My 24 hours in a mental ward

Made to feel like a sideshow


Zoe Goddard, Times Staff

Valley Health Center Hospital’s mission to, “provide high quality, compassionate, and accessible healthcare for all persons in Santa Clara County regardless of their social-economic status and ability to pay,” is not being followed.

I went in to Valley Health Emergency Psychiatric Service last summer because I was in a really bad place. I had been recently diagnosed with PTSD and was having an all-around bad year.

I realized Saturday, embarrassingly, that I had let my medication go empty and wasn’t able to get a refill until Monday.

So, I took a number and waited for a nurse who was going to come out and read me my options.

The nurse came out sat me in a tiny room and sat across from me holding a clipboard. She asked, “Are you suicidal?”

Not even a hello.

“I don’t know if I am, but it seems like a good option,” I cried through tears.

She held the clipboard up to my face and said, “Sign this paper and you can see a doctor.”

It sounded simple and easy. I wanted to see a doctor to refill my medication, so I signed it.

She took me to another part of the building around 11 a.m. and that is when I started hearing the manic laughter and yelling.

The nurse did not speak to me until she had me sit next to a desk, where another nurse took my photo and made me turn my phone in.

“Why do I need to turn my phone in?” I asked as they shut my phone off and put it in a baggy.

“Overnight patients can’t have phones,” the nurse said.

I plead with the nurses. I told them there was a mistake and that I was told that I’d see a doctor, then go home.

However, I was ignored each time. At one point, I heard a nurse say to another, “Just ignore her. She’s clearly having a meltdown.”

I was moved into an open room, where there were uncomfortable reclining pleather seats lined up in rows in front of a TV.

Homeless people were asleep on most of the chairs, and the other chairs were taken up by people that actually seemed like they may actually need medical attention.

There was a red line across the floor that separated nurses and police officers from patients. If a patient stepped over the line, even on accident, they would be grabbed and dragged by the police back over to the patient side.

I understood it was for nurse’s safety but it all felt too much like we were entertainment for the nurses, when we were supposed to be getting help for mental issues we could not control.

They had two phones that were for patients. I called my mother asking her to try to do something, because no one had told me that I had to wait for 24 hours to see a doctor.

I tried to talk to nurses but they all just gave me a fake smile and said, “Your nurse will see you eventually.”

I had that said to me at least 35 times.

Around 5 P.M. no nurse had talked to me yet, but I was served “dinner.”

It was a questionable meal with what I think was fish with gravy, peas, and potatoes. The food made me sick.

I almost threw up on the floor because the nurses kept the bathrooms locked. Another patient stared at me while I threw up in the toilet because the stalls also had no locks.

When I told the nurse I got food poisoning, she said, “I doubt that, but let me get you some medication.”

I asked for a glass of ice water, to which an annoyed looking male nurse in a sarcastic tone said, “Do you want a lemon slice?”

The nurse handed me a giant white pill, which I thought didn’t look anything like a Tylenol, but she insisted that’s what it was.

I took the pill and within about five minutes, I started to feel really tired.

A nurse took me to a “female room,” which was just another open room with more uncomfortable chair-beds. I question the name of the room because there were no nurses watching the door, and males could walk in freely.

I was assigned a “bed,” one of the uncomfortable reclining chairs, and given one blanket.

I remember sitting on the bed, but the next thing I knew, I woke up 12 hours later.

My nurse tried to see me while I was sleeping of course and I was assigned to another nurse.

I demanded to see a doctor and even tried to slide in a, “I’ll sue this place,” despite knowing I could not.

Mental disabilities are serious medical problems but I saw nurses laughing at patients.

We were fed horrible food. Our only water, unless you asked the nurses for ice water, was from a nasty looking water fountain. The water fountain I saw multiple people put in their mouths.

Police brought in homeless people that they thought “might” have mental issues. It seems that they don’t check whether the person is on drugs, drunk or actually has a mental disability. Police just check them in and leave.

There was no outside area for patients to get fresh air or stretch their legs. It looked like there used to be one, but it was now used as a break area for the nurses.

The only things to do inside were watch TV, sleep or talk to other patients, but most patients didn’t want to talk.

I was there because I was suicidal, but I was treated as if I was crazy or a threat to others.

The treatment of patients in the Valley Health Emergency Psychiatric Service Center needs to be corrected as their patients are picked on, laughed at, or treated as though they were idiots. Valley Health Emergency