I had been very much moved by the case of Andreas Fernández González, the young Asturian woman who a few years ago died tied to a bed at the psychiatric unit at the Central University Hospital of Asturias. Andreas had arrived at the emergency room with fever, tonsillitis, and auditory hallucinations and wound up in the psychiatric ward tied to a bed for 75 hours, only to then discover, post mortem, that what she really had was meningitis.
Her sister Aitana, who decided to sue the seven doctors who treated Andreas, said that they had not run enough tests to verify if what Andreas had was organic in origin, and made the decision to check her into the psychiatric ward likely due to her family history. One of the medical reports from her visits during those days read: «Mother suffering from schizophrenia, father suffering from major depression.» Aitana continues to fight to get justice for her sister’s death.
Andreas’ case moved me for many reasons. I remembered my mother thirty years ago, when one of my sisters’ fever would not go down, and she was delirious. I remembered how they had sent her home several times, and how, already quite desperate, dragged her to our Dr. Gallego, the «doctor of the poor» in Ourense, who told her: «Go back to the emergency room, tell them she’s got meningitis, and don’t leave.» I often remember the kind of attention another one of my sisters gets; and how her psychiatric history is the only prism they use to hear her.
But to speak of mental health is to speak of health. Fighting to remove the stigma and normalize it to be able to advance precisely in the face of adversity is as important as fighting against the neglect that continues to happen daily at all levels of society.