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When Your Mental Health Treatment Team Breaks Your Trust

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I was recently reading through forums of people who were dealing with suicidal thoughts but did not want to reach out to professionals and/or hospitals because they’ve had a bad experience with it. Trust was broken, they didn’t feel like they were treated fairly, and they had all sorts of other very good reasons for why they were feeling apprehensive toward psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists or anyone else in a professional mental health role. A lot of people wrote that they would never reach out again and would rather deal with the mental illness themselves.

It really saddened me to read all the stories, because these people were the ones that we’re meant to be able to ask for help from and talk things through with. Yet these were the people that had broken trust and caused such bad experiences that their patients were no longer willing to open up and get help.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had very understanding and caring psychologists and other people in authority positions who allowed me to feel confident in being fully honest and open. So I couldn’t really understand the pain and frustration people had about not wanting to reach out, but knew they needed help. However, this all changed a few days ago.

I shared something with someone I trusted in a conversation, disclosing that I had thoughts of harm, and without my consent, the stuff I said was passed on to higher authorities and I ended up having to get a psych evaluation at a hospital. I was fuming when I was told I needed to get one and that they wouldn’t let the matter rest until it happened. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are procedures and protocols when it comes to this, especially when they think a person is a threat to themselves and/or others. I get that. But I don’t think I fell into that category, so for my conversation to have gotten passed on to a few different people — without me knowing it was happening — sucked. It hurt and the trust I had was gone in an instant. It made me never want to open up to anyone ever again. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. I wanted to withdraw and just do it on my own. I was frustrated. I was angry. I wanted to shut off completely.

But I knew I couldn’t. I knew it wouldn’t help me or the situation. I knew that my mental illness wanted me to isolate myself so it could win. I knew it was telling me lies; like I should never trust people again, I shouldn’t reach our for help anymore because it always backfires on me, and I shouldn’t be honest with how I’m feeling when asked, out of fear of being sent to the hospital again.

To win this, I knew I was going to have to get back up and fight against the lies. Through multiple conversations with friends and other professionals, I was reminded of the importance of opening up even when you’ve been hurt and continuing to ask for help so that I’m not alone.

So to those who have been hurt, I just want to encourage you with three things that help me:

1. By not opening up to mental health professionals, it can be hard to get the help you need. It may seem like you’re punishing the other person, but it can also hurt you. It doesn’t benefit them whether you open up or not, but it can benefit you. You are often the one that will gain from seeking help and opening up.

2. There will be someone who will get you, who will understand you, who will not freak out when you have dark, harming, suicidal or negative thoughts. You can find someone who will be able to work through your thoughts with you, who will sit with you and talk it out. I did, and I’m so glad I found her. So keep searching, it can take time, but please don’t let your bad experience with previous mental health professionals put you off from getting help.

3. Remember that when the person you trusted broke your trust, they probably knew it was a risk they had to take. They have protocols and procedures they need to follow as part of as their duty to care for individuals. They may have broke your trust in the hopes that one day you would understand why they had to do what they did. They probably did it because they care for you and want you to be healthy. They want you to be safe and to get better. They just want the best for you.

I hope this reminds you to get the help you need and not let your past experience or a certain event stop you from reaching out. Please know you have the right to feel angry and frustrated when your trust is broken — your feelings are valid. But don’t let it stop you from getting help, because you deserve to feel better.

And to anyone who is on the other side listening to someone share their suicidal thoughts, please make sure that throughout the process you make that individual feel like a person and not a threat. From personal experience, it really doesn’t feel good to be treated like that.

Getty image via thedafkish

Originally published: May 25, 2018
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