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To the Editors of he CRIMSON:
I became progressively more incensed reading your recent article by the "volunteer patient" at Boston State Hospital fill at the end I was seething. It was a sanctimonious, closed-eyed, holier-than-thou look at a place with good and bad points, with choices, and with many people who care.
Having worked at BSH and having been heart-broken many times by institutional inertia and the lack of concern on the part of officials and doctors, I understand it's shortcomings. And to clear up a misconception one need not be a patient to understand what happens to them least of all a make-believe patient with preformed views.
The report was dogmatic and party-lone; things are not so clear-cut. There are wards, for example, where the T. V., if present, is rationed. There are staff who work at least 8 hours a day trying to communicate and spend the other sixteen thinking about it.
"Volunteer patients" came on my ward, and after on exposure, I fought to have them prevented from returning. This scheme is very insulting, painful, and inconsiderate of patients, (Something I discovered after discussing a visit by "volunteers.") First, they can always tell, immediately, an imposter, and feel they are part of a freak show: when they see students imitating the bizarre behavior which they can't control, they are shamed and rightly hurt, that they are being made fun of.
The people we label mentally ill are people who have a more difficult time than we communicating and trusting. To try to reach them one must be painfully honest and without pretense, obviously impossible in this volunteer's situation.
There are many staff who are very dangerous and undesirable. Much of the hospital needs exposure to the public so that it can pressure for change. It needs honest reporting by people honestly concerned. Many patients are aware of their situation, politically. The hospital also needs people committed enough to work as attendants and nurses because they are concerned enough to literally get their hands in the shit.
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