Articles, Columnists

August 21st, 2010

The risks of restraint and seclusion

By Edward Stern J.D.

Last month, New England Psychologist looked at the use of restraint and seclusion. In this installment, the column examines some of the risks of these methods to both patients and mental health care workers. Restraint and seclusion have their own risks because restraint can involve physical struggling, pressure on the chest or other interruptions in breathing. JCAHO reviewed 20 restraint-related deaths and found that in 40 percent, the cause of death was asphyxiation, while strangulation, cardiac arrest or fire caused the remainder. Reported deaths (Hartford Courant) in cases where restraint or seclusion was a factor were caused by asphyxia, cardiac [More]

July 24th, 2010

Use of restraint, seclusion is controversial, Part 1

By Edward Stern J.D.

The first of a two-part column. When the justice and mental health systems believe that someone is a risk to himself/herself or a threat to others, the courts may intervene and involuntarily commit that person. To the public, an involuntary commitment might be the end of the inquiry regarding the treatment and care of those in mental health treatment. This month’s column focuses on the use of seclusion and restraint for patients being treated within the mental health system. These issues are important, especially settings where the program is understaffed. First, it’s important to discuss the variety of people who [More]

July 1st, 2010

Half-finished notebooks

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

At morning rounds the other day while waiting for something important to record in my recycled, spiral-bound notebook, curiosity nudged me to flip through the filled front pages for a clue about why I kept it in the first place. Considering how much stuff I had to clear out of my old office, it would have been easier to trash this early decade relic than to give it space among the 18 boxes of essentials that accompanied me to my new workplace. My motivation was probably not so noble as stewardship of the earth’s dwindling resources nor so old-fashioned as [More]

June 1st, 2010

Getting to know you

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The woman glided into the room on tiptoes, trepidation and confidence contending for control of her gait, her tortured smile reflecting some inner struggle about which we knew almost nothing. She had just arrived at the hospital and was meeting the team of mental health professionals who would provide her care during her stay. She made for the nearest chair, the one next to me and extended her hand in greeting. “Pleased to meet you,” she said, “I’m mildly depressed.” This is not the way people usually introduce themselves and say hello, not even in a mental hospital. I asked [More]

June 1st, 2010

In wake of suicides, anti-bullying bill passed

By Edward Stern J.D.

Bullying. The word itself conjures up images of uneven relationships and unfair advantages. The differentiation or inequality is primarily in size, power and strength. “Merriam-Webster” online defines “to bully” as “to treat abusively” and “to affect by means of force or coercion.” Based on this definition, you would think everyone would be against bullying. Two recent incidents have been in the news involving young people committing suicide. These suicides are thought to have been the result of bullying by schoolmates. Bullying in society appears to be on the rise. This belief and other theories regarding the causes of bullying are [More]

May 1st, 2010

Re-thinking the right stuff

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The last time I changed jobs I thought I had found the best way to sort, pack and move important stuff from my old workplace to the new office. That was a time of volatility in the job market for psychologists much like today and the likelihood of a short stay at the new institution made me reluctant to unpack. So, after moving the really important things, I drove around with enough heavy boxes in my trunk to rack up a hefty repair bill for new rear shock absorbers. The experience held a valuable lesson – since we carry the [More]

April 1st, 2010

Recall woes hit psychologists

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

The big news over the past few months has been the recall of thousands of cars by the world’s largest auto manufacturer. First it was an accelerator problem, and then it was the brakes. Aren’t we psychologists fortunate that this couldn’t happen in our field? Or could it? Dateline: The Future: In an April 1st bulletin that rocked the world of professional psychology, the American Institute of Behavioral Torque (AIBT) announced the recall of some 30,000 individuals who received Behavioral Torque Therapy in the last five years. Behavioral Torque Therapy, or BTT as it is commonly known in the field, [More]

March 1st, 2010

A tribute to my colleagues

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

For the past several months, I’ve been writing about the impact of the closing of Westborough State Hospital on the lives of patients and staff. It is much too early to know the effect of this event on the grand variables that measure the success or failure of our public policy, of individual discharge plans or of the men and women living with the challenges of mental illness. Yet, as the hospital closes around us, every day brings evidence of our collective human response to uncertainty, change, loss and opportunity. A recent retirement celebration for five staff social workers gave [More]

February 1st, 2010

Wish you were here

By Alan Bodnar Ph.D.

When the hospital closes, sometimes the best we can do for a patient is to transfer him or her to another hospital where they will receive similar care until they are ready to return to the community. For most of these people, such a transfer is a disappointment but not a defeat. It means getting used to a new environment with new sights, sounds, smells, rules and routines. It means learning to relate to new peers and treatment providers and telling one’s life story over again in pursuit of that elusive yet all important feeling of being understood. Often, a [More]

January 1st, 2010

Lawsuit pertains to definition of marriage

By Edward Stern J.D.

On July 9, 2009 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The name of the case is Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Plantiff, v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Kathleen Sebelius, in her capacity as the Secretary of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs; Eric K. Shinseki, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs; and the United States of America, Defendants. [For a similar but different case see Gill v. Office of Personal Management. [No. 1:09-CV-10309-JLJ, (U.S.DIST.CT.,D.MASS)]]. The case [More]

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