Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College's student newspaper

The Berkeley Beacon

Increase transparency surrounding Section 12 hospitalization

Increase+transparency+surrounding+Section+12+hospitalization

“You’re being held on Section 12 involuntary hospitalization,” the psychiatrist said in a calm and collected manner, seemingly unfazed by the unnerving shrieks of the patient in the adjacent unit.

It was 9:30 p.m. and I had been waiting in the emergency room for almost eight hours. I occupied bed #92 in the psychiatric ward, while the screaming patient—later wheeled out on a stretcher by security—occupied bed #91. Upon arrival at the hospital, I was stripped of all my belongings, except for my phone.

“What’s going on? Why won’t they let me leave? Did I do something wrong?” I remember thinking to myself as the psychiatrist closed the door behind her. My mom arrived from California the next morning, hoping that I’d be released to her. I hoped so too, but we were wrong—a second psychiatrist informed us of a bed waiting for me at an intensive psychiatric facility and that I’d be transported there later that morning. We were in sheer disbelief.

I was sent to the hospital on Dec. 13, 2019, after my usual appointment at Emerson Counseling & Psychological Services. I wasn’t aware that “going to the hospital” meant initiating a 72-hour psychiatric hold, a Section 12 in Massachusetts, and that I’d need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist to be eligible for discharge. If I wanted to be discharged sooner, I’d need to appear before a judge in court later that week. I was luckily discharged three days later, just in time for our flight back home for the holidays. There was a lot of red tape to navigate past in order for me to be discharged and there was no transparency whatsoever—no one told me what was happening or what could’ve happened.

Being held in a Section 12 psychiatric hospital granted me little to no civil rights, and I was under constant supervision of medical staff. What did I say or do that got me here? Who had the power to put me here, and who has the power to set me free? I didn’t have any answers, and whenever I tried to ask, I was given typical responses like “sit tight, be patient, and a nurse will be with you shortly.” It was a frustrating and aggravating process, one that’s frequently and systematically abused by medical authorities. Once I did my own research into mental health legislation, I realized there was much more I should’ve known.

According to Massachusetts General Laws, Section 12 of Chapter 123 permits and regulates the “emergency restraint and hospitalization of persons posing risk of serious harm by reason of mental illness” and can be signed for by a physician, nurse practitioner, qualified psychiatric nurse, qualified psychologist, licensed independent clinical social worker, or police officer. Section 12(a) allows for an individual to be brought against their will to an institution for psychiatric evaluation; Section 12(b) allows for an individual to be committed to a psychiatric institution for up to three business days against their will and without their consent. When a physician signs a Section 12, they must notify patients that they’re being placed on a psychiatric hold and state their reasoning for authorizing it. And while signing a Section 12(a) doesn’t automatically result in hospitalization, the colloquial term “sectioned” is used to refer to both 12(a) and 12(b).

Furthermore, state law 104 CMR 27.02 mandates that a psychiatric evaluation must occur within two hours of a patient’s reception by a medical facility, given that all qualified physicians aren’t preoccupied with an emergency, and the facility must inform the patient of their right to an attorney through the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Upon request, the hospital must contact CPCS so an attorney can be appointed to represent the patient. If ever found in this situation, ask to speak with an attorney yourself or ask to call CPCS at 617-988-8341. When admitted to the hospital, I wasn’t told of any of these rights—in fact, I didn’t even know I was sectioned until nine hours after I arrived at the emergency room. I was legally kept in the dark, and as a result, I was severely misguided.

There is a stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness that prevents most of us from talking about our struggles—that’s nothing we don’t already know. But in turning to the resources meant to help students through personal battles, I quickly realized that the administrative response to our mental health is to either hand us off to other providers or send us to the hospital. It’s defeating to know that sectioning is common practice, if not protocol, at Emerson College. In fact, another Emerson student was in the waiting room at the same time I was, a coincidence noticed by the attending nurses. For an institution that prides itself as a beacon of acceptance and progress, my experience with the current resources on our campus contradicts these supposed values.

Sectioning isn’t just isolating, it also reinforces the stigma around mental health and discourages those who are seeking help or on the road to recovery. What’s worse is the deliberate misleading of sectioned patients and the systematic lack of transparency that stretches far beyond our campus, which is not entirely Emerson’s fault. If Section 12 really is college protocol, shouldn’t we start by keeping the student body aware of this procedure and the legal rights we have when sectioned? And if Section 12 isn’t as routine as it seems, how else are we effectively addressing our mental health, both on and off-campus? I understand Emerson is trying to keep up with the growing demand for support and that it is responsible for thousands of students, but the least our administration can do is keep us informed. Failure to do so, in my opinion, is just as dehumanizing as being locked in the psychiatric ward.

View Comments (9)

Comments (9)

The Berkeley Beacon intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Berkeley Beacon requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Berkeley Beacon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    A
    Mar 12, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Best wishes to you. Section 12 is horrendous

    Reply
  • M

    Matt
    Nov 2, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    This has happened to me 6 times from an abusive ex gf who “plays the system”. We have no rights as individuals as all they have to do is lie. In my case 6 times. I cannot stress enough that we have no freedom to expression. I eventually got her arrested for beating the shit out of me against my will. Guess what? Still sectioned. There is no freedom in this country. If you think so go to jail 6 times for no reason cause your gf abuses the system and lies and get back to me. No evidence needed. Still heated so ho fuck your self if you think different. You simply don’t know.

