My husband is a psychotherapist, so I know lots of jokes about the mental health profession – none of which apply to the greatest man in the universe, of course. An old favorite from his time at a public hospital was that the only difference between the patients and the practitioners is who has keys. Cherry Hospital’s managers are doing their damnedest to revive that one. Their vivid experiences with abusive staff members, neglected patients, and a zillion cover-ups led them to conclude that silencing employees would be helpful. I hate to use technical terms, but that’s nuts.
Do you think they’re trying to prevent, oh, let’s say, a nurse tipping the newspaper off that the hospital’s acting medical director is a convicted child molester? Or maybe they’d like to keep caring employees from blowing the whistle on those who abuse patients? No, that can’t be right. Who could possibly want that? Already, they’re backpedaling so fast that the restrictions on “‘making degrading, demeaning, or belittling comments’ about the hospital; criticizing staff or the quality of care; and ‘demeaning other staff, especially in public settings’” is being qualified as not a gag order. Telling people they can’t say certain things, that indeed they’ll face sanctions for doing so, is very much a gag order. It’s also very much the last thing Cherry Hospital – or this state with its humiliating mental health care record – needs. Fortunately, people are watching. It’s too bad it’s too late for patients who have been abused and neglected at Cherry in the past, but it’s good for the people who care for our mentally ill brothers and sisters and who need to speak out to get help. They deserve accolades not punishment, support not gag rules. Let’s hope they get it.