve to know and so does the public. This is not going to be a one sided investigation conducted entirely at your discretion, but a collaborative one where the public and I will be fully active participants. We will conduct all correspondence via email so that there is a 'paper trail' and I will be posting the relevant content on the blog as it becomes available, so that this will indeed be a transparent and open process. For too long justice has been thwarted and the voice of abuse victims silenced and obscured by institutions such as yours. I will do my humanly best to see to it that it is no longer the case. If you wanted to do this investigation 'your way', you already had 4 years to do so. This investigation is not yours; it belongs to psychiatric survivors everywhere and it belongs to the public. I will be putting considerable time and effort into this process to see that it is properly carried out and meets all the objectives of rigor, transparency, and effectiveness, and I expect no less from you. Thanks in advance for your full and unconditional cooperation. I look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Godly Mathew

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Days 19, 20 of 100

Day 20/100: Thursday, May 28 @ 7:30pm to 8:30pm
Still working on the reply to Friends Hospital...

Day 19/100: Wednesday, May 27 @ 7:20am to 8:20am

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 18 of 100

Day 18/100: Tuesday, May 26 @ 7:40pm to 8:40pm

Friends Hospital finally offers to investigate; more than four years after the abuse took place...

I received an email today from Friends Hospital (Tue, May 26, 2009 at 8:40 AM). The following are the relevant excerpts:

... I am the Patient Representative at Friends Hospital and my job is to investigate all patient complaints. I became aware of your presence out front of the hospital recently and I have been wanting to speak with you to see if I could hear about your issue and see what I can do to investigate it. However, I have managed to miss you each time when I have walked out to the Boulevard. I came across your blog yesterday and the email address thus I am reaching out this way.

I’d like to invite you to come in and speak with me as soon as possible if that is agreeable with you. I take all complaints and concerns seriously and anytime there is an allegation of abuse, it is imperative that I look into it. Let me know and we can make arrangements.

Better late than never I suppose. I only hope this is not merely PR posturing but packs a substantive punch as well. Of course I intend to proceed in good faith and have high hopes of a fruitful investigation. I have not finished writing up my reply yet as I am still considering the best way to respond. I will post it on the blog as soon as it is emailed. Thanks everyone for checking!

Thanks especially to every individual who went out of their way to reach out to me with words of encouragement and support.

Days 16, 17 of 100

Day 16/100: Sunday, May 24 @ 7:40pm to 8:40pm

Day 17/100: Monday, May 25 @ 4:40pm to 5:40pm

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Days 14, 15 of 100

Day 14/100: Friday, May 22 @ 6am to 7am

Day 15/100: Saturday, May 23 @ 7:30pm to 8:30pm

Please check out the following article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Phila., Delaware County restrict Friends Hospital

This is not enough. Merely ceasing from sending future 302 (involuntary commitment) patients to the facility is not sufficient. The city needs to do more and the citizens need to mount the pressure on the hospital and public officials to act. I know it's going to be an uphill battle but I am going to push for a thorough investigation into all allegations of abuse by former patients. There should be a rigorous and transparent inquiry into the entire operations of the facility and all allegations of abuse by former patients such as myself should be fully investigated. Criminal proceedings should take place where they are warranted. Anyone with information about psychiatric abuse should bring forth all relevant information so we can see some amount of justice. If you are aware of any specific instances of abuse or professional misconduct at Friends Hospital, please email me at 100dayprotest@gmail.com. Whether you were a former patient, know someone who was abused, or have worked at Friends Hospital and witnessed coworkers participate in the abusive conduct, you need to speak out. Your voice really does count and can make the difference. Abuse is NOT 'treatment' and the deliberate infliction of mental and physical pain is not 'healing the mind'. Please speak out for the rights of those who do not otherwise have a voice.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 13 of 100

Thursday, May 21 @ 7:20 pm to 8:40 pm

A time to be silent and a time to speak

Sometimes it is difficult to mark the divide between speaking out as a survivor and merely reaffirming my victim hood. It is a delicate line, and sometimes my balance is less than perfect. However, to not approach that divide, to merely stay away so that I can avoid the complications of the past, would mean continuing on as a victim forever. There is an incredible power in finding one's voice and purpose, in rediscovering one's identity. By admitting that I was abused, there is an empowerment that far surpasses the powerlessness of my victimization and the pain inflicted by my psychiatric oppressors.

I was a victim. I am a survivor.



