By Nalinee Seelal
April 03, 2012 – newsday.co.tt

VictimAn employee of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development remained at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital yesterday, 13 days after she was snatched from her office by mental health officers and forcibly committed to the hospital.

Colleagues of Cheryl Miller yesterday demanded her immediate release from the psychiatric hospital declaring she is not mentally unstable and vowed to protest daily outside the ministry at Tower D, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.

Miller’s sister, Doreen, is also demanding answers on who called in mental health officers for Miller and who had her warded at the psychiatric hospital on March 21.

Doreen, an employee of the Board of Inland Revenue, said she was told that her sister, an accountant, had “an outburst” with a senior official of the ministry after complaining to the official that she was being unfairly targeted.

A co-worker advised Miller to write a letter of apology to the senior official and was doing so when mental health officers from the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital arrived, spoke to Miller briefly and then forcibly took her to the hospital, Doreen told Newsday.

Doreen said one of her sister’s co-workers contacted her and told her she had been taken away to the psychiatric hospital. However, when Doreen got to the hospital she was not allowed to see her sister until the next day, March 22.

Doreen said her sister, who was placed at Ward 1, pleaded for help to be released from the hospital.

When Doreen spoke to the doctors, she said her sister may have a “chemical imbalance” and needed to be kept at the hospital.

Doreen said she tried to have her sister discharged but was unsuccessful.

“I am at a loss as to why my sister, who is in no way a violent person or someone who is a threat to society, could be removed from her office and placed at the St Ann’s hospital without a background check to ascertain if that person was ever treated for mental illness or any related illness,” said Doreen.

She added her sister has refused to take medication prescribed for her by doctors and has lost weight since being warded.

On Sunday, Doreen visited her sister who told her that a female patient has been harassing her and even stole things from her. There are three female patients other than Miller on the ward.

“I have not been able to rest since my sister who was leading a normal life was sent to St Ann’s and I am pleading with the authorities or anyone who could intervene or assist to come forward and have this matter rectified,” said Doreen.

Newsday was unable to contact Dr Iqbal Ghany, a consultant psychiatrist of the St Ann’s hospital, for comment as he was reported to be in meetings.

However, a nurse, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on March 22, Miller was assessed by three doctors who claimed that she had a chemical imbalance and recommended she be kept for further observation and treatment.

The nurse said Miller refused to take the medication prescribed by the doctors but when a decision was taken to give her injections, Miller agreed to take the medication orally.

The nurse said Miller “does not appear to be normal” and she was expected to remain at the hospital for treatment until doctors determine she is fit to be discharged.

Newsday contacted Miller’s sister, Doreen, and shared with her what the nurse had said. Doreen became even more concerned that her sister may be taking medication after all and feared the drugs will affect her health.

Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan said he was unaware of the incident when contacted for comment. He advised Miller’s relatives to write a letter to him explaining the circumstances of her committal to the hospital and he would investigate their claims.

He said it was highly unusual for someone to be forcibly taken to hospital without the determination of a doctor.

Alvin Fortune, a co-worker of Miller, yesterday said the incident has upset many staff members at the Gender, Youth and Child Development Ministry and are demanding that Miller be released from hospital and allowed to return to work.

On March 22, Fortune and 22 co-workers signed a petition asking permanent secretary Sandra Jones to intervene on Miller’s behalf.

In the letter to the permanent secretary, they expressed their “deep concern, hurt, disappointment and horror at the treatment meted out to our friend and coworker, Miss Cheryl Miller.”

The co-workers admit that Miller made a “sustained verbal outburst in the office” in which she expressed “feelings of persecution and victimisation in her work environment”.

Although they do not support how she expressed herself, the co-workers said how Miller felt was not unusual in their work environment nor “necessarily indicative of mental imbalance”.

They said Miller’s “reserved and introverted” way is her “personal quirk” and “ought not to be taken as grounds or excuse for the treatment with which we now take issue”.

They noted that after her outburst, Miller approached the line Minister Verna St Rose-Greaves who they overheard advise Miller to put her concerns in writing.

“Some time after that, things took a definite turn for the worse. Medical personnel arrived at the office and forcibly removed Miss Miller from her work station after a brief ‘interview’. During this ‘interview’ and removal, Miss Miller displayed no violent or psychotic behaviour but only asked repeatedly why she was being treated this way and protested that she felt very embarrassed. It is noteworthy to mention at this point that at the time of her forced removal, Miss Miller was in the process of writing an apology for her previous outburst.”

