72 hours. The number of hours experts deem practical and humane to stabilize someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
But sometimes the experts get it wrong.
It will soon be 5 years ago that my son spent 72 hours as a patient at SF General Hospital.
Many years of battling mental illness led him to the Golden Gate Bridge with the intent to jump that day. But through a series of intervening events, he was taken to the adult psychiatric unit . . . for 72 hours.
Because my son was over the age of 18, neither I nor any members of his family were privy to what happened during those 72 hours, but what we do know is that while in your care, someone — or actually several someones — “got it wrong” beginning from the time he entered the psychiatric emergency room until his discharge from 7B.
You may have all followed every established policy or procedure, but did anyone take the time to see my son as a person who was more that just another statistic taking up a bed on your unit?
After 72 hours, my 19 year old son - my youngest child, who may have been just another troubled individual to you, but who was everything to me, was discharged; with the following words written in his medical record:
“Among other reasons for concern, I am particularly concerned that he gave away his therapy dog prior to coming to SF to jump off GGB, an act frequently committed by patients who fully plan to take their life. He remains at high risk of danger to self and can not be managed at a lower level of care at this time.” Dr. Lucas Broster
Less than 36 hours after being discharged from your psychiatric unit, and directed by staff to exit the hospital through a back stairway, even though they were aware that his loving family stood waiting outside the unit, Andrew Peschard died by suicide on Christmas Eve, 2017.
I would never presume to tell you how to do your job, nor do I expect that you are to “save” every patient.
But I certainly hope you would try.
I hope that you would support those who love and live with and for your patients. And every day, when you come to work, I hope that you would realize just how high the stakes are if someone in your profession “gets it wrong”?
A life is gone. A family fractured. A mother’s heart shattered beyond repair. This is what I hope would be on your mind, as you go about your work day, making decisions that can have life-altering consequences. Never underestimate the impact you can make, with each and every person in your care.
Each. And. Every. Day.
Cynthia Peschard, Founder / Executive Director
The Aslan Foundation