The give and take of freedom: The role of involuntary hospitalization and treatment in recovery from mental illness.

Research paper by Graham G Danzer, Asha A Wilkus-Stone

Indexed on: 15 Sep '15Published on: 15 Sep '15Published in: Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic


The authors reviewed and synthesized scholarly literature on the topic of involuntary confinement and treatment for severely mentally ill adults. Objectively, all facets of the issue are reported, including recurrent positive outcomes, negative outcomes, and patient experiences in common. Patient experiences are organized into related subthemes of autonomy, patient satisfaction, relationships with staff, perceived coercion, traumatization, and humiliation. The literature suggests that short-term involuntary hospitalization is sometimes necessary in order to prevent the mentally ill from psychiatrically decompensating or harming themselves or others. Understandably, hospitalization is often experienced by the mentally ill as a demoralizing violation of their rights and tends to lead them to disengage further from the professional help they need in order to recover. In turn, disengagement leads to further decompensation and resulting risk for rehospitalization. In order to intervene in this cycle and instill severely mentally ill patients with hope in the recovery process, the use of coercive tactics must be decreased in favor of cooperative engagement measures to the greatest extent possible. Patients must be empowered to make choices within the limits of their illnesses through positive interactions with staff, particularly in potentially negative, autonomy-compromising situations. Cooperative measures may help to minimize the potentially traumatic and humiliating effects of being involuntarily hospitalized and medicated. In turn, trusting patient-provider relationships may develop. Thereafter, the severely mentally ill may become more likely to seek professional help on their own volition in the future.