Monday, September 3, 2012

Being Supportive

I have observed lots of ways that people support their loved ones in a psychiatric ward. Here are a couple of brief lists of examples. First, the bad support:

1. A mother giving her son a boost so he could escape through a little window high up on the wall (she was strong!). He was caught by police soon after.

2. A parent sneaking in food for her daughter who was being treated for an eating disorder. (She always carried an extra-large purse full of cupcakes and candy).

3. A friend who brings his buddy cigarettes, even though nicotine is not compatible with his medications.

4. Cutting off access to the outside world by not telling anyone that a friend or family member is sick and in hospital.

5. Sneaking in dangerous items, because the patient has convinced them that they are necessary (things like scissors, screwdrivers, razors).

Those are some of the worse examples Here is a small list of examples of great support:

1. My parents and all of my brothers making a trip to Vancouver to surprise me with a birthday cake (yep...I was in hospital for my birthday). They also brought fresh fruit for everyone on the ward to share.

2. Being visited by coworkers and friends.

3. Parents NOT giving in to tearful pleas from their children for unsafe things or help escaping - probably one of the toughest things to do.

4. A trusted friend or family member regularly checking in with the nurses and doctors and advocating to make sure that appropriate care is being given.

5. Giving small gifts after having them checked by the nurses. A coworker, for example, brought me a deck of cards. Another brought me a bag of chips. These little things meant the world to me.

Try to think about how you would act with a patient who wasn't in a psych ward. You wouldn't give them anything dangerous. You wouldn't hide their whereabouts from people they were close to.

Erasing the stigma begins when we start treating mentally ill patients the same as we would treat anyone else in hospital. Sending flowers, popping in for a chat, having everyone from work sign a card - it all helps.

And to my parents and brothers - that was one of the weirdest, but best, birthdays I've ever had.


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