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8 Things I Learned About Mental Hospitals by Watching House (and why they’re bullshit)

Sep 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: revewz, snewz


No, silly dog. Not that house.
No, silly dog. Not that house.

My father called me last week because he had heard about the season premier of House that came out last night. He was pretty excited about it, because it takes place in a mental hospital. My parents met at a mental hospital back in the early 70’s, which is why this theme is exciting for my family.

Sadly, my parents aren’t some super cool deranged lunatics (I suppose there is a redundancy there), but instead my mother was a psych nurse for about 30 years and my father… well, he had a long career in the field. He started working in a kitchen and got his Master’s in psychology in the early 80’s. The work just sort of fit his personality, part prison guard, part self-righteous prick with a false sense of superiority. No, I’m just kidding, my dad is pretty awesome.

So I watched the episode, keeping in mind the stories that I heard at the dinner table over the years and also the enormous volume of memories that I have from the myriad occasions in my youth that my parents would take me to work.

The stories from the dinner table usually consisted of humorous occasions where a patient may have taken the opportunity to drink another patient’s urine sample, but there were also times that they were dark tales of suicide attempts, suicide ‘successes,’ fights, escapes, and the like.

The memories from having visited work with my parents go back to the 80’s and work their way into the mid to late 90’s. One particular event that will always stick with me was the time my father took me to meet one particular patient. He was about 70 years old and I was somewhere between 5 and 10, but I’m thinking it was on the lower range of that scale.

The man had been lobotomized back when that treatment was in vogue. The lobotomy didn’t go so well. The guy was probably about 6 feet tall and 300 lbs., but when I looked into his eyes, I saw the soul of an infant. I’m not trying to sound overly dramatic, but that’s really the best way to describe it. his eyes were bluish gray and childlike. They weren’t blank, but innocent, naive, and fragile.

Other than him, I’d say the best summation would be that the people were fucking crazy. It was part zombie movie and part werewolf movie, but the transformations weren’t physical.

**********THE ACTUAL LIST**********

8 Things about Mental Hospitals from
House (Broken)

1. Everyone who has a mental illness exhibits the classical signs profoundly and otherwise have absolutely no mental faculties whatsoever.

Booger from Revenge of the Nerds is paranoid, some random guy who has almost no part in the show is claustrophobic, and, just to be edgy, a DUDE has anorexia. House gets to play with these stereotypical cases of mental illness and the sufferers have no defense against him. Boy, you just know this is going to be an awesome episode.

2. Patients get magnetic key cards AND metal keys to various doors allowing them in and out of places.

This is an interesting one for me. There are at least two occasions in the show that House uses keys that just don’t make a lick of sense. First he uses a magnetic key card to get back into the ward when he returns from the party, then he uses a set of metallic keys to open up an office so he and Franka Potente can get busy. I know we’re supposed to believe that he’s House, so obviously he lifted these keys off of someone, but both cases occurred under very spontaneous circumstances, so I’m thinking we’re just supposed to believe that he ‘earned’ these keys.

The problem with this is that Slappy Larry (my nickname for the guy who body slaps for the talent show) may just decide to take these keys himself and go rape a nurse in a broom closet. There’s no way that this would have gone down. If House had stolen the keys, the locks would have been changed by the end of the shift. These people are crazy and crazy has a tendency to get dangerous.

It's bad enough this creepy guy has the keys to the women's restroom.

It's bad enough this creepy guy has the keys to the women's restroom.

3. People can visit mental hospitals at any time of the day without supervision and even have sex with them. The staff even encourages this and promotes these relationships in sessions.

I’m not sure if this relationship with Franka Potente is supposed to make me want to get myself committed to an asylum, or if it makes me want to get a family member committed so that I can pick from the crazy women that are locked up in there, but what I do remember from my youth is that women in mental hospitals tend not to be the most attractive ladies in the world. Even those that are hot probably have something about them that disqualifies them from getting anywhere near a part of me that I really don’t want to lose. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just prejudiced.

A more realistic version of a sexy mental patient. You should see the ugly ones.

A more realistic version of a sexy mental patient. You should see the ugly ones.

4. People who are profoundly catatonic can have their conditions fixed by getting that thing that they’re staring at, which is just out of their reach.

