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09 February 2011

Mental Health Rotation

This is an example of the sinks available in the washrooms of the Mental Health unit I am working in. Notice anything unusual? The shapes are smooth and practically impossible to rip out. This is a concrete reminder to me of how some mentally ill folks may see everything as a weapon of self harm or destruction. And the nifty plumbing doesn't give them that opportunity. So far on this rotation, I have seen patients who are psychotic, depressed and suicidal, manic and dancing uncontrollably, and drugged and intoxicated. The saddest, though are those with borderline personality disorders. It is usually seeded by horrific and despicable forms of child abuse. These patients (usually women) then seem to lose their grip on reality, relationships and consequence. Usually to release their emotional pain, they will self harm. This often involves cutting themselves in great gashes that may require up to 100 stitches. They are at high risk of suicide or harm to others, and are likely never to recover. How can someone doom a child to this? I find it quite disturbing, and prayer provoking.
I am also learning the difference between sad, bad, mad and SICK. Just because someone is a nasty/lazy/promiscuous/morose/manipulative person does not make them mentally ill.
Another major lesson from this rotation is the nature of standing in the path of a patient and attempting to intervene in their experience of an illness. When a mental health patient is heaping verbal abuse or making it difficult to do the normal hospital shuffle, very often it is like a sick infant vomiting on your shoes. Being the target of either of these projectiles make you feel and think unpleasant things. And both of them can't be helped, as it is the result of being sick. So you can't take any of it personally, and just go wash your shoes/attitude off. No use wallowing in it, or carrying any of it home.

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