Chat with Oliver Platt

recovery Jul 29, 2015

This week I had an opportunity to advise Oliver Platt on his role in a new television spinoff that will be called Chicago Med. Oliver will play the role of a psychiatrist working in a busy urban medical hospital emergency room (ER). During the interview, Oliver asked me to describe the ER experience from the point of view of an individual diagnosed with a mental illness. What was it like? What is helpful and what is harmful? He said he was studying for the new role and, although he wasn't a writer for the show, he did have a bit of influence over how his character develops in the series.

Here are some of the points I made:

  • Many of us come to emergency rooms after having already been traumatized. Arriving in the back of a cruiser or ambulance, we may have been roughed up, handcuffed, tasered or pepper sprayed. Trauma-informed care and immediate efforts to help people feel safe and to tend to their physical distress is a compassionate response in such situations.
  • All too often, upon arriving at emergency rooms, those of us with mental health conditions are strapped to gurneys and left for many hours, or even days, before receiving attention and care. In a recent study in my state (Massachusetts), people with mental health conditions waited in emergency rooms 42% longer than those with other medical conditions (median wait time of over 11 hours!). Despite an Emergency Room Rights Campaign by our statewide organization, progress on this issue is slow.
  • I also told Oliver Platt that during times of emotional crisis and even acute psychosis, we are not indifferent to the world around us. In fact, in my experience, these are times of increased sensitivity. Everything the staff do and say matter. Simple acts of kindness - offering a drink of water, giving a person a choice as to where they would like to sit, gently explaining what is happening, before it happens - these and many other simple acts of kindness help during the time in the ER.

As a final note, I suggested that it would be great if his psychiatrist character could have some sort of behavioral health condition that he kept secret (but perhaps eventually discloses). Oliver laughed and said something along those lines was already being written in for his character. So stay tuned folks ;-)