My journey into mental health started many years ago, it must have been when I was about 22 years of age. I knew nothing of mental health and what it was all about. The one thing I wanted to do was to find out and from that day I have never looked back until now. Don’t get me wrong I love my job and have never wanted to be a qualified nurse. I quickly worked out it is the health care assistants that are the eyes and ears of the ward.
I had previously worked in a general hospital and had not had much interaction with people that had mental health issues either in the community or in hospital. All I grew up with from friends is people with mental health issues are to be given a wide birth. At this point I didn’t know why. But on one particular day it was about to change my whole outlook on mental health and give me an understanding and insight on the vast subject.
At this point in my life I worked in a general hospital in the midlands area as an A&E porter alongside security work. This was an exciting job and did open your eyes to many sights and situations within the hospital. All porters/ security workers carried bleeps and radios for emergencies within the hospital. The radios were for general jobs and the bleeps were for emergencies around the hospital; when the bleep went off, if you weren’t with a patient you ran and ran fast. It could have been medical emergency and we had to run with a defibrillator, alarms in maturity went off or people need security for other problems.
As I was saying, this one particular day I was asked to go to A&E and babysit a patient that had become verbally threatening to the nursing staff. When I got there the Charge nurse had told me that the ambulance had brought this man in for assessment and possible admission to the psychiatric ward. All I was to do was keeping an eye on him and persuade him to wait for the doctor to speak to him. I thought to myself that this is going to bed boring plus all I grew up with was give people a wide birth who are ‘mental’. While I was in the side room the man looked in his early twenties, dirty face but clean tidy hands, a yellow plain t-shirt with stains down it. To me it looked like he had just had something to eat and spilt it down himself. His hair looked messy but had clumps missing so he had a number of bold patches all over his head. He wore black jeans that were also a little stained around the knees and lower legs. He did wear any shoes or trainers just a pair of socks that looked like they hadn’t been changed in a long time. So if you were to go off looks you maybe would think he was homeless.
As I entered I did smiled at him and introduced myself and reached out my hand to greet him in a friendly handshake keeping my smile. The man looked at my stretched out hand then as I watched his eyes they followed my arm up my shoulder to my smiley face. As our eyes met I said to him it’s ok and all I want to do is shake your hand, nothing else. So the man’s uneasily reached out his hand and shook mine in return. To be fair he shook my hand with a very tight grip and I could see his facial expression change a little; like a naughty little boy being naughty. Then he looked back at me and as he saw me looking he changed his expression back to someone who looked frightened and worried. Unusual I thought to myself but thought nothing else of it. I sat on the hospital trolley in the room and put my feet up on a chair that was placed in front of him. It must have been used by the nurse that was in here before. While doing this it kind of blocked his exit to leave the room but he didn’t seem to care much. I introduced myself and asked him his name. He told me his name was Darren and then clammed up again. I told him
‘Nice to meet you Darren’.
But Darren just looked up and nodded in acknowledgment. I had a suspicion that he didn’t want to be there. I mention to Darren that I was only here to keep an eye on him, nothing else; we just had to wait for Dr Jay who was going to talk to Darren. He looked up at me looking a little worried and asked
‘why is he coming to talk to me’.
‘I don’t know, sorry’ I replied to him.
I explained that Dr Jay was a great doctor and he was the sort of doctor that everyone liked. Dr Jay always made time for people and patients no matter what the issue was. He also didn’t dress like a consultant; he dressed mostly in jeans and t-shirts but rarely wore a suit. His excuse was it made him more approachable to people. Which it did to be fair!
As I sat there I occasionally looked over at Darren and I could just barely see his lips moving, just like he was talking to someone; just like he was talking but didn’t want anyone to notice. Every now and again he would make a little grunt noise like he was being pushed or knocked by someone. At this point I didn’t know what to think or say as I have never had much interaction with people with mental health problems. I did eventually open my mouth and asked Darren if he was ok. He turned and looked at me with a scornful look of disgust as if I had just disturbed an important meeting. When Darren had looked at me he turned his head back facing away from me and continued talking to whoever was there with him.
