Hospitalization can be a scary experience when you are not allowed to advocate for yourself. Imade Borha, our Communications Coordinator at MHASF, remembers her two hospitalizations. She was threatened with drug injection for her self-advocacy and witnessed a patient become destabilized because she had no home to go to after discharge. This is why she opposes the forced conservatorship of SB 1045.
When I am in an acute mental health crisis, I want my pain to be seen and my needs to be heard. Even during severe depression, with negative ruminating thoughts whipping through my mind, I still desire the means to advocate for myself.
With SB 1045, I fear that San Francisco’s most vulnerable will be punished for their mental health challenges with conservatorship instead of having access to long-term housing and treatment. SB 1045 lacks an answer to a vital question: how will San Franciscans mentally recover if they still don’t have a home?
My former mental hospital roommate asked a similar question when her discharge date was constantly pushed back. Since she had no home to return to, the mental hospital refused to release her. She was trapped in a holding pattern because the hospital also did not help her find housing. I saw someone who was friendly and respectful become belligerent and agitated. She protested the hospital’s decision because she was ready to return to her life. No matter how much progress you make in a mental hospital, it is no substitute for a home.
The topic of conservatorship brings painful memories of my past two hospitalizations. During both instances, I was either misinformed about the quality of the hospital or forced to “voluntarily” admit myself to avoid a more restrictive involuntary stay if I objected.
During my first hospitalization, I was threatened with drug injection and physically restrained when I protested deplorable conditions that made me concerned for my safety. My mom and best friend felt helpless to hospital staff who communicated that I got what I deserved since I attempted suicide.
My family tried desperately to get me out so I can be treated in a more supportive environment. They understood that my mental healing should be rooted in the community, and not forced hospitalization.
Mental health treatment should not be a series of threats or a cycle of criminalized interactions with police. Conservatorship does not address the long-term needs of housing and trauma-informed mental health care. People need to feel that they are an active participant in their own recovery. SB 1045 is a regressive step away from the mental health rights we deserve.