OBJECTIVE: Mental health consumers with serious mental illness were
surveyed to obtain information about their experiences with and attitudes
toward forced psychiatric treatment. METHODS: A 61-item survey
questionnaire developed by the authors was administered by consumer
volunteers to 105 persons with serious mental illness who were attending
seven rehabilitation centers in Maryland. The questionnaire covered
consumers' experiences and attitudes in three areas of forced treatment:
medication, outpatient therapy or rehabilitation, and hospitalization.
RESULTS: At some time during the course of their illness, 57 percent of the
respondents reported having been pressured or forced into hospitalization.
In the year before the survey, 30 percent reported being pressured or
forced into taking medication and 26 percent into attending a therapy or
rehabilitation program. The most common type of pressure or force was
verbal persuasion. Generally, respondents reported negative effects from
forced treatment, although the intensity of the negative effects varied by
treatment area, and about half retrospectively felt that the forced
treatment was in their best interest. Many respondents believed that
pressure or force has an appropriate role in psychiatric treatment,
although most wished to maintain the right to refuse treatment that they
considered not in their best interest. CONCLUSIONS: Differences in patterns
of response to pressure and force in the three treatment areas highlight
the variety of consumer experiences and the need to know more about the
role of forced or pressured treatment in their lives.