On August 1, 2012, we arrived at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Washington and completed our 100 mile walk for compassionate and empowering mental health care.
We arrived in front of West State Hospital where Cindi’s son is locked up. Cindi had spoken with the personal secretary of the CEO of Western State, Jess Jamieson, the morning before. We were seeking an audience so that we might share the concerns of so many mothers whose stories we carry. However, the secretary did not follow through with a return call as promised. We were therefore surprised when two police cars were stationed at the publicized meeting place for the final mile of our walk.
We were joined by two other moms, Rosata and Eita. As four determined mothers, each with a story, one with a walker and one whose adult daughter was not able to proceed with us upon seeing the grounds of the hospital where she herself had suffered traumatizing abuses, we proceeded to complete the last thousand steps of one hundred thousand steps together. (There are more than 1,000 steps in one mile.)
A man dressed in what appeared to be the uniform of a police officer shadowed our every turn. When the last mile was complete, we proceeded up the steps of the main building and into the front foyer to see if anybody would hear our voice. We were amazed when CEO Jess Jamieson emerged from behind closed doors.
Upon hearing that Cindi and I had walked one hundred miles as part of a group of mothers who feel our voices had been silenced, Jess Jamieson looked at his watch and said he could give us five minutes of his time.
Cindi was clear that five minutes was not be enough time and I mentioned that we had been given 30 minutes at the governor’s office. Jess Jamieson then decided he could give us twenty minutes for which we were grateful.
The noticeably embarrassed police officer asked the CEO if he could now be relieved of his assignment and, when the answer was affirmative, he said, “Thanks, boss,” quite loudly, which led us to understand that we had been followed by privately commissioned campus police whose cars and garb merely imitated the appearance of state police.
Mr. Jamieson did not object to Cindi’s request to tape our meeting. We will upload this recording along with other pictures and videos of our one-hundred mile walk in upcoming days.
We are aware there have been a number of tragic deaths within the hospital walls and that Mr. Jamieson is to retire in September. He listened to our serious concerns regarding the profit-driven mental illness industry and our personal stories about our children and the great harm that has been caused by this treatment model.
In response to our concerns, Mr. Jamieson said that our personal experiences do not match his perspective nor that of the mission statement of the hospital. I asked him to share the mission statement and, before we left, he handed me a pamphlet with a one sentence mission statement.
It is very clear to us that “people who we serve” (noted in the mission statement) primarily refers to shareholders of pharmaceutical corporations and not our children.
Later that day, Eita gave us a personal tour of the grounds formerly used the hospital when the healing model was still focused on occupational therapy. There are horse stables, an abandoned farm, a lake with many ducks, and fruit orchards. Residents helped to build beautiful stone walls that still border the current hospital grounds. All of this beauty is within the vicinity of the current building, but has not been used since 1965 when occupational therapies were replaced by the sole use of drugs. As a result, Cindi’s son has never been taken on a walk on these beautiful grounds.
The history of institutionalized existence is neither pretty nor healthy, in part because people who have one or more episodes of vulnerability are often labeled as being mentally ill and are preyed upon by those in power. However, “We the People” can choose to lift one another up and nurture neighborhoods where hearts can heal.
Although our 100 mile walk is complete, our mission is not. To learn more and to make a donation, please see our Donate Here page.
Thank you for your support!
Aleshanee and Cindi