The co-workers said what happened was “ a disgrace” to the ministry.

Fortune told Newsday, he and his co-workers had a meeting with St Rose-Greaves on March 22 but they were not satisfied with her response.

He said they will protest outside Tower D every day at lunchtime until Miller is discharged from hospital and returned to work.

He said that yesterday, St Rose-Greaves asked to meet with them but they refused claiming she was not seeking the best interest of Miller.

Newsday also received a copy of a letter sent to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development by Miller’s former co-workers at the Ministry of Sport who described her as a hard worker who performed her duties conscientiously.

This second letter stated, “Each and all of us now feel very depressed at what has occurred and we call on whoever is responsible for this shameful episode to apologise and to do whatever is within their power to ensure that the dignity of our co-worker is restored. We also call on you to give us the assurance that no worker here will ever have to witness or suffer such indignity. This is certainly one of the darkest days in public service history. We shall be grateful for an early response to our concerns as it is difficult now to feel that we are safe, respected or cared for in our current work environment.”

Staff at and the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development and the Ministry of Sport said they were considering hiring an attorney to seek Miller’s interest.

Calls to St Rose-Greaves’ cellphone and office line went unanswered yesterday.


7 thoughts on “‘CHERYL NOT MAD’”

  1. ‘I’M NOT MAD’
    Cheryl Miller cried when she learnt yesterday of the outpouring of love and support she is receiving from her colleagues who are demanding her release from the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital where she was committed 14 days ago after being forcibly taken away by mental health officers from her workplace at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.

    Verna: I accept full responsibilty
    Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Verna St Rose-Greaves would not disclose exactly who ordered the committal of her ministry’s employee Cheryl Miller to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, but took responsibility for it.

    Verna on employee taken to ‘St Ann’s’: It was out of concern
    Government Minister Verna St Rose Greaves yesterday said she was sorry an employee from her ministry was forcibly taken to the St Ann’s Hospital. However, she said whatever action was taken was done out of concern for the employee—Cheryl Miller—and her colleagues at the ministry.

    St Rose-Greaves on worker taken to St Ann’s: It was out of care and concern

    …Workers picket ministry…’It could happen to any of us’

  2. Cheryl ‘a little strange, but never violent’
    Cheryl Miller, the woman who was reportedly forcibly removed from her office and taken to the St Ann’s Hospital two weeks ago, was yesterday described as a “quiet, introspective” woman by co-workers.

    ‘Cheryl Miller dragged away’
    A co-worker of Cheryl Miller yesterday recalled how the accountant was forcibly removed from her workplace at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development and warded at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, 15 days ago.

    Co-workers cry for Cheryl Miller
    A former colleague of Gender Affairs Ministry employee Cheryl Miller yesterday broke down and cried outside the Parliament, protesting against the way Miller was taken away from her job to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

    Browne: Forced admission ‘a travesty’
    DIEGO Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne lamented the forced admission to St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital of Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development employee, Cheryl Miller.

    …Browne on Cheryl Miller case: St Ann’s custody meant to silence

    …Amery Browne: Release Cheryl from St Ann’s

    Sanity safeguard
    MANY questions are raised by the unusual situation of an employer sending their employee for psychiatric evaluation and treatment at St Ann’s Hospital, as happened two weeks ago to Cheryl Miller, an accountant at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development. Since Newsday exclusively broke the story on Tuesday, Miller’s colleagues have held lunchtime demonstrations calling for her to be released from the hospital, a call echoed by her family.

    The bizarre case of Cheryl Miller
    That this is happening under a minister with a reputation as a champion of rights merely heightens the confusion. We are frankly puzzled by the speculation from Minister Verna St Rose Greaves that the alleged incident may be related to a process of change at the ministry which may be triggering feelings of loss of freedom and status among employees. If this is so, Minister St Rose Greaves, who is veering dangerously close to diagnosing her employee, may wish to urgently review the process in terms of its impact on employees.

    Dealing with mental illness head-on
    Assuming that the medical authorities who lodged Ms Miller at the psychiatric hospital have a basis for their decision, this unfortunate incident is an opportunity to remove the shroud that hangs over mental illness.

