Health

In the House of Psychiatry, a Jarring Tale of Violence

The annual gathering of the American Psychiatric Association is a dignified and collegial affair, full of scholarly exchanges, polite laughter and polite applause.

So it was a shock, for those who took their seats in Room 1E08 of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, to watch a powerfully built 32-year-old man choke back tears as he described being slammed to the floor and cuffed to a stretcher in a psychiatric unit.

Because the man, Matthew Tuleja, had been a Division I football player, he had a certain way of describing the circle of bodies that closed around him, the grabbing and grappling and the sensation of being dominated, pinned and helpless.

He was on the ground in a small room filled with pepper spray. Then his wrists and ankles were cuffed to the sides of a stretcher, and his pants were yanked down. They gave him injections of Haldol, an antipsychotic medication he had repeatedly tried to refuse, as he howled in protest.

Forcible restraints are routine events in American hospitals. One recent study, using 2017 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated the number of restraints per year at more than 44,000.

But it is rare to hear a first-person account of the experience, because it tends to happen to people who do not have a platform. Researchers who surveyed patients about restraint and seclusion have found that a large portion, 25 to 47 percent , met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.

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