    Reply
  • S

    SueThem
    May 29, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    I’m currently dealing with this with my 15 year old son. His psychologist and pediatrician were both totally against hospitalziation but a group called CSO (who I went to for assistance in getting some additional support) decided they would section 12 him after 15 min of him saying he was fine and had no feelings of suicide. They never consulted his doctors even though I provided them with their contact info and when the doctors reached out to say he shouldn’t be there, they ignored them. They even called DCF on me because when they first suggested hospitalization I said I’d like to discuss it with his doctors before making a decision. This is disgusting and inhumane.

    Reply
  • S

    Section 12 Hater
    Jan 16, 2022 at 12:15 am

    Section 12 basically summarizes Massachusetts mental health. It’s a system of passing you on to the next person while taking away your rights for the Hell of it.

    I’m sure it’s helpful for some people but in my experience, it’s an embarrassing way to get help. It really makes you feel like everyone hates you which sucks, especially during your darkest times.

    Reply
  • S

    Sam
    Sep 2, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Any tips on how to get out ?I’ve been in here for 2 days and they wanting to put me in a psychiatric hospital. There I can leave after 3days hopefully. But I don’t know how long they are planning on holding me here for and I’ve been chillin this whole time meditating relaxing and yet they still want to give me medication for “dedication making processes”. And the reason they want to send me to the psych hospital ain’t even cuz I’m aggressive just cuz sum dude on the phone decided that it should be like that. I couldn’t even share my perspective to the judge making the discussion to send me here what is this?🤣🤣
    Much love to all here hope y’all chillin too

    Reply
    • M

      Me
      Oct 12, 2022 at 3:27 pm

      My alcoholic son called an ambulance on me. They combined multiple texts to make it sound more like a suicide attempt. I asked for lawyer and was told I had no rights. I was not told within 2hrs of going there that I was being kept. I was abused and severely bruised and broken by security. I’m 54 with no mental health history, no arrests, no anything. I was accused of everything and told nothing. They didn’t even do a drug or alcohol test. Merrimack Valley Hospital cannot be trusted. I was kept restrained most of the 4 days in er. Was then sent to psych ward in another hospital where I signed nothing and again asked for lawyer. Never got lawyer but was let out on third day. I was a runner but now can’t even walk. Where is the justice in this state!!

      Reply
  • M

    Melanie
    Nov 23, 2020 at 10:44 am

    This is a ridiculous law, it imposes on any civil rights you “MAY”have thought you had! COVID 19 has up’ed the “anty”! I am a health care proxy being left out of my mother’s “case” this article is extremely helpful. Thank you for writing it. It is crazy and makes me HATE MA more and more. Communist/Socialized medicine we may as well be in China! I cannot belive a the hell ppl have to go tnrough here
    I am sorry for the person writimg this to have had this experienced this although you are helping me with this literal fight to get my mom! Thank you sincerely and truly.

    Reply
    • M

      Michelle
      Oct 12, 2022 at 3:30 pm

      My alcoholic son called an ambulance on me. They combined multiple texts to make it sound more like a suicide attempt. I asked for lawyer and was told I had no rights. I was not told within 2hrs of going there that I was being kept. I was abused and severely bruised and broken by security. I’m 54 with no mental health history, no arrests, no anything. I was accused of everything and told nothing. They didn’t even do a drug or alcohol test. Merrimack Valley Hospital cannot be trusted. I was kept restrained most of the 4 days in er. Was then sent to psych ward in another hospital where I signed nothing and again asked for lawyer. Never got lawyer but was let out on third day. I was a runner but now can’t even walk. Where is the justice in this state!!

      Reply
  • J

    Jean Masco
    Jul 6, 2020 at 8:52 am

    This happened to my daughter recently! She is from NJ but moved to MA to be her now husband. Instead of checking her into a ‘regular’ hospital bed because she couldn’t communicate they ASSUMED she was on drugs & Sectioned her! Now, me, her mother – living in the great state of NJ had never heard of such a thing! Thank God my son-in-law knows the laws since he’s from there! I drove up & spent the next 12 – YES TWELVE days trying to get her out of there!!!! This is the stuff that nightmares are made of – I kid you not! As a mother, I was losing my mind!!!!! WORST laws I’ve ever encountered in my entire life!!!!!! My daughter was also NEVER advised about legal counsel at ANY point until her THIRD go-around trying to get out of there! By that point I had the patient advocate & everyone else, including our OWN attorney to deal with this! Just HORRIBLE! Laws need to be changed & how they ‘section’ people TOTALLY needs an overhaul! When my ‘baby girl’ became a WARD OF THE STATE MamaBear came out! WTF is wrong with this antiquated system??? My daughter had a ‘medical’ emergency NOT a psyche emergency! Now she’s in the process of weaning off of drugs she NEVER should have been put on in the first place!!!!!! State law makers need to get involved!!!!!!!!! I’m so happy my daughter is home once again but, it’s been a nightmare for her also! She ended up spending 2-1/2 weeks in that God-forsaken psyche ward of Brockton Hospital!!!! It was so traumatic for her, never having ever dealt with something like this. I am one extremely unhappy mother! God help you all who need REAL help – all they do is drug you up! There is NO therapy in there & when all your rights are taken away – it’s truly the absolute worst thing that can happen to anyone! I pray for you all. Write and/or call your legislators, along with your local mayor & governor! SOMEONE higher up needs to know what’s going on!!!!!

    Reply