    Judge grants Duke, Hinds injunction to release patient from St Ann’s mental hospital


    Cheryl Miller goes home
    High Court judge Vasheist Kokaram yesterday ordered the conditional “discreet and dignified release” of Cheryl Miller, an accounting assistant at the Ministry of Gender Affairs, from the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

    Lawyer: Matter not over
    Speaking with reporters after yesterday’s ruling to have her released, Marcus said while he was satisfied with Miller’s temporary release, the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital violated a court-ordered habeas corpus writ by not bringing Miller to the courtroom yesterday.

    Cheryl was forced
    DESPITE claims from the Association of Psychiatrists that Cheryl Miller was not “forced” from her workplace on March 21, three sworn affidavits from Miller’s co-workers detailing the events of that day suggest otherwise.

    Co-worker: She was looking scared and helpless

    Duke, Hinds are responsible for patient, says Khan
    Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan yesterday slammed Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds and Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke for interfering with an ill patient’s treatment.

    Dana Seetahal: Messy Cheryl issue needs clearing up

    The Mental Health Act and potential abuses
    THE recent media coverage of Cheryl Miller’s admittance and detention at a mental institution brings to the attention of the public the draconian yet powerful provisions of the Mental Health Act.

    “Thank God, it’s over.” These were the first words which came out of the mouth of Cheryl Miller yesterday, as she celebrated her newfound freedom after having spent 15 days incarcerated at Ward One of the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital.

    Miller’s faith in God is rewarded
    After spending 15 agonising days at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development employee Cheryl Miller has described her release as “freedom”.

    ‘It was a Good Friday miracle’
    CHERYL Miller, who was released from the St Ann’s Hospital on Friday, said yesterday she has been left “frightened” by her ordeal. A shaken Miller, speaking to CNC3 early yesterday at her Belmont home, said she has for the past fortnight felt like she had no rights, and relied on prayer to see her through.

    Health Minister: Somebody with clout broke protocol in St Ann’s affair
    Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said people will be fired from one of two Government ministries or the St Ann’s Hospital if his investigation into the Cheryl Miller affair proves there was a breach of protocol in either how she was admitted to the hospital or how she was released from the facility.

    Dumas: State on shaky ground in case
    Former head of the Public Service, Reginald Dumas, wants to know what qualifications the person/s who called mental health workers to cart away Cheryl Miller from her workplace to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital have. He said yesterday he was stumped over whose authority and orders could have led to the assistant accountant being removed from her workplace.

    Hinds knocks media ‘vultures’

    Attorney Alfonso opines: State hard-pressed to justify detention

    Raffique Shah: A primitive country
    THE perception that there are more mad people outside the St Ann’s Hospital than there are inside that mental institution seems to be reality, following the forcible detention of public servant Cheryl Miller.

  5. take action you definitely have a case here you can sue the hospital or doctors who forcibly took her in without doing a background check

  6. Medical consultant asks: Who recommended Cheryl to St Ann’s?
    Urologist consultant to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Dr Philip Ayoung-Chee, has called on the relevant authorities to disclose whether a close friend, relative or two medical practitioners recommended Cheryl Miller to St Ann’s Hospital.

    Cheryl ‘relying on God’ to face new tests this week

    Come clean on Miller issue
    “It’s great to be free,” Cheryl Miller said on Saturday. “Freedom at last. I am relieved.” Unfortunately, Cheryl Miller is not exactly free yet. On Friday, Justice Vasheist Kokaram granted a writ of habeas corpus to release her from St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital until the matter is heard again on Thursday.

    Minister summons meeting to discuss release of Cheryl Miller
    ATTORNEYS acting on behalf of Cheryl Miller, the woman who was warded at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital for 15 days without her consent, have arranged for toxicology tests to be carried out to ascertain if the drugs administered to her during her stay at the mental institution was detrimental to her well-being.

    Lawyers confident of court victory
    PNM senator Fitzgerald Hinds, one of the lawyers representing Cheryl Miller, who was forcibly admitted to the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, is confident they would win the court matter against the institution.

    Hinds under fire for branding media ‘vultures’
    Disrespectful, unfortunate, irresponsible. These were the responses of members of the media community to Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds’ reference to the media as vultures.

    Guardian Editor-in-Chief: We were seeking the public interest

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