It happens every so often that the truth gets through the official ‘media’ or ‘party’ version of what we see regarding our health care system & other areas that affect the wider community, such as mental health, issues surrounding homelessness etc…
So to get a better picture from the perspective of those who work on the front lines & not the biased, spoon-fed tint of political media we need to see things as they truly are, without the mask of political correctness, or the use of economical truths dreamed up by PR men. We’ll look at wider issues in mental health first & see what else can be uncovered as time goes by. There is no shortage of people willing to talk about things which they have previously been forbidden discussing….
A Lifetime/Career In The Mental Health Caring Profession, Ups & Downs…………
The following interview took place recently with an unnamed professional and is intended to give some insider views of those at the front line or sharp end of the Mental Health system.
In all its provisions we would hope to see a common goal, a kind of pattern that suggests what most lay people without any knowledge of Mental Healthcare think it is all about. Certain names & minor details have been altered solely to protect the anonymity of the interviewed, at their behest. Thank you…..
DB = (Interviewer)
HP = (Health Professional)
DB: On your mental health background, what was it that first motivated you into actually becoming a Psychiatric Nurse?
HP: It was my own stay/admission on an Acute ward after the breakdown of my Marriage, I had been messed around & I actually had a very positive experience on this psychiatric ward. I had a breather from what was going on & helped to turn my life around.
DB: Then, afterwards your decision to go into psychiatric nursing, was that a previous ambition or was that as the result of something else?
HP: Well, it felt as if mental health care had chosen ‘Me’ in many ways, it was never an ambition but I kept getting drawn towards various organisations of that particular area.
DB: So what now keeps you going, even after so many years?
HP: It’s a wage! (Laughs) Well until recently I did get a lot more out of it, but in current times that sense of achievement & satisfaction is rare!
DB: Thinking of the Acute wards & the patients whom were there for various reasons, alcoholism, drug abuse, psychiatric etc, were many of them more likely to end up in & out of the wards, almost like regular patients so to speak?
HP: Oh, definitely it was a revolving door & these people were stuck in that revolving door, often the ones whom were not seen as having serious psychiatric conditions were using alcohol to self medicate & that went to their disadvantage.
DB: Now getting onto the question of gender, the numbers of male & female patients. All the statistics we currently have suggest that the vast majority of suicidal cases are Men, is this true or simply a myth?
HP: Yes I’d agree with that mainly because men would go down the route of abusing alcohol & drugs whereas women would mostly be admitted for depressive conditions. Men don’t talk about their depression as much, they ‘bottle them up!’
DB: What finally prompted you to leave psychiatric nursing and the wards? Where did you look afterwards?
HP: I came to the realisation through much experience that it (the System) wasn’t anything like I thought it would be, or as I’d been lead to believe it would be like. It was primarily regimented, medication & drugs orientated really! I did not feel I agreed with the way things were going, as a person who had all these responsibilities I couldn’t fit into that system ultimately!
DB: So there was no flexibility or other way to approach patient care as far as the managers & directors, the system was concerned?
HP: Exactly! I find it strange, looking back how they help people. They do not help people, the tiny amount of actual human interaction was insignificant compared to the Drugs regime!
DB: Okay, well this fits in to what appears to be happening in Primary Care mostly too. From there where did you move on to work next?
HP: I had a lot of interaction with various groups but The Samaritans was my next role, I came across so many people with mental health issues, yet they aren’t supposed to help or support people with mental health problems which is contradictory I think?
DB: How long were you involved with the Samaritans?
HP: More than 8 years including prison visits too, which is where you get the really difficult cases & those were the ones whom seemed to have been the seriously abused at some point in their lives, usually at childhood.
DB: So the change from being able to discuss mental health problems to not being able, when did that start to happen?
HP: Well, this is what I am hearing now, in recent months, although I am no longer working with the Samaritans I am told this is now consistently becoming the stance that they do not deal with mental health problems! I can’t see though how they can separate people’s suffering in this way?
