Plain Mennonite and Mental Health
Several months ago, The Misfit Amish invited people to tell us about a therapist that repeatedly affirmed how lovely it was that you as an Amish or Plain person had such a great support system for yourself within the Amish or Plain church members and families. Lily graciously shared some of her experiences with us in her own words. We are honored to be given this story to share with you in the hopes it will help medical professionals who serve Plain Mennonite patients. -Mary
****This is the first installment in a series of blog posts that tell some of the experiences of Lily Rebecca an active Plain Mennonite woman who sought both professional and church support for mental health resources.
After Lily's Grandpa had a fatal heart attack, in 1988, Lily's Grandma came and lived in an apartment within Lily's childhood home. Lily grew up with a grandmother in the home from her 8th year onward. The schizophrenia which Grandma had, ever since her twenties, was controlled by regularly taking medication. Lily's Grandma always saw a psychiatrist. Lily feels like it was every three months.
When there is an adult with a medical diagnosis it's not like a parent-child relationship with a medical office. The psychiatrist's explanation to Lily's Mother, when Grandma moved in, was that the medical facility does not allow family members to sit in the office with the patient and doctor during appointments due to privacy and confidentiality rules and laws, the waiting room is as far as they may attend a loved one. Family members may call the office and leave messages for the physician to consider, but no interference is permitted between the doctor and patient. The psychiatrist did offer to meet with the family members, separately from the client and host a conversation, if there were ever concerns or difficulties. But the third party would need to pay, just as if it is a regular appointment held with a patient. Privacy and confidentiality of the patient would always be maintained as evidence shows the best outcomes for patients apply strict application of these values. One of Lily's Aunts who is an LPN explained that this is common best practice for relating to family members of a patient who has a mental health diagnosis and treatments.
Lily's Mother was rather upset, because she wanted some support, and education on how to relate with the illness and in keeping an eye out for grandma's safety. The doctor and LPN aunt both explained the system is that until a patient is deemed a menace to society, or to themselves, nothing will be done to interfere, either by law enforcement, or medical professionals, family members are on their own to become educated themselves or to seek support for themselves in relating to another adult who has a mental illness, living in the home around children.
Lily saw this work out one time, when she was thirteen and LPN Aunt, together with her parents spent four or five hours one morning attempting to hold conversations with grandma while she was in a delusional state of mind. Grandma, they began to realize, had gone off her medicine cold turkey, several weeks before! As withdrawal set in, Grandma became quite confused and disoriented, seeing hallucinations, not sleeping at night, shivering, and shaking, and finally, believing it was Sunday morning – although it was a Thursday! Her adult children got her convinced to get into the car, ostensibly to "go to church". The adults and the ill grandma showed up at the hospital, where she peacefully agreed to walk inside and was voluntarily committed without anyone becoming hurt.
Please understand that it is not permitted to take an adult involuntary (or against their will) for a psychological evaluation. Transport across state lines can be kidnapping which is a crime. Consent is not consent if the person is afraid to say, "No". They know what you will do to them if they don't go along with you. Involuntary medicating of people happens in many Plain People's situations, but the opposite can be true. Plain People sometimes wait too long to go for medical treatment. So, let it be known that Grandma's compliance was an answer to prayer. Many cases have gone terribly and unnecessary violence or trauma has occurred because people don't understand consent and respect, autonomy, and safety. Don't ever lay hands on or grab someone to force them to get medical attention. If they threaten to harm themselves or someone else, keep them within your eyesight and call 911.
Threatening to harm themself or others is a crisis. If you find yourself concerned about calling 911 remember that professionals are trained to minimize violence towards anyone who may be experiencing a crisis. It is ok to stay on the line with 911 until help comes.