I am not a trained professional in the world of psychology, but come on.


5. If you steal a car, kidnap a person, and coerce that person into attempted suicide, there are no legal repercussions if you’re out for the day from a voluntary commitment in a mental hospital.

I’m pretty sure that even if the doctor was going to be cool about it, the police would not have been too hip to the entire series of events that occurred during House’s crime spree that resulted in a severely injured person. In addition, I’d bet that there is some family member of the superhero guy (whose lame name escapes me) would love to get their hands into the bank account of a doctor as notable as House. House would then be moved to an asylum for the criminally insane if he were lucky, but I think he’d just see himself in prison for a long-ass time. For you hyphen manipulators, you can revel in the fact that he’d also be in prison for a long ass-time.

His only crime was that he cared too much. That and the attempted murder.

His only crime was that he cared too much. That and the attempted murder.

6. A psychiatrist will not only open themselves up to their patients, but invite them to their father’s death bed. This is especially acceptable for a patient who is highly manipulative, narcissistic, and antisocial.

Rule numero uno for people working in the field of psychiatry? Don’t expose your personal life. Then again, my  parents brought me to a mental hospital dozens, or possibly hundreds, of times, so maybe I’m getting too picky. Just the same, this move by the only actor playing a doctor who actually looked old enough to buy beer without getting carded was completely out of character.

Yes, this was supposed to be about developing him as a character, showing a more compassionate side of House, and whatever other touchy-feely stuff you want, but this was a stupid way of doing it.

7. Patients who get into fights are allowed to be alone in a room together shortly afterward as long as one of the patients is unconscious due to medication.

This was the scene just after House and John Leguizamo pulled their fake fight stunt in order to procure some haldol. The doctor gives House a pill, which was retarded in its own right, because you don’t have to get your fingers near a crazy person’s mouth if you use a needle, and then the disorderlies (sorry, I love that movie) drag him to his room, which he shares with the guy he fought with, instead of in the isolation room. The roommate then walks in directly after the Dr. and the orderlies leave. If this were a real mental hospital, John Leguizamo would have then shanked House and eaten his penis.

Fat Boys don't tolerate fighting.

Fat Boys don't tolerate fighting.

8. Medication immediately cures craziness.

I’m sure my parents are going to love this theme. House doesn’t take his pills, and then his roommate doesn’t take his because House has made rebellion ‘cool.’ House takes his pills and gets better pretty quickly. In the end, the roommate asks for his medication, which is supposed to be a profound moment for the guy, who is now going to follow the straight and narrow path, as carved by House.

The reason why my parents would like this is because they worked in this field from the late 60’s until the late 90’s, which was a period in psychological history that medication became the major tool in the treatment of mental illness. Because a lot of people “got better” on medication, a lot of the big institutions ended up losing funding and shutting down. Why spend the money on the facilities if craziness is curable?

The beauty of this is that a lot of the patients became homeless. It turns out that a lot of people don’t like taking the pills because a lot of them have some profoundly severe side effects. We’ve all seen those commercials for pills that treat things like allergies and the inability to get it up. The side effects are usually pretty bad. “Diarrhea, vomiting, baldness, rash, suicidal tendencies (usually with depression drugs), etc.” Now instead of treating something simple, try a pill or series of pills that are supposed to cure some serious shit like schizophrenia. Side effects may include your brain melting, your wiener falling off, and getting an even worse case of schizophrenia.

I’m not saying that medication doesn’t work. I’m just saying that it doesn’t work as well as people are brought to think it does. I’m not going to go on Oprah and jump on her couch, screaming about how mental illness isn’t a real disease. It is. It’s serious. Heck, I’ve been on some pretty good medications in my life and they’ve made major positive improvements in my life. Usually, I have a really good doctor or therapist working with me at the same time, though.

Side effects may include transgenerational mutations.

Side effects may include transgenerational mutations.

So there you have it. The opening episode of House: Season 6. To be honest, I can’t wait until the next show.


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  1. House got better not because of the meds but because he wanted to. After he realised that he cant help everybody (like the superhero guy ). House isnt equipped to deal with mental patients.

    In the episode the medication guy was looking for the side effects so they did deal with the side effects. They didnt show house getting them when he started actually taking them probably because they only had a 2 hour time limit.

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