Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil

July 20, 2009 at 10:00 am

June 19th, I traveled to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY to attend a demonstration at their Psychiatric ER protesting forced psychiatry. Immediately after,  a candlelight vigil was held for Esmin Green , a woman who died there as a direct result of the staff’s neglect. She had been admitted involuntarily, then left to sit their for approximately 25 hours, the last of which she spent face down, dead or dying and apparently alone even amongst no less than 5 employees. The staff then altered the records to assert that she had been checked on regularly and was well in an effort to cover up their negligence. As it turns out, a security camera was rolling the whole time. The video captured security personnel standing there looking at her, one guard couldn’t even be bothered to get out of his chair. A nurse nudged her with her foot and left the room instead of assessing her health or administering care. Were it not for this video being turned over to the police and press, Esmin’s death would have been just one more of many anonymous deaths in a failing mental health system.

In all respects the demonstration/vigil was a success. We stood in front of the Psyhiatric Emergency entrance making ourselves known. We raised awareness in real time on the street, it was covered live on the news, people were waving at us from the windows and gesturing their support (I assume they were not staff). One woman had what appeared to be a journal pressed against the window. I would love to know what she may have written in there. Some amazing speakers were heard and I met with some incredibly motivated activists, largely psychiatric survivors and their supporters. Perhaps the most important part, in this case, is that the Department of Investigation report came in while we were there, confirming in a legal sense what the tape had made abundantly clear. The staff failed and if not for them, Esmin Green would be alive today.

Five out of five staff members failed Ms. Green. This is not just one nurse or administrative staff member or just one security guard. The problem is systemic and when you are admitted involuntarily, you don’t have the luxury of choosing where you are taken, no matter what you know of the place. And for anyone who might cry understaffed, overcrowded, not enough funding or beds–the DOI dispelled that myth as well.



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