Dr Oz: Poverty, Race & Mental Illness Stigma
Dr Oz has been working to break the stigma on mental illness, hoping it can be treated like the disease that it is. The sad truth is that there are barriers to that idea that are undoubtedly hard to overcome. Two of the biggest barriers are poverty and race. He then shared the story of a bipolar patient, that left many wondering if he was shot because of his race. Last August, Alan was a college student in Houston, Texas about to graduate, until a gunshot changed his life.
Christian, Alan’s brother, shared that Alan didn’t sound like himself, and while his brother and father were on the phone with Alan, they could hear him panicking. Some of the things he was saying led Alan’s family to believe he was going through a manic episode. Alan shared that he had experienced manic episodes before, so he knew that’s what it was. Alan believed that the game controller in his hands no longer controlled the game, but it switched on a processor inside him. That’s when he began to panic.
Dr Oz: Bipolar Patient Manic Episode
Alan was previously hospitalized in 2008, diagnosed with possible bipolar, and put on anti-psychotic medications. He went six years without another episode, until that day in August. Alan said he believed he was a bionic super-agent and people who were after him were close, so he needed to get out of his apartment. He rushed out to his balcony and scaled down the building from the third floor. Alan knew he needed to go to the hospital to get help.
Christian explained that Alan’s symptoms became so severe so quickly that his family couldn’t put the proper resources in place quick enough. Christian is a 4th year medical student and their father is a physician, so Alan viewed the hospital as a safe-haven. Alan drove himself to St Joseph Medical Center and ten feet before he arrived, he crashed and totaled his car, striking several cars in the parking lot. Nearby nurses and medics wheeled him into the emergency room to treat him for potential injuries. As Alan was being wheeled into the emergency room, he yelled out multiple times “I’m manic.”
Dr Oz: Hospital Visit For Bipolar Patient Turned Nightmare
Alan was treated for surface injuries, had some medical scans to make sure he wasn’t hurt, but wasn’t given a psych evaluation. The next morning, Alan’s parents realized he was still in the middle of a “psychiatric crisis” but yet for some reason he was going to be discharged. Alan remembered still being in the middle of his delusion, when he had the idea that he could impersonate Barack Obama. He believed the hospital workers were getting him ready to give a big speech, not discharge him from the hospital. Alan was in the shower, still in the middle of his episode, when he began walking in and out of his room, naked. Following protocol, a nurse called security, and they entered Alan’s room.
Dr Oz: Bipolar Man Shot During Manic Episode
Alan then joined Dr Oz and explained that he was standing by his bed in his hospital room when two individuals charged into his room. The first individual attempted to tackle him and Alan used his momentum to shift him to the floor next to him. The other individual by the door discharged his taser and while Alan was being electrocuted the other individual on his left, shot him straight in the chest. The last thing he remembers is coughing up blood.
Montel Williams sat next to Alan and said his situation was a clear example of injustice. Those working at the hospital immediately looked at Alan as a criminal instead of a patient. Montel stated that in the town Alan lives in, 75% of those who get shot are African-America males under the age of 22. Montel made it clear he believed Alan’s situation was about race, saying if a Caucasian male had been standing in the hospital room, the nurse would have called a doctor, not security. Montel argued that hospitals don’t need security for patients, they need safety.
Dr Oz: What Happened After Mentally Ill Patient Was Shot
Another problem according to Montel, is that the officers in the hospital didn’t even get a week’s worth of training. They were off-duty cops who are trained to work in violent situations. Montel argued that the minute Alan walked through the door, he should have become the patient, but race clouded the workers’ minds.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted a federal investigation and cited that the hospital had numerous deficiencies in the safety of patients. Alan argued that the only reason the hospital reacted to what happened was because they had their funding threatened. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal council, the aggravated assault and reckless driving charges against Alan were dropped.
Dr Oz: Consequences For Officers Who Shot Mentally Ill Patient
The two police officers who tased and shot Alan were never disciplined and a grand jury deemed the shooting justified. Alan is relieved the charges were dropped, but never received an apology from the hospital or officers. He’s hoping to raise awareness about police brutality, gun violence, and mental illness, as well as whether guns should be allowed at inpatient care facilities.
Montel was brought to tears saying that he has worked very hard to control his own mental illness. He acknowledged that even one small thing could trigger a psychotic break, but if something were to go wrong with his illness, he has to worry instead about whether he’s going to get shot. “Mental illness affects every family,” he stated. Montel added that the nation needs to accept that we’re all together affected by the issue, and guns don’t belong in hospitals.
Dr Oz: Treating Mental Illness As A Disease
Alan’s father, a doctor, shared that when he went to his son at the hospital, he identified himself as a physician and stated that he believed his son was suffering from a psychotic issue. He asked for a psychiatrist or even the doctor in charge and the nurse said to him “You may be a physician somewhere, but you’re not a physician here.”
Dr Oz is encouraging everyone, no matter the background, race, nationality, or other differences, see mental illness as a disease that needs to be treated properly. When contacted, St Joseph Medical Center stated “In the wake of the sad events, we are reviewing our practices and procedures, as we continue to provide the best possible care to those we serve.”