Monday, September 26, 2011

Who Are the People (with Mental Illness) In Your Neighbourhood?


There are a lot of stereotypes and assumptions out there about “who” mental illness sufferers are. No matter how many celebrities write books with “revelations” of suffering bipolar or PPD, or how many families contain at least one Crazy Aunt Mary many persist in believing that mental illness is the domain of the poor, stupid, homeless and criminal.

There is plenty of critical thinking and anti-oppression analysis we could do to figure out why people think this way (and why many with mental illness are vulnerable to becoming poor, homeless etc) but I haven’t the energy/time for that right now.

If any one needs proof that mental illness is something which affects people from all walks of life, they should spend just 5 minutes hanging around the local out-patient centre or treatment clinic.

I accompanied a client to his psychiatrist appointment today at Local Hospital out-patient clinic (I know! I said I’d never go there again, but reality bites). Someone who didn’t know him would see that he is a family man (his wife was with him) is middle aged, and might guess that he is an immigrant (English is his second language).

While we were there I spotted a familiar face that took me a second to place. A woman I recognized from my old neighbourhood - she spent a lot of time hanging around the back alley, lived (sometimes) in a nearby crack-house, and often stopped people to ask for change on the sidewalk. I used to try talking to her sometimes, but it was difficult because her tongue was always protruding (possibly a med side effect or a symptom) and she would usually walk away when I didn’t have any change to offer.

On the way out of the office I recognized a woman I know from my family’s church. She’s a white, upper middle class professional who goes to bible study with my mom. I have actually run into her once before in a psychiatrists office when there with another client. We nodded to acknowledge one another and she seemed happy to leave it at that. We did this once again, adding a smile, when encountering each other at the hospital.

In the span of that five minutes I came across people from a wide cross-section of my own life, and who covered a good range of social locations.  And I know it’s not just me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Forgive me...

...while I take this (small) moment to gripe.

Last week I (hesitantly) let my supervisor know that I am ready to pick up a new client, as I need to increase my monthly contact numbers.  Some of my current clients are doing well and decreasing their support.  She pushed me to take two new people, but I insisted on one for now and letting her know by weeks end when I would take the other.

Monday morning we received an email that one of my co-workers will be off for an indefinite period, and her clients will be reassigned. 

So I got three of them.


I'll be okay.  And I sincerely hope my co-worker is alright.  Just needed to whine for a minute.  I'm done now.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Always Fresh

Office coffee: just like Tim Horton's, 20 minutes 5 hours fresh!  Mmmm....

If you can't read it, that sticker says "9:35am". Pic taken after 2pm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Deal Breakers

Inspired by a recent list from Social Worker Mom I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my “deal-breakers” in my eternal ongoing job search. They have modified slightly over time, but my goals have remained generally the same for a couple years. Am I being to picky, unrealistic or ambitious? I don’t know, but any jobs I look at must:

1. Be somewhat local to me.

2. Offer regular working hours – I can do the occasional evening or weekend, but not shifts. AM works irregular hours already, so one of us has to be home with the kiddo.

3. Offer pay, benefits and holidays comparable or better than my current job (decent where I am, one of the reasons I haven’t left yet)

4. Not require a vehicle. I hate driving, and am not a fan of taking clients in my car (which I do now).

Besides that, area of focus is important. I’d like to work in a women-focused service, preferably a feminist organization. I’m also interested in trauma and healthy sexuality, and keep trying to increase my experience in these areas but it seems like most of these type of jobs want nurses. I have no desire to go back to school for nursing!

The other main challenges for me are that many women-focused jobs are in shelters, which 9 times out of 10 means shift work (see item #2) or are immigrant based services requiring language skills I do not have. My French is pretty good, but it’s not an in-demand language around here. Maybe I need to suck it up and learn Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu or Mandarin. Or just be patient.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helloooo Nurse (is there anybody in there???)

Me (on the intercom/phone thingy outside Local Hospital Mental Health Unit) : Hi, I'm Nectarine from Community Mental Health. I called earlier and one of my clients is here. Could you buzz me in so I can see her?

Nurse: Uh, I'm sorry ma'am, visiting hours begin at 4:30.

Me: I only work until 4:30. I'm not here to visit.

Nurse: I'm sorry, we don't allow visitors until 4:30.

Me: I understand that.

Nurse: I can't let you in here.

Me: Can I speak to my client?!?

Nurse: Who did you say you were again?

Me: I'm her case manager. From Community Mental Health.

Nurse: Well, I guess I can let you in.

*the magic door finally opens to admit Nectarine, and she approaches the fishbowl impenetrable force field nursing station and waits patiently outside the plexiglass for about an hour 4 minutes before Nurse emerges.*

Nurse: Uh, can I help you?

Me: Can you direct me to my client Janey Sad?

Nurse (looking me up and down): Where's your ID badge?

Me: We don't have ID badges, I can show you my business card. This is not my first time here.

Nurse scans my business card.

Me: So can you show me where to find my client?

Nurse: Don't you know? I thought you said you'd been here before?

Me: Uh, yeah, many times to see different people. My client just got here, I don't know which room she's in.

Nurse: I guuueeess I can show you.

*Nectarine follows Nurse down the hall where she opens the door to a patient room*

Nurse: Yeah, this lady is so confused. She's naked, you can come in.

Me: I think I should let her get dressed first...

Nurse (to patient): Helloooo! This worker is here to see you. THIS LADY IS HERE TO SEE YOU. (to me) Come on in...

Me: Uh, are you sure this is my client? That doesn't sound like her.

Nurse: Who?

Me: Ms. Janey Sad.

Nurse: Ohhh, this is Janey Nothere. She's sooo confused.

*another staff member kindly interrupts*

Staff: Did you say you were looking for Janey Sad? She's right here in the activity room, I'll get her for you.

*Nectarine meets with Janey (Sad) who is relieved to see her. Nectarine then waits twice as long outside the fishbowl nursing station, loudly but politely saying "Excuse me" before someone finally buzzes her out the door. She decides right then and there that she will personally drive all clients to Nearby Hospital in future as she is swears she is never coming back to Local again.*