SC Department of Mental Health News Release


For Immediate Release
August 14, 2002
Contact: John Hutto, Director of Communications
(803) 898-8584

SCDMH to Study Trauma in Psychiatric Hospitals
State Agency Joins MUSC in National Groundbreaking Project

Columbia, SC: Hospitalization for any illness can be a distressing experience, and medical procedures can often be frightening. In psychiatric hospitals, like in any hospitals, traumatic events or stressful medical practices can possibly harm those trying to recover.

It may be as common as the use of restraints or forced medication, or as severe as a sexual or physical assault at the hospital. Now, for the first time, these concerns will be investigated by researchers from MUSC and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

National mental health consumer advocacy groups like the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and other mental health consumer-led organizations have been turning their attention to the issue of trauma in the psychiatric hospital setting. SCDMH wants to learn how common harmful and/or traumatic experiences are, and to minimize the chance of these potentially humiliating or damaging events for the nearly 1,500 South Carolinians receiving care in state psychiatric hospitals any given day.

In collaboration with Medical University of South Carolina's Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department, SCDMH is participating in a two-year, nearly $400,000 grant to determine the frequency and effect of traumatic events in psychiatric hospitals, including its own facilities. Interviewing 200 randomly selected adults living with mental illnesses, the results of the study will hopefully help not only SCDMH but hospitals around the country to develop policies and training for mental health professionals so they can provide care through practices and settings that do no harm.

Recognizing that people committed to psychiatric hospitals are vulnerable, often traumatized, and may not assert their needs or understand the necessity for psychiatric procedures, the National Institute of Mental Health is funding the study. NIMH is supporting South Carolina's lead role in the growing recognition of the frequency and severity of trauma in the lives and treatment of people with mental illnesses.

The study will consider the subjects' diagnoses, prior life trauma, possible hospital trauma, and potential trauma-related symptoms exhibited after hospitalization. The study will conclude in June 2004. Contacts for the study include B. Christopher Frueh, Ph.D., of MUSC and Karen Cusack, Ph.D., of SCDMH. Dr. Cusack can be reached at (843) 727-2000.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health has been serving the mental health needs of South Carolinians since 1821. Its 5,300 employees and 8,505 volunteers offer services from 17 community mental health centers and seven inpatient facilities statewide. (800) 763-1024. Web site:


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