The use of restraints and seclusion in psychiatric hospitals has caused long lists of issues for patients and the rest of the mental health community. The tragic death of Joshua Messier was a prime example of how dangerous using restraints can be especially when dealing with someone who has a mental illness.
Joshua Messier was a schizophrenic patient at Bridgewater State Hospital. Bridgewater serves as both a prison and a mental health facility. Due to his schizophrenic outburst, Joshua was placed in prison even though he was not a criminal.
Joshua Messier was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was a patient at Bridgewater State Hospital at the time of his death on May 4th, 2009. On the night of his death, Messier was aggressively tied down to a bed after an outburst. During this time the guards used a method named suit casing to restrain him. This method involves holding the person’s knee onto their chest.
Suit casing was banned in Massachusetts because it can cause suffocation. Joshua stopped breathing and died after the aggressive restraints. To make matters worse, the guards who were handling him had no experience in mental health training.
Upon the autopsy examination, Joshua’s case was ruled a homicide due to appeared internal bleeding. Officials at Bridgewater claimed that the guards were following the “standard procedures” with Joshua. They even went as far as blaming Joshua and his mental illness for this tragedy. Joshua’s parents won a civil rights lawsuit and received a $3 million settlement this past March.
Since the death of Joshua, many patients at Bridgewater spoke up about the wrongful use of restraints while in treatment. Bridgewater officials promised to cut back on restraints and seclusion but the numbers have shown that they have actually increased.
The use of restraints and seclusion are just another way mental health facilities are becoming more like prisons. With proper training in mental health care and the elimination of dangerous restraints methods, cases like Joshua’s should not happen anymore.
Julia Cardoso is the Mental Health Staff Writer with a focus
on Anxiety Disorders. She is a graduate of Emmanuel College with a BA in Sociology and is on her second year MSW program at Simmons College. Julia is passionate about Mental Health and eliminating the stigma.