It had been at least 30 minutes and the door opened and a middle aged face appears and smiles while saying to me
‘Can I talk to you please’?
‘Of cores’ I replied.
‘Darren I’m just going to speak to this gentleman, I’ll just be outside the door’
Darren continued to talk to his imaginary friend and I stepped out the room. Outside the room was Dr Jay, who was the one who popped his head round the door and a nurse who was a female about in her mid-thirties. She was about 5ft 6, short brown hair a little bit spikes. She was dressed in black trousers, blue shirt with a t-shirt underneath the shit with black flat shoes. Looks smart, more like an office worker. She introduced herself as clinical nurse lead Ford. Dr Jay asked me what he has been like while I had been sitting with him. I told him about his appearance as in how he was dressed and unwashed. I told Dr Jay that Darren appeared frightened and worried when he was spoken too. Dr Jay said that could of been paranoia but he couldn’t be sure until he spoke to him. I also mentioned that he was sitting in a chair facing the wall slightly and I could see him talking but trying to be discreet about it. Also that his facial expressions were always changing, like he was responding to something with the odd verbal noise now and again.
Dr Jay says ok let’s go and see him. But he asked if I minded coming in as I was the first person Darren had met and spoken too. I walked in and said to Darren
‘Darren, Dr Jay is here to talk to you’
Darren looked round at me and looked frightened, then Dr Jay walked in and suddenly Darren jumped up like a frightened animal caught in a corner. Staring at Dr Jay Darren in a frightened little boys voice said
‘keep him away from me,
I reply ‘ Darren it’s ok he’s a friend, he just wants to talk to you that’s all’.
I do this with my hands out in front of me and my palms facing Darren waving them side to side. While doing this I slowly walk towards Darren letting him know that no one is going to hurt him. I tell Darren to keep his eyes on my still walking slowly towards him reassuring him that he was safe. Darren looks at me and as I reach him he slowly sits back in the chair muttering to his self. Couldn’t make out what he was saying as he was speaking very quietly. Now Darren is seated I let him know that everything is going to be ok and Dr Jay is a good man and he is here to help him, that’s all, make him feel better. Dr Jay thanks me and asks if I could wait outside the room but not to go anywhere just in case.
After about one hour of me standing outside the side room like a palace guard; Dr Jay pops out and says to me that I did great work earlier keeping Darren here and calming him down. I thought to myself that I don’t know how to take that. Don’t hear many compliments. Dr Jay says to me that Darren is a troubled man and he has agreed to come to the ward so we can assess him more. But there is one condition; I have to walk Darren there as he feels safe with me.
‘Ok not a problem’ I tell Dr Jay.
The Doctor goes back into the room and brings Darren out with the nurse. As I look at Darren he looks at me with a smile of embarrassment, tilting his head to the side. To be fair it looks like he had been crying in that room. Maybe reality had hit him after speaking to the doctor or he was upset he was being admitted to the ward. Myself and Darren start to walk off to the ward with the other two walking closely behind with Darren looking back occasionally at them. Was this because he felt safer knowing that they were there or was it because he was feeling paranoid with them behind him?. I ask him if he is ok as he keeps looking back and Darren just bites his bottom lip and nods while looking at the floor. As we get to the ward Darren stops and hesitates and hearing his breathing getting rapid I reassure Darren that everything from here on will only get better. Turning and facing me he asked me if I would come and see him later as I was the only person he knew. I let him know that if he went in with the nurse and Dr Jay I’d try and pop back to see how he was doing. But I couldn’t promise anything. I step back and let the other two walk onto the ward with Darren and watch as the doors close behind them. I notice Darren look back and smile as I start to walk off back to work.
This was the first dealing with a person that had mental health problems and I had never known how interesting it would be. Darren was the first person that would start my journey off in working as a health care assistant. About a week later I asked for a transfer from porter/ security to working in a psychiatric ward. Best job I have ever had.