MINNEAPOLIS, Nov. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Barbara Pelton's career in the mental health industry was definitely a circuitous path. It started over 30 years ago with a special needs child and it led her to a Maximum Security Hospital for the mentally ill and dangerous. "The Nut Hut," is a new TV drama based on the actual work of Barbara at this maximum security hospital. (Click here to learn more about "The Nut Hut")
Recalling her first day at the security hospital, Barbara said, "I remember how much I was looking forward to starting this new career. I didn't know then just how much the people I would meet there would affect me...people who really needed my help and felt like they had no one else to turn to. Also, the people who worked in the facility, both good and bad, were quite interesting."
Barbara soon came to the heart breaking conclusion that, in her opinion, the hospital was woefully under staffed and patients weren't getting the attention they needed. "There was an inside joke that, if you're breathing, you're on the floor. It wasn't the staff's fault," she explained. "There wasn't enough money for more employees and the turnover was constant. Most of the employees weren't trained to deal with the situations they faced. There were few psychologists and they didn't have the time or the staff necessary to take on the ever-growing population of patients. It was overwhelming."
Barbara continued, "The solution was to either keep the patients drugged to the point of numbness, shuffle them around in various programs or there was ECT-Electroconvulsive Therapy better known as shock treatment. Then, new leadership would come in, choose to run the hospital another way, and take away another tool intended to keep the staff safe. It was constant chaos." At one point, Barbara was actually certified and taught Personal Safety to newly hired staff members – "but they took that away, too. The place was turned upside down constantly. It truly was "The Nut Hut."
"The Nut Hut" is a term Barbara actually dislikes but it was jokingly used by some of the staff to refer to the facility. Barbara remembers her husband calling it "The Nut Hut" one time, many years ago. "I told him please don't call it that. The patients there don't want to be there. Most of them have had really hard times in their lives. Many of them have been involuntary committed without their consent. They are not nuts! They have a mental illness," said Barbara.
Barbara, who is no stranger to hard times in her life, lost her mother to cancer when she was just eleven and, shortly thereafter, her sister died in a car accident. She knows what it feels like to experience loss, tragedy and pain. "I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I have a great family that has supported and continues to support me. I believe that these tragedies have made me more empathetic towards others with problems in their lives, and I have always wanted to help others." And help she did.
Barbara had a natural ability to connect with the patients at the facility. She was often able to reach those who were the most violent offenders and the most mentally unstable. "People would say to me, 'How can you handle being that close to that person?' Or, 'aren't you afraid to be alone with him-her, they have attacked so many people?' I would tell them, 'No.'" I (somehow) had a natural ability to connect with the patients and I didn't fear them. The patients could sense distrust and insincerity. They knew who they could and couldn't trust."
"Mostly I think the patients just wanted to talk about their problems with someone they trusted and not be judged for why they were there," she said. "Some of the people that were in the hospital were definitely very mentally ill, but others were people just like you and I who had some event in their lives that landed them in the facility. They wanted to get better and get out of the hospital, but there were not enough resources in place to help them recover or move on," Barbara continued. "This isn't just the case with the Hospital I was at; the same can be said for mental health systems and facilities all over the country. I wanted to create "The Nut Hut" as a television show to highlight the many inconsistencies and (frequently unnecessary) treatment of patients within these facilities."
Barbara says, "We've all seen enough cop dramas, we've all seen enough emergency room hospital dramas, and we've certainly seen enough shows about lawyers. It's time for a series that recognizes and deals honestly with the field of mental health and the consequences it has produced in this country. "The Nut Hut," is going to be a contemporary, fresh and honest television series unlike anything you have ever seen before."
"The Nut Hut," is an acted drama, about the inner workings of a secure forensic facility for the mentally ill and dangerous, and the patients, workers, psychiatrists and medical staff that work there. Each week's drama will go back in time to focus on one patient and acting out their real life story, and what lead them to their incarceration at a "home" for the mentally ill and dangerous. The production will present the lives of the workers, psychiatrists and medical staff both inside and outside of the facilities and how working there affects them. We will dramatize how patients are treated from day one, how the staff and workers deal with the patients, and how psychiatrists diagnose, misdiagnose and treat the patients with a wide variety of psychotropic drugs. Barbara says, "This is not a documentary, but a weekly drama based on real people who have experienced these things first-hand." Of course, the names will be change to protect the innocent. This show will be controversial touching on things most people don't know about these facilities like:
- Shock Treatment
- Involuntary Commitment
- Forced Medication
- The Role "Big Pharma" plays
- The Role of the DSM or "The Diagnostic & Statistical Manuel" of Mental Disorders
"Some people might think the name "The Nut Hut," is derogatory, I do. But we want the show to be controversial to call attention to the problems within these facilities and the U.S. mental health system in general. Things need to change. We can't keep sweeping mentally ill people under the rug in this country. They have an illness -- no more or no less than someone with cancer. We need to get rid of biases and the negative stigma attached to mental illness. We need to start really helping these people. They can be treated." Barbara goes on to say, "I've promoted wholeness in healing, which is a basic understanding of balance in people's lives and I want all individuals, families, and friends of the mentally ill to know that there is hope. We also need to help the staff in these facilities and get more funding for mental health."
When you talk with Barbara, it's easy to see that she really does care. However, "I left the facility because it was just getting too dangerous," she said. "The tools we had for protecting ourselves were taken away. Combine that with:
- A lack of staff
- A lack of funding,
- A lack of psychologists
- The wrong medications, (or too much medication)
And you had a volatile environment, always on the edge of exploding into a disaster. My husband begged me to leave before I (or someone else) was killed. I really didn't want to leave, but for my own safety and the concerns of my family, I resigned."
Since Barbara's departure from the facility, one patient has been murdered and many of the staff members have been beaten, including the most recent incident in which a nurse was severely beaten by a sixteen-year-old boy. "I knew it was only a matter of time before things like this would start happening. I knew things were not going to change and were likely to get worse," said Barbara. "I was so happy to help those patients that I could to get out of the system," she continued, "and I still care for the patients and staff I left behind. I want to help them somehow. I believe that this television series could help make a real change."
I asked Mrs. Pelton why a weekly series and not a documentary? She replied, "Well I had produced a documentary for internal use while I was at the Maximum Security Hospital. We talked about doing another one, but as we researched there were already many documentaries regarding mental health issues that appealed only to a certain demographic. We need to get the general public involved in order to affect change and we need to start a national, ongoing conversation about what is happening in our mental health system. "The only way to get people truly interested is to dramatize the situation and make it not only educational, but entertaining. I will tell you this, truth is often stranger than fiction and this show will keep the viewers glued to the edge of their seats," said Barbara. "This show will be a catapult to starting a national conversation and keep people talking about the mental health system," concluded Barbara. If would like more information or would like to contact Barbara, Click here to learn more about "The Nut Hut".
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Barbara Pelton: 507-382-7232
William Pelton: 507-382-2054
SOURCE The Nut Hut Series