YouTuber Eugenia Cooney left YouTube in February 2019 to seek help for an eating disorder. She has since returned to the platform and opened up about her mental health to her subscribers.
In a recent video, Cooney spoke to YouTuber and therapist Kati Morton about what it was like to be put on a 5150 — a 72-hour psychiatric hold — by her friends.
She said she felt ambushed because she was starting to think about entering a program herself. Instead, she was sent to a psychiatric hospital against her will, and entered an unnerving and scary environment.
Morton helped explain what a 5150 actually means, and how for some people it can do more harm than good.
YouTuber Eugenia Cooney disappeared from the platform in February 2019 to work on her health with a doctor, after years of subscribers and the wider community speculating over her incredibly low weight and the possibility of her having a severe eating disorder.
Cooney reappeared in July in an hour-long documentary posted by one of YouTube's most popular creators Shane Dawson, and since then her channel has gone back to business as usual, with beauty tutorials, Q&A videos, and try on hauls.
She recently appeared on YouTuber and therapist Kati Morton's channel to talk about what it was like when she was put on a 5150 — a 72-hour psychiatric hold — by her friends.
Eugenia Cooney's story
Cooney started by talking about why it was so hard for her to reach out for help herself, even when she was being spammed with comments about her appearance every day.
"It's still hard to see things the way other people do sometimes," she said. "It's hard to admit that to yourself."
She said her mother had brought up some concerns about her weight before she went into treatment, but she would always brush it off and tell her not to worry.
"You can't force anyone into treatment because you can't make them get better," Morton explained. "Because at the end of the day, you're the one that has to do the work, and who has to be there."
Cooney said she started thinking about reaching out for help when her mother started to cry one morning. But a few days later, when she was invited out with some friends to an escape room, she was ambushed.
"I ended up going over there and everything seemed normal. Then they sat me down ... and they started bringing concerns up to me," she said. "I guess it's still hard to talk about at first, especially, but I was telling them that I was thinking about getting help and was open to that."
She said she didn't think much of the situation and thought her friends were just being caring. But then two women she'd never seen before entered the room and started asking her questions about her health and weight. Cooney said she felt betrayed by her friends, who she claimed hadn't spoken to her about their concerns in person.
Morton said this was probably the Psychiatric Emergency Teams (PET), which are operated by psychiatric hospitals to initiate 5150 evaluations, according to the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health.
What is a 5150?
Morton explained that a 5150 is when someone is temporarily committed to a facility because their signs of mental illness are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. In Cooney's case, the team put restraints around her arms and carried her away on a stretcher.
Morton said when someone is 5150'd they are taken to a hospital rather than an eating disorder rehabilitation center. In Los Angeles, she said, there aren't many psych wards, so they are overrun with people with severe mental health problems. This can be incredibly unnerving for someone if they have been restrained against their own will.
"Once you get there, it's very scary because you see some crazy things going on," Cooney said. "There was a bunch of people screaming, there was one guy who was telling me how he'd just got out of a county jail."
She said the beds were rock hard and people were banging on walls. One person near to her was asked whether they were still thinking about hitting people with his car. At one point her mother asked her: "Are you safe in there?"
Morton said she's heard from many people how alarming they found being on psychiatric hold, and how sometimes it does more harm than good.
After being released from the hold, Cooney flew back to Connecticut and entered an eating disorder treatment program as recommended by her doctor. She was there for about four weeks, then returned to the internet five months later.
Not everyone is convinced of Cooney's recovery
Cooney's story contradicts the video YouTuber Jaclyn Glenn — one of the friends Cooney spoke about — posted shortly after Dawson's documentary aired. Glenn, along with David Michael Frank and Evangeline DeMuro, claimed a 5150 was the only option because they had tried speaking to Cooney about her eating disorder multiple times. They also alleged she was in an abusive situation with her mother.
"Shane Dawson made a video on Eugenia that made me feel sick," Glenn wrote. "The story that was told paints the situation in a very misleading way, whether or not that was the intention. Those of us who had her forced into recovery know so much more of what actually was happening and can't let the people responsible get away with it."
Cooney having an abusive home life is still a common belief among some of her fanbase. Several videos have cropped up since Dawson's documentary claiming Cooney came out of treatment too soon, or she hasn't recovered at all.
One video posted last week claims Morton's interview was full of "red flags," and states Cooney isn't telling the truth about how the 5150 happened.
At every stage, it has to be Cooney who reveals her story and what actually happened to her at her own pace. Morton helped her tell some of it in a safe environment, as well as educating the wider audience about what it's really like to be on psychiatric hold.
Cooney can choose to tell the whole truth, or reveal as much as she is comfortable with. It's her right.
If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, whether it has been triggered by a restrictive diet or not, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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