Imagine spending 15 years in a mental hospital, against your will, as a normal, sane person.
The mere thought of being sent to a mental hospital is the stuff of nightmares for most of us. But for Kenneth Donaldson, this nightmare became all too real as he was institutionalized at age 34, against his will.
When visiting his elderly parents in Florida in 1956, Donaldson believed that one of his neighbours was poisoning his food.
His father, concerned that his son was paranoid, petitioned for a sanity hearing. Donaldson didn’t have the necessary legal counsel to represent his case and he was committed into the Florida State mental health system with “paranoid schizophrenia.” He was placed in a ward with only one doctor and shared his space with dangerous criminals.
After spending 15 years as a patient without ever receiving any treatment, Donaldson finally won a lawsuit against the hospital and staff members for robbing him of his constitutional rights. He was compensated financially and his case was even reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in 1975. Later on, Donaldson wrote a book about his experiences as a mental patient, which must have read something like a horror novel.