How do you manage your own health conditions while also tackling your caregiving responsibilities?
What I learned from working in a Behavioral Health Hospital
Part 1 of 2 I started working at a predominate Florida behavioral health facility in 2017. I was excited and a bit nervous. None the less I was filled with a passion and desire to help the patients. Since the age of 15 I had a growing interest in #MentalHealth and badly wanted to have a career in it. I thought that a position as a #MentalHealth Technician was a great way to enter into the field. I worked at this facility for a little over 3 years. I learned a lot, I saw a lot, I cried a lot.
I encountered some of the kindest souls I have ever met. I witnessed those in anguish, comforting one another. I heard stories of patients’ lives, some made me cry, some made me angry for them, some I will remember for the rest of my life. I saw humans at their most vulnerable. It was the most humbling time of my life. Knowing that only grace and circumstance separated me and the patient. The shifts were challenging, some patients were challenging. I had to stop fights, both verbal and physical. I was kicked in the chest my first month working there. I was cursed out. I’ve had food thrown at me. I’ve had a used diaper thrown at me. It was the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had.
There were 3 units. One was the geriatric adult unit, one was the acute adult unit and the other was the pediatric unit. Working on Pediatrics was too difficult and heartbreaking. Most children there were wards of the state and hearing their back stories tore a hole in my heart that’s still there to this day. I normally worked on the geriatric adult unit. On that unit we had patients that were dealing with both mental and physical illnesses. I liked that unit. I got on well with the older patients, probably because I pictured the females as my mother and the males as my father. I would enjoy hearing stories of their youth or their grandchildren, their children, their spouses, they shared the story of their lives and I loved every minute of it. Talking with the patients, spending time with them was my favorite part. I hated the clinical side of my job. It felt too cold. I remember this one senior gentleman, he had #AlzheimersDisease and had lost his ability to walk and talk. He was from the islands so I was sitting with him on one of my shifts and pulled my phone out and put on some island music and suddenly this man started bobbing his head and smiling and swaying in his wheelchair. His whole face lit up. It’s those moments that I cherish.
I found that treating the person, talking to the person, seeing the person was the best and most effective way to deliver care. These are people, not merely patients. These are people in anguish, people who have been abandoned by family and other loved ones, people that are homeless, people that tried to take their life but were (thankfully) unsuccessful, people battling #Addiction , these were people who needed our care, who needed our help.
More than half of the patients admitted to the behavioral health facility I worked at had a criminal history, usually an extensive one. These weren’t bad people, they were people that were hurting, people who were gravely effected by their environmental conditions, people whom would have benefited from receiving proper #MentalHealth care much earlier in their life but did not have the resources readily available to them.
One problem we’re seeing, along with other states, is the growing number of individuals with serious #MentalHealth that are being incarcerated. According to data collected by Psycom, more than 2 million people in the United States with serious #MentalHealth are arrested annually and over 550,000 people with serious #MentalHealth are siting in jail on any given day. A survey conducted by Prison Policy Initiative found that 66% of people incarcerated in federal prison reported not receiving any #MentalHealth care while incarcerated. In 2021 The Tampa Bay Times covered a story about a reform bill that would broaden the criteria for involuntarily holding someone for #MentalHealth reasons. In this story it was stated that the state of Florida spends at least $233 million annually, jailing those with mental illnesses and $368 million housing them in prisons. These numbers are astronomical and unacceptable. When prison has become the most populated “psychiatric facility” THAT is a problem. I am not asking for these individuals whom suffer with #MentalHealth to be pardon for the crimes they have committed. What I am trying to shine ligh
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