“So how come you’re not working in psych anymore?”
“Well, what a job working with mad people and all. No wonder something rubbed off on you.”
I sigh; look at the sky, taking the time to allow my spirited self to calm down before replying.
“I burnt out because of the system not the clients. And what the hell are ‘mad people’?”
“Oh you know what I mean.”
“Okay then so you think folk with mental illness or emotional struggles are mad, and that they are different to you and that mental illness is contagious.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Well you did actually”
“I’m just saying…”
“You know I don’t really care what you think you’re saying. The fact is you said what you said. You just told me you categorise anyone who comes to the psych system for help as ‘mad’ people. You just told me that you think anyone who is unfortunate enough to experience mood problems, psychotic disorders or simply has problem coping in this life is not only mad but you wouldn’t want to be around them. Actually…you just told me you are an idiot!”
Hmmm. I guess my spirited self didn’t calm down as much as I would have liked. The idiot line could have been left out but seriously!
The following day I had to attend an appointment due to being unemployed now. As we talked of the lack of success I was having getting even an interview for jobs I was applying for, (which is pretty much any job in the small town I live in) and the terrible financial strain this was causing, the ‘employment consultant’ says;
“They probably think your twenty-four years of psych has rubbed off on you.”
“Well you know…that you’ve caught something.”
I stared at him waiting waiting waiting for the word ‘idiot’ to stop dominating my thoughts. It didn’t though so instead I had to speak slowly to prevent it escaping.
“You know that’s nonsense don’t you?”
“I suppose. But a lot of people do worry about that. And your whole CV is about psych.”
Leaving him I went home and sat by the creek that rambles past my house. I thought of all the years put into mental health education and wondered if it had made any real difference. I noted my angst, my passionate internal responses still intense despite having left this vocation.
An estimated one in four people globally will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. People with mental, neurological and substance use disorders are often stigmatized and subject to neglect and abuse. The resources available are insufficient, inequitably distributed and inefficiently used. In the majority of countries, less than 2% of health funds are spent on mental health. As a result, a large majority of people with these disorders receive no care at all. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2010/mental_health_20101007/en/index.html
I won’t be going back to working within our mental health system. The current system ruled by budgetary constraints and pharmaceutical domination mean that truly helping has become nigh on impossible. Be it a failing or a strength in my personality the fact is I’m unable to watch folk suffer unnecessarily any more. I guess that’s the burnt out bit.
But I would still like to increase folks understanding. Not only in the hope that we can all become a little more compassionate but also so that if we end up the ‘one in four’, or our loved ones do, we won’t at least be weighed down by misconceptions that will interfere with recovery…or that will stop us seeking help.
So I will write of my experiences, sharing the stories and learning of those twenty-four years. Maybe some publisher will like it. Maybe not. But I must try.
Hopefully folk will get that it is not ‘them’.
It is ‘Us’. And it is not Us being mad. It is Us in pain.
And it is us that can help to relieve that pain.