Four years ...
            of silence
                 of fear
                     of pain

            of selfishness
                 of abandoning
                     of forgetting

A 100 days ...
            of speaking out
                 of hope
                     of healing

            of activism
                 of returning
                     of remembering

Friday's protest at 6 am to 7 am.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Days 11, 12 of 100

Day 11/100: Tuesday, May 19 @ 7:20 pm to 8:20 pm

Day 12/100: Wednesday, May 20 @ 7:20 pm to 8:20 pm

I am still gathering the strength to thoroughly document the abuse that happened to me at Friends...

Surprisingly, I find it fairly easy to talk about the incident (to the right people of course) but writing requires a different sort of strength - perhaps a more inner, solitary type that I do not possess. Each day of protesting is giving me the strength to confront the many memories I once buried away to survive. But I never cast those memories completely away. I knew their personal importance to me and always suspected their relevance to other victims of psych abuse. So I buried them deep in my heart for a time when I would be sufficient to bear them. Four years since it all happened, that time is finally dawning.

Hopefully, towards the end of the protest period, I will have my story written up and posted. Until then, my writing will probably dwell more on the generalities of psychiatric abuse and less on the specifics of what happened to me. I might also try a piecemeal approach where I focus on specific aspects of my story that I can later collect together to provide a full account.

As part of the '100 Day Protest', I am also planning on contacting the higher level administration at Friends Hospital to see if they will do a thorough investigation into the allegations of abuse that I bring forward. Thankfully I have obtained most of my hospital documents which will go a long way in confirming my account of the incident.

If anyone wants to read about first hand accounts of what psychiatric abuse victims go through, please read the personal stories of survivors at Mind Freedom's website. Someday I hope to have my own story published there. Especially check out Leonard Frank's story whose family and personal dynamics that led to his involuntary commitment were somewhat similar to mine, although his abuse was much, much worse than anything I endured. After reading their incredibly powerful and moving stories, I feel very humbled to consider myself a fellow psychiatric survivor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Days 9, 10 of 100

Day 9/100: Sunday, May 17 @ 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm

Day 10/100: Monday, May 18 @ 4 pm to 5:30 pm

Two rather chilly days. The flow of traffic on both sides of me generates a lot of wind and I felt very cold even though I was wearing a jacket. Of course there is more to feeling cold than merely the wind and weather...

Protesting, despite the public aspect of it, can be a very solitary affair. When one feels alone, the surrounding masses only heighten the sense of loneliness. There is the occasional interaction with people where someone honks or gives a thumbs up and those moments are what sustain me - the moments that uphold me. Certain days are richer than others in this respect. There are also times when it is very silent. Cars pass quietly and people make their way past this strange aberration in their routine commute. I yearn desperately for some interaction - for some confirmation that what I'm doing will make a difference. Doubt and loneliness are never far away.

Even on these days, there are moments that reaffirm my hopes. In the distance, I see a face looking towards me, their eyes fixed on my sign. With no words said, there is somehow a sense of understanding and empathy. The depth and power of the human gaze... there is nothing like it. I hold my sign up a little higher.

There is no turning back for me. The mind may have its doubts and moments of insecurity but my heart is already made up. One of the many frequent glances at my watch confirms that it has been an hour already. Somewhat relieved, I make my way back home. The walk home feels strange and awkward. Did I accomplish something - or was it just a waste of time? Doubts and fears flood my mind, but my heart already knows. Tomorrow is an other day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 8 of 100: Saturday, May 16 @ 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Mahatma Gandhi

The change we wish to see in the world is not something external to us. Change happens through us. It is in us. Within each of us is the desire to bring about that change and within us also the ability to do so. When we allow ourselves to become the medium for the change, we become the change. Our minds and bodies become a channel for that change. Like the modest springs that quietly flow till they become streams and rivers, we too become the beginning of something greater than us. When truth and the desire for justice flows from our hearts, no action, however little, is ever insignificant. Something as trivial as holding up a sign suddenly has meaning and significance that transcends the 'then and there' of the moment. When we see a societal evil that appears to be ignored by the masses, rather than lament the fact, we must start to do something about it. The change should begin with us.

The First Week: Days 1-7 of 100.

Day 1/100: Saturday, May 9 @ 10:30 am to 1:00 pm

I started my 100 day protest on Saturday, May 9, 2009 in front of Friends Hospital. I'm on the north bound median on the Roosevelt Blvd. and I will be here an hour or more each day for the next 99 days.

