ALIAH GLEASON IS A BIG, lively, 13 year-old girl with a round face, a quick wit, and a sharp tongue. She's 13 and in eighth grade at Dessau Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, an Austin suburb.
In the early part of seventh grade, Aliah was a B and C student who "got in trouble for running my mouth." Sometimes her antics went overboard-like the time she barked at a teacher she thought was ugly.
School officials considered Aliah disruptive, deemed her to have an "oppositional disorder," and placed her in a special education track. Her parents viewed her as a spirited child who was bright but had a tendency to argue and clown. Then one day, psychologists from the University of Texas (UT) visited the school to conduct a mental health screening for sixth- and seventh-grade girls, and Aliah's life took a dramatic turn.
Not long after, they got a phone call from a UT psychologist, who told them Aliah had scored high on a suicide rating and needed further evaluation. The Gleasons reluctantly agreed to have Aliah see a UT consulting psychiatrist. She concluded Aliah was suicidal but did not hospitalize her, referring her instead to an emergency clinic for further evaluation. Six weeks later, in January 2004, a child-protection worker went to Aliah's school, interviewed her, then summoned Calvin Gleason to the school and told him to take Aliah to Austin State Hospital, a state mental facility. He refused, and after a heated conversation, she placed Aliah in emergency custody and had a police officer drive her to the hospital.
The Gleasons would not be allowed to see or even speak to their daughter for the next five months, and Aliah would spend a total of nine months in a state psychiatric hospital and residential treatment facilities. While in the hospital, she was placed in restraints more than 26 times and medicated-against her will and without her parents' consent-with at least 12 different psychiatric drugs, many of them simultaneously.
On her second day at the state hospital, Aliah says she was told to take a pill to "help my mood swings." She refused and hid under her bed. She says staff members pulled her out by her legs, then told her if she took her medication, she'd be able to go home sooner. She took it. On another occasion, she "cheeked" a pill and later tossed it into the garbage. She says that after staff members found it, five of them came to her room, one holding a needle. "I started struggling, and they held my head down and shot me in the butt," she says. "Then they left and I lay in my bed crying."
What, if anything, was wrong with Aliah remains cloudy. In addition to the antidepressants Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Desyrel, as well as Ativan, an antianxiety drug, Aliah was given newer drugs Geodon, Abilif, and Risperdal, -plus an older antipsychotic, Haldol. She was also given the anticonvulsants Trileptal and Depakote, an anti-Parkinson's drug to control the side effects of antipsychotic drugs.....[MORE ...Read on]