SANTA CLAUS, OR BROTHER’S KEEPER?

I’ve been thinking about this, and thinking about this; well, I have to weigh in.  I’ll tell it through my own experience, you’ll get the gist.
Many, many years ago, I was a supervisor in a medical support position at a mental health care facility.  The facility had a locked ward.  I was one of very few support staff who had to make trips to the locked ward.  We had a protocol.  Normally, I followed it carefully.  I believed I was following it carefully this day.  I approached the first door, waited and was ‘buzzed’ into an anteroom.  We were supposed to wait for a few seconds, then the second door would open.  I would look both ways, toward patient rooms, and toward the dayroom, then cross when no one was in that short hallway.  This day, I believed I was being careful.  But, I crossed the hallway and someone was behind me, surprising both of us.  The man grabbed me, from behind, around my neck and above my waist, he had me about two or three inches off the ground.  I was immediately afraid, and then kind of pissed off.

I looked toward the entry to the nurse’s station and there stood a young resident.  He moved into the doorway and began talking to the man who had hold of me.  He spoke in a neutral voice.  Something about this young resident’s expression hit me with more impact than being yanked off my feet.  I suddenly felt terribly sad.  Yes, this man could hurt me, that’s very true, and that didn’t leave my mind.  But, I knew he did not mean to.  As the resident spoke to him, I could feel his fear and confusion.  He was afraid of me.  I had surprised him every bit as much as he surprised me.  He was not seeing me, but some delusion which was, at that moment, his reality.  I was inside that delusion and he was afraid of me.  He was talked into releasing me, and he did so without harming me.  I felt sickened at heart, and terribly sad.  I knew, the reality hit me – no going back.  I knew where I was and what I was witnessing, it changed my entire way of thinking.   This man with promise, hopes, family and friends was betrayed by the very organ we believe defines us, presents our identity to the outside world – his brain.  I could not imagine what that would be like.  To be one kind of person, to think of and see yourself as one kind of person, and become and do things that are not within your experience of yourself.

 
In the following couple of weeks, an incident report had to be filed.  I was questioned, interviewed, etc.  So was the man.  He didn’t really understand what he had done, he knew it was something that he was ashamed of.   He didn’t want to look at me.  I just felt sick about the whole thing.  No, he shouldn’t have attempted to harm me, but that isn’t what he was attempting to do; however, that’s what his action could have resulted in.  He shouldn’t have been in that position.  And, he was going to be put out on the street.  What then?  Didn’t anyone ask that?  No.  Because it was about cutting funding for mental health services.  That’s just a luxury item, right?  We don’t want to pay for that for crazy folk, do we?

Unless you are the one experiencing a psychotic break and/or schizophrenia, I don’t think you can explain it to anyone – I don’t think mental health care providers can.  It’s a terrible and devastating illness, creating destruction all across its path.   There is more hope now for people, but it really depends on a great support system, and money, money, money for care, much care.  That’s not the story for most.

So if you want to demonize, vilify, there it is, you certainly can.  But, if you are interested in the truth, if you believe the truth brings healing and opportunity to educate and prevent, you’ll have to look a little deeper, past the easiest reaction, past the seduction of the media and their agenda to keep a story alive no matter how skewed or misrepresented, no matter that it engenders fear, suspicion and hatred.   There is enough pain here to go around.  All have suffered.

Unless we look at this situation for the truth it offers, and begin there, it is going to continue to happen.  We need to know what our state laws are regarding mental health issues and the reporting thereof.  We need to know how to enhance those laws for the protection of all.  Mental health is not a luxury item.  And, ‘no’ Virginia there is no Santa Claus, but  ‘yes’ we are our brother’s keeper – help comes when we acknowledge and provide it – even if a person can only look at it from the point of their own self-interest.

By no means is it my intention to make less of the suffering of all the victims and their families.  My heart is sick for all concerned.

Thank you for stopping by.  Lilie

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