DB: What do you think is the motivation for such an important change?
HP: It’s from the highest level, their Head Office.
DB: So it is a corporate decision from the top?
HP: Yes, without a shadow of a doubt!
DB: Any ideas as to why they have taken this decision?
HP: I don’t know for sure, but since their offices moved to Slough, they changed their logo & it started to take on a more business like/corporate way of being & doing. At one time they used to support people whom were desperate & lonely but apparently they don’t even do that now!
DB: Okay, so that was more than 8 years as a listener. What happened next to take you to the organisation where you currently are?
HP: Well one Samaritan who worked there brought in a job advert & I eventually got offered this job based on my experience & reputation I suppose.
DB: What were the major differences from moving from Samaritans? What types of people & problems were you dealing with?
HP: Well at Samaritans there were mainly calls from men, but also sex calls, abuse & just about everything you can think of. Now I deal with women mostly and it is a little more predictable, even though we are a help line with a much broader scope, it is still predominantly mental health issues. We get carers & sufferers from all backgrounds. From what I see now of Samaritans it has become a new generation of ‘Tick Box’ listeners, unlike the older more experienced staff whom DO know how to help individuals get what they need!
DB: From what you’ve told me so far it seems that the whole area is geared commercially, from the top down through the ways decisions taken at the top effecting everyone. You started out in Psychiatric nursing in 1987; what do you believe has caused the shift?
HP: Well I can only say it is the Pharmaceutical/Drug Companies. They are vast entities that are the top of the pyramid so to speak! That is my honest opinion as they are also the ones whom write the textbooks for our G.Ps & Doctors & have ultimate control!
DB: Do you think this is going to increase in this direction or will there be a change?
HP: It is going to carry on alright, whether it will increase or not is unknown. Things are changing quickly & people are more often rejecting standard medication it seems.
DB: Well in the repeated threat of Codex Alimentarius (already passed in the USA without consent) which will effectively outlaw herbal & alternative medications to normal people & the companies whom supply these alternatives, will we be heading towards something akin to Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ of daily medication for all everyday regardless?
HP: I know it sounds ridiculous but if you look at the TV & other news we already have this kind of situation, whereby these kinds of daily medications are even in use for babies & children whom have never even been sick yet, just look for yourselves!
DB: Going back to mental health now & homelessness; from the people you’ve met down the years & their shared experiences, what have they done to self medicate whilst living on the streets?
HP: It’s usually alcohol sadly, for instance someone who had schizophrenia, can’t cope, their relatives don’t understand, they can’t pay their bills & they are whisked into a ‘Shadow-world’ with not much other option than to drink or use whatever is available.
DB: What would such people need more? Education in lifestyle, talking therapy & guidance or replacing alcohol/street drugs with another sanctioned medication? Is there a long-term solution out there?
HP: We’d have to rub out what we do & start again with a fresh attitude from society but that is a massive change to expect, I believe that the ways things are already crumbling with current society that our current system will disintegrate to some extent & force a change.
DB: How do you think things will be in 5 years time in the UK for homeless people & the issues they face in general? (If you had a crystal ball)
HP: There is an almost apocalyptic theme in the news already. My feelings are that so much of society is going to breakdown that it will have an adverse effect & that rather than us all being ruled from the top down, there will be instead smaller more regional communities, I think this will progress & happen naturally.
DB: Do you mean as in going to traditional values or a new model based on the community?
HP: I think it will be community driven but not as we’ve seen in the past, maybe there will be a big push away from prescription medications & the current way of the corporate pharmaceutical giants & more towards natural and Holistic methods that work.
DB: One final word then to people whom are homeless or in hostels, those who’ve been suffering with mental health issues? What is the most important thing to have?
HP: The best thing always is having someone to listen to you who will have some significant understanding of your situation. Someone to listen & the rest can start from there!
DB: Thank you! That is powerful positive to finish with, let’s hope we can open minds & ears to all those hidden voices lost out there.