Destroying William

***From Psycho Magazine: Queen Street’s Patients Voice Vol 2 1994***
Destroying “William” (by Geoffrey Reaume)

“William” was upset. The 28 year-old inmate of St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital had been alternatively depressed and then angry for several days, for reasons which were not clear to me. But one thing was certain. He resented the insistence by staff that he had to take his medication. In the six weeks I knew him, William never had any visitors to look to for support should the need arise. He was, in effect, an isolated patient. This isolation was about to become much more severe.

Early on Thursday evening in March, 1979, William poured out his feelings of resentment towards the staff at a ward “therapy” session. Rather than listen to him, other staff told him to “cool off” in the absurdly named “Quiet Room.” He went in one of those bare, concrete rooms without being forced, though he shouted his defiance as the door shut behind him.

Within a couple of hours, William was crying uncontrollably, pleading for release. His voice changed to sounding like that of a child, constantly begging for his hat (which had been taken from him). His terrifying, pitiful cries resounded throughout the ward all night.

Early on Friday morning, just before breakfast, William was forcibly drugged by six or seven burly men, most of whom I had never seen before, presumably staff from other wards. They literally burst into his cell, tackled him, and injected one of his buttocks with some drug as he screamed in terror. Later that day, after he was sufficiently dazed, and while most of us were working at industrial or occupational “therapy,” William was transferred to a more oppressive ward.

A few weeks later I saw him in a walking party accompanied by staff. He was completely changed, almost emotion-less with his eyes half-closed, drugged into submission, not seeming to recognize me as he walked by, which was unlike his previous demeanor. I never saw him again, nor heard what happened to him after this last fleeting glimpse of a spirit that had been crushed by the brutal use of physical and chemical restraints.

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