There is something that happens inside a person when they have to explain to another human being that although the voices in their head are getting louder, they are only sleeping 2 hrs. a night, and they see shadows that frighten them on a daily basis they are not technically in crisis. Due to several changes, loss of staff, budget issues etc. the mental health system I work in has lost numerous medical staff. As a result, we have had to cinch up services and set very specific guidelines for clients that come in without an appointment.
The only defining factors of a mental health crisis are danger to self or others i.e. suicidal or homicidal. Typically people get into my line of work because they want to help others; they want to be able to make a positive difference in someone’s life. But now I have to look into those people’s eyes and say, “I’m sorry there is nothing we can do for you today. Here are some other resources that may be able to help you.” I know it took every ounce of effort for you to get out of bed this morning. That just putting on clothes was a chore. You may have taken three buses and walked half a mile. But here is a list of places that may or may not be able to help you today it’s just not going to be us.
“But I’m out of meds, what am I going to do?’ they ask with panic in their voice. “It looks like you missed your appointment last month so I’ve rescheduled you for the next available opening 3 months from now.” At this point I’m usually met with tears or rage. I try in vain to steer them towards all the resources I just provided, but realistically I know they don’t care about those.
I have to face this every single day, the looks of despair and misplaced anger. “You people don’t give a shit if I live or die! Do I have to walk out into traffic before you people take me seriously?!” Day in and day out I have to walk through these landmines of emotions. Will it be just one explosion today, will it be two?
Yesterday I was in a meeting that included higher up administrative staff. They have no contact with clients at all, their job is to crunch numbers, run reports and have more meetings. I attempted to discuss a little bit of what my clinic is experiencing. How we continue to work hard, providing whatever services we can, resources, etc. and we are met with anger, frustrations and tears. The staff itself is now suffering. People are going out on stress leave, quitting or transferring to different departments. Morale is the worst it’s ever been. I was met with, “Well, if people want to quit just because things get tough, then good riddance.” What?? Is this how disconnected administration is to the line worker? They hear about these atrocities, dub them as “tough” and we should suck it up and deal with it?
Perhaps you have been on the client end of this, where you felt like no one was listening or cared. Or maybe you have been in administration and you felt like all the lower staff was just whining. As someone in the middle I would like to say I’m sorry. While I want to give all the care in the world to every deserving person, I just don’t have it to give. And while it may sound like whining, this is the accumulation of several years of increasing verbal abuse from the very people we are trying to help. This “whining” is the result of upper management telling us to suck it up month after month as we continue to loose staff and resources.
Today I’m at a loss. The cloud of mixed emotions around me is so thick I can hardly function. For now I will “suck it up”, and face the landmines of the day.