It is an erroneous myth that only people from unhappy families having serious problems can become madmen. Doctors at psychiatric ambulances say that when they have fewer calls to patients it means the life in the country has become worse and nobody considers mentally diseased people dangerous any longer. In the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, a journalist of the Argumenty i Facty newspaper ventured upon an experiment and worked as an aid-man at the psychiatric ambulance for one day.
Doctors working at the psychiatric ambulance for several years explain that this type of work has it peculiarities and requires special safety measures. They strongly recommended the journalist to stay behind the doctor’s assistants only every time when the mobile medical team got a call to lunatics. Doctor Alexander Pleshkevich explains that the measure may save other people’s lives as patients often have vivid optical or acoustic hallucinations. They either feel as if some insects are crawling about the body or hear some voices commanding to hurt themselves or other people.
Doctors tell about a patient who insisted that his heels were burning so terribly that he had to run about the Yenisei River to put the imaginary fire down. A mobile psychiatric team got him to a hospital right from the river. Work at mobile psychiatric teams is special and basically men will suit for working there. When the team knows that a patient they are going to see is a lunatic they usually ask the police to escort them.
The first patient that the journalist saw during his experiment was a 75-year-old woman who shared her apartment with a nephew and his wife. It was the nephew with the wife who called for the psychiatric ambulance. The relatives complained that the old lady was insane and must be taken to hospital. At that, the old lady seemed to be absolutely sane and adequately responded to all questions that the doctor asked. It is amazing but the woman remembered perfectly well what had happened to her and to the whole of the country in 1941. She even explained why the relatives wanted her to be taken to hospital. She said the nephew and his wife wanted to get settled in her apartment and for this purpose regularly called for a mobile psychiatric team. And the relatives in their turn stated that neighbors of the old lady wanted to seize her apartment. So, they said it would make sense to make the relatives the guardians of the old lady. But it is a very popular trick in Russia: once relatives become guardians of their old kin they get an absolute control of the ward. The latter as a rule is immediately sent to a mental hospital and the former happily settle in an empty apartment.
Shortly after the first call the team got a new one and finds its second patient in a three-room apartment where window glasses were broken and the furniture was stained with blood. Two policemen were holding the patient sitting in the middle of a room being dressed in shorts only. The man’s brother told that the patient had been raging for several years already and even ran about the front porch being absolutely naked. And he said it was strange that the lunatic had not been yet taken to a mental hospital. The team had no other way out but to take the man to acenterfor mentally diseased patients.
Another patient was a man of about 40 years of age who complained that radio waves seriously disturbed him. The man’s mother secretly told that the son was vigilant all the night long and even put a pan on his head to get protected from the annoying radio waves. The strange behavior was the result of delirium tremens. The man lost his job in the mid-1990s and took to alcohol. The alcohol addiction entailed alcoholic psychosis. The psychiatric ambulance takes up to ten patients with the same diagnosis to the Krasnoyarsk Narcological Center every day. One of the Center’s doctors explained that in the past years it took at least three months to cure alcohol addicted patients while today the procedure takes twenty days. And when patients are back home they again and again plunge into their alcoholic nightmares.
The sad tendency of the past years demonstrates that alcohol addiction has become much younger than ten years ago. For instance, in the 1990s patients of the Krasnoyarsk Narcological Center were basically people over 45 who suffered from alcoholic psychosis. Today, these are beer addicts at the age of 20 and even sometimes 16-year-old schoolgirls.
It is just half the work to take a patient out of his home, and doctors make much effort to properly transport them to the hospital. Doctors say that all patients behave in different ways when being transported to the hospital. Some of them begin to pull an imaginary thread out of the mouth and others have a vision of a sausage chasing an ambulance car. And although this behavior may seem extremely funny doctors should take seriously everything that patients say or do during their trip to the hospital. This is the only way to establish a contact with every particular patient. So, doctors just tell patients to reel the thread on if they pull one out of the mouth. And no smiles at that!
Doctor Alexander Pleshkevich tells that neither high social status nor happy atmosphere in the family can secure people against mental diseases. They may arise from any situation or event: death of a close person, childbirth or unhappy love. Not long ago the doctor visited a happy well-off family and found out that schizophrenia was quite unexpectedly progressing with their daughter, a beautiful smart schoolgirl.
In many cases, the fate of patients depends upon psychiatrists. Like all doctors they should be particularly careful not to cause harm to patients. For instance, if a patient has a slight mental disorder caused by a depression it makes sense not to take him to a hospital. Otherwise this man will have the stain of a lunatic till the end of his life. So, it is important that psychiatrists must be absolute professionals to define if patients need to be taken to hospital or not.
According to the law, doctors must take a mentally diseased patient to hospital without anyone’s permission if it is clear that the man can do harm to himself or others. In other situations, patients themselves or their relatives must give permission for hospitalization.
Arguments and Facts
Translated by Maria Gousseva