Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"I Thought I Was Being Strapped To An Electric Chair"--A Local 911 Call Results In A Nightmare

The recent Creigh Deeds family tragedy has focused new attention on the need for better services for those experiencing a mental health crisis. The following local incident underscores that need. 

A local attorney arranged to have me meet 18-year-old Jose (not his real name, and not my client) a young man who recently suffered from paranoid delusions of people conspiring to kill him and his family. He was so distressed he was getting very little sleep and had not been eating.

After Jose had an especially troubling night and difficult day, his father insisted they go to the hospital for treatment. Jose objected, and when his father called the Rescue Squad for help to get him to the ER, Jose's anxiety and desperation increased to the point that his father had to physically restrain him, which made him even more terrified.

At this point he began to hallucinate, insisting he heard shots being fired. "They're here to get me," he yelled, and ran out into the dark to get away. At this point his father ran after him and again restrained him until two deputy sheriffs, followed by the emergency crew, came to the scene.

Jose was immediately handcuffed, but resisted arrest and yelled and screamed at the deputies as they took him to the jail. Meanwhile his parents were assured that their son would be evaluated and get the help he needed and they were promised they would be keep informed. This was around 10 pm.

Not having heard anything by 11 the father called to find out how Jose was doing, and was told he was fine and that they needn't worry. In actual fact he was being held in a restraint chair, which Jose, in his delusional state, was convinced was an electric chair and that he was about to be executed. In his attempts to get free he suffered severe bruises from the belts around his waist and wrists.

Jose continued to experience extreme paranoia for most of the ten hours he was in the restraint chair, fearing the worst that might happen to him and his family. As he finally became exhausted he asked for his shirt as he was becoming very cold. This was denied, and he had to remain in restraints and unable even to go to the bathroom until 8 that morning.

His parents contacted the jail again at 7 am, and were told Jose would have to wait until a magistrate arrived at noon before he could be released to go to the hospital. For some reason there was a change of plan and he was released and taken by his parents to Rockingham Memorial at 8 am. There he found the chaplain and other staff members very helpful, and he feels good about the treatment he got during his four-day stay at RMH.

Jose says he now feels normal again, thanks to the treatment and medications he was prescribed, and deeply regrets his actions while having his psychotic episode.

I am not intending to fault the deputies involved in apprehending this individual, as I'm sure they were being professional in doing what they believed was necessary at the time, faced as they were with a very difficult situation. But what kind of help from a trusted pastor, priest or mental health professional could have been available to come to the home and assist Jose in getting his much needed treatment without adding to his trauma? Even if it may have taken all night to do so?
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