My hands were almost shaking as I first held up my protest sign. It was not so much fear but the angst of anticipation. I have no misgivings and there is no question that this is the right thing to do. My only regret is that I waited so long to speak out - four years of selfishness and fear. How would others perceive my action? Will I be arrested, or taken back to Friends, or ridiculed. Will I be misunderstood? These are all fears I still have. That is one of the reasons I waited so long. I waited while I got a job and an education. I also worked on developing those social skills that were so lacking during my high school years. I had to empower myself before I felt confident enough to do this. There are things in life that are greater than our fears and there are moments when our hearts propel us forth into action, in spite of our doubts and fears. This is one of those.

Two of my former coworkers (Brandon and Walt) came to see me. That gave me a lot of courage. They left after a few minutes but now I know that I am not alone. Sometimes a driver honks or someone gives a thumbs up - and those moments also sustain me. By 12 pm, the combination of standing still and holding a plywood sign was starting to hurt my back. I wanted to stay until evening but decided to wrap things up at 1 pm.


Day 2/100: Sunday May 10, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Today a security guard from the hospital drove up in a van and observed me for 20 minutes or so. He then got out and walked towards me until he was several yards away. He shouted at me "What do you think you're doing man?". He was obviously yelling in a very angry tone and I did not want to get into a interaction with him so my intention was to simply ignore him. He then threatened to call the police and took his cell phone out. At that point, I yelled back "You're calling the police?" and took my cell out and pretended to call the police myself. Of course I did not call the police and I doubt that he did either. Anyway, I felt quite shaken by the incident and I left the protest site soon.

Day 3/100: Monday May 11 @ 9:30 am to 11:00 am.
I spoke with a police officer who assured me that as long as I am on public property and not breaking any laws, I cannot be arrested for protesting.

Day 4/100: Tuesday May 12 @ 7:00 am to 8:00 am.

Day 5/100: Wednesday, May 13 @ 7:40am to 9:40 am.
Met an other psychiatric survivor. He was drugged against his will at Friends Hospital. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Every individual I meet, from supporters to fellow survivors, is part of that journey. Thanks for walking with me.

Day 6/100: Thursday, May 14 @ 9:15 am to 10:15 am. There was a slight drizzle today. I did not want my plywood sign to warp from the moisture so I covered it with a plastic film.

Day 7/100: Friday, May 15 @ 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Silence is a Prison.

Context for the protest.
This is my very first blog and it is dedicated to an other first in my life - the series of protests I am doing outside Friends Psychiatric Hospital (near Adams Ave. and Roosevelt Blvd.) I am protesting the physical and psychological abuse that I was subjected to more than four years ago by Friends Hospital staff (including nurses and doctors). The abuse was not the behavior of one or two rogue staff members, but it was a systematic and methodological abuse carried out in collusion and with deliberate intent. The abuse started out psychological (such as the staff yelling unnecessarily and being kept in the waiting room for close to 20 hours) and progressed to the very physical; culminating in having tubes down my throat, up my nose, and in my urinary tract. As a result, I ended up in Frankford Hospital E.R. and had to be hospitalized for four days while I recovered. I will not go any further into the details of the abuse presently, as it is very lengthy to go into and painfully difficult to write about, but I am currently working on documenting the incident as well as I can and I will ultimately provide a hyperlink for my readers to fully read about the incident. This blog is directed more to the purpose of documenting my protest.

Protest Goals and Procedure.
I will say foremost that my protest does not include any scenarios of public disturbance. At no point do I plan on trespassing onto F.H. (Friends Hospital) property or engaging in conflict oriented behavior, and will ask all supporters to follow the same standard of conduct. So what then will my protest consist of? It is more of a 100 day observance; both a remembrance of the abuse that once took place and a reminder of the abuse that many others are still experiencing - it is an opportunity for me to begin speaking out (after four years of silence) to the world at large. For a hundred consecutive days (an hour or more per day), I plan on carrying out my protest. Like I mentioned, I will not be on F.H. property or physically interfere with their operations in any way. There is a time and context for civil disobedience, but this is not it. I make that point especially clear precisely because I am a most ardent believer in civil disobedience, when carried out intelligently and responsibly. Society could not have made the progress it did if it were not for those who challenged the inertia of countless brutal customs through the deliberate and reflective practice of civil disobedience. However, my protest will consist simply of standing with my sign that reads 'I Was Abused At Friends Hospital'. I will be on the North bound median on the Roosevelt Blvd. in front of the F.H. premises. I have no intention (for now) to organize a public protest. If any one wants to stop by for a few minutes and show their support, that's fine. There is a time for everything of course and hopefully there will come a time when the public conscience is roused to action and demands change.

Thanks for reading.