G Danzer and SM Rieger,
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, Winter 2016
Severe mental illnesses, mainly schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, often go untreated until the afflicted persons become dangerous to themselves or others. In such states, they must be hospitalized and medicated, often involuntarily due to the stigma and low insight into need for treatment that can be considered characteristic of severe illnesses. Hospitalization and medications can help the mentally ill stabilize. But these options also can have a demoralizing effect on future engagement with providers. Accordingly, the process of involuntary hospitalization and medication treatment must be maximally dignified and respectful of patient autonomy, within the limits of manifest illnesses. Literature that was reviewed and synthesized suggests best practice strategies for helping involuntary mentally ill patients grow into voluntary consumers of medication. In turn, risk of relapse is lowered and quality of life is enhanced. Best practice strategies included decreasing usage of coercive tactics, helping patients cope with medication side effects, and emphasizing the necessity of family involvement. The authors conclude with a review of the limitations of arguing for involuntary hospitalization and treatment as restoring patient autonomy, along with implications for future practice focusing on increasing the medication adherence of severely mentally ill populations.