Acute Care

Well, it’s been an interesting week thus far. Two friends in the hospital for mental issues is a pretty lousy deal.Obviously, it’s worse for them; I don’t mean to minimize their problems. But it is hard to sit by and watch, too, because you always want to help your friends. Well, I do, anyway.  I am glad that one of them is hopefully getting out tomorrow, though.

It’s a little odd having been suicidal in the past and now having friends in that place now. People keep worrying that having two friends in such a bad place might cause me to slip backwards. I can see how that would worry people, given my past. But I’ve had plenty of practice over the last several months; I can kind of compartmentalize that part of my mind so I don’t let my worrying about my friends take over my thoughts. So while I am sad that I have friends having such a rough period in their lives, and I worry about them, it’s not consuming everything in my head – it sometimes just seems that way because, honestly, nobody is all that interested about how I cleaned my entire apartment because I thought something smelled funny.

I guess that ability to compartmentalize is due to the skills learned in treatment. I don’t even notice I’m doing it most of the time, and there are probably other things I don’t notice myself doing, either. Not all of the skills learned have become so easy; I still have a lot of trouble relaxing, and I only remember to try to meditate or use a breathing exercise about half the time. Sometimes this results in my jaw hurting from clenching it so often. But still, it shows that at least some of the things learned in treatment I have not only remembered, but made a part of my life.

I’m glad that at least one of my friends is not suicidal anymore, and is (hopefully) well on the way to getting the help she needs. She’s a great person, and deserves better than she has been getting. I hope the other is on her way to feeling better, as well, and that she can finally take some time to relax.

One of the worst things I’ve seen in the last few days has really been the state of general psychiatric care. Now, I don’t mean specialized private treatment centers like Menninger, but rather the places that mental patients come to know as acute care facilities. They are where people who admit themselves (or are forcibly admitted) for being a danger to themselves or others go after the ER is done with them. Some of them are private, and some of them are done by the hospital the ER is a part of, but they are almost universally unpleasant places, in my experience.

Mental patients of all types get placed in the same area, so you may have people who are delusional and violent  patients alongside people with crippling anxiety – which is a bad match, as you might imagine. It can get messy really quick. Alongside a bad mix of patients, add in a staff that tends to be very jaded and uncaring – at my last acute care center, a social worker for a group on community reintegration said she hadn’t bothered to prepare, so she just put The Blind Side on and left until the end of the group. My friend had to file several grievances against the nurses and the psychiatrist at her current facility to get them to even pay attention to her. The facilities are often pretty badly worn out, too, and can be pretty humiliating.

It’s even more sad that these are, essentially, standard emergency care facilities for people with mental illness. If cancer patients were treated this badly, there would be a national outcry, but because mental illnesses aren’t things that can be seen on X-rays or detected by blood tests, they get treated badly. Having visited one friend several times, and probably visiting the other at least once or twice, it gives me a whole new level of appreciation for places like the Menninger Clinic – which is impressive, concerning how much esteem I already hold Menninger in.

Every treatment center in the country – hell, the world – for mental illness ought to be as good as Menninger.

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