In response to my previous post, I received a number of comments and feedback which included assertions that individuals who engage in repetitive self-injury in correctional settings are “doing it for attention.” That got me thinking. And the more thinking I did, the more I realized that these statements are likely true. But, not necessarily in the way one would think. Let me explain.Continue reading
Tag Archives: #prisons
Restraints and Self-Injury
A few weeks ago, I received a request from a psychiatry resident working at a state prison about the use of restraints with patients who engage in severe self-injury. He was looking for guidance on the use of physical restraints with this population in prison. He noted that his role of ordering and monitoring patients in restraints caused him to feel more like a provider for the facility, rather than for the patient. I shared with him with the best resources I know – Resource Document on the Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Correctional Mental Health Care (http://jaapl.org/content/35/4/417) as well as Dr. Applebaum’s commentary on the same (http://jaapl.org/content/jaapl/35/4/431.full.pdf). As I sat down to write this, I intended to discuss the rules and regulations surrounding restraint (e.g., Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) 42 CFR § 482.13) but I stopped myself.
The inquiry was not about regulations and requirements for the use of restraints. The question was about patient care.
Effective Mental Health Treatment Requires A Plan
At the risk of oversimplifying, many incarcerated patients come to us with some manifestation of the following (or a combination of these):
- Problematic emotional experiences
- Problematic thought patterns
- Problematic behaviors
- Problematic relationships
It is important to work with the patient to understand which of these issues is experienced by the patient as most distressing and in need of change. I think back to a patient I once saw who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had significant trouble with tangential and disorganized thinking but what she wanted more than anything was having cigarettes at the end of the month. (This was back when inmates could still smoke in the prison.) She often smoked all her cigarettes prior to the end of the month and then had to borrow cigarettes “2-for-1” for the remainder of the month, putting her at a deficit at the start of the next month…you see the cycle. She did not have any interest in meeting with me to improve her thinking. She wanted her cigarettes.