Psychiatric Hospital Experiences (Part 2): Worker Stories

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Psychiatric Hospital Experiences (Part 1): Patient Stories can be found here.

Here's PART 2: WORKER STORIES. [Language unedited, except for a few typos for clarity.]

Comment 1:

It's *insanely* difficult to prove abuse. There was an incident with the home health agency I worked with where a male CHHA raped a female stroke patient. She had extremely limited verbal skills, but was still able to communicate what happened. Police were called. An investigation proceeded. They determined she was of a "limited mental capacity" and misunderstood what occurred. Worst thing I ever saw.

Comment 2:

I used to be a support worker for an organization in Canada that used zero restraints and most of the people we served had some variation of extreme intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis as well.

I mention this because ,in my ten years supporting there, I never once had to restrain anyone. We used a lot of preventative techniques (sort of like the peel method) to identify situations that would trigger escalations and lead to negative interactions.

I'm genuinely saddened to hear people claim that the people who make the rules aren't working on the front lines and should rethink restraint. From my experience, the only person who is responsible for an escalation is the support worker, mental health worker, psych nurse who didn't do their job and actually SUPPORT the person they are supposed to be CARING for. You can't blame someone who has no other option to communicate for trying to communicate. All behaviour is a function of communication. Someone pinching you is trying to tell you something. I've talked down suicidal people by you know, talking to them. Likewise, I spent two hours with a knife pushed to my throat and I'm alive because I remembered my training and talked down my assailant.

Tl;Dr restraints are unnecessary and used for lazy healthcare

Comment 3:

This happens at nursing homes too. I was a CNA at a nursing home / rehab center and there was a patient who screamed. One day a group of other CNAs put a sock in this woman's mouth and laughed at her while she looked up at me, frightened. I just sort of stared at her and the other nurses, horrified. But I was a chickenshit and didn't say anything. If the other CNAs didn't like you, they would refuse to help and this included helping you move a patient. We were short staffed most of the time and I would try asking for help moving patients, but after enough, "Don't you know how to do it yourself? Do you need to be re-taught?" I quit asking and eventually became disabled after a slipped disc pressed on a major nerve and I had to learn how to walk again. Oh and the best part? I got paid $8 an hour.

Comment 4:

So, this is my job. I do this (in likely a different state), and I've been doing variations of this type of job for almost a decade. Not a lick of this surprises me, sadly. I've seen it. Everyone that's ever made it to floor shadowing in places like that will eventually see it. You see it in group homes and on the 1:1 PCP (Personal Care Provider, essentially in-home supervision / general help type position) as well. It's systematic specifically because of the fuckery on the administrative side of things, and because emotional burnout is high, so only the absolute sociopaths or hard-line hardasses last long on the floor. The good ones get lost along the way, or switch to administration where they fade away into that soul crushing world.

I like to think I still have a shed of humanity left. I go home most nights, hug my dog, and cry over the s**t I see. I've managed not to hit the bottle just to sleep, or pills /whatever to ignore the reality of it for a bit. I still manage compassion for the people I work with, and I'll never stop loving my family that's disabled on these levels. Still, I can see my burnout coming; maybe not now, or in a year or two, but I don't think I'll make it to 40 doing this kind of work, not without moving to a private setting and working one on one again. It's too much, otherwise. Physically and mentally.

Comment 5:

I work at a day program for disabled adults. I work in a separate department from most of the staff and clients but am often a witness to the abuse.

We have mostly calm clients with three to four that have rare outbursts (mostly just being loud or knocking things over). And yet they are still treated like garbage by the staff, every day there's at least one incident. When I report it nothing happens.

The staff will start with belittling, and then yelling and screaming at them, and three separate occasions now I have witnessed a particular staff violently put her hands on a client (grabbing and shaking a guy while screaming at him, yanking same guy around, pushing another forcefully into a chair). I have reported all of this to my boss who has not done f**k all about it for the entire 6 months she has known of the problems. She usually doesn't leave her office, and when she does everyone's suddenly on their best behavior.

The guy who gets abused by staff the most, is generally nonviolent unless extremely and understandably agitated (usually they've been ignoring him for a good long time before he gets upset), and at that point he usually just throws objects - not at anyone, and has yet to injure anyone. And yet I get no backup from other staff when I report that he is being abused, people stop talking to me for weeks, and basically my boss thinks I have a "personality conflict" with the most abusive staffer and that I need to "learn to get along with her."

The regional director knows, and wrote the worst abuser up and let her keep working. That was it. After the wrist-slap she was back to hurting people in just over a week.

Calling the hotline does nothing but open me up for retaliation. "Oh but it's illegal for them to retaliate!" Yeah well it's illegal to hurt our clients, too, so you tell me whether or not they give a f**k.

The staff I work with all got these jobs because they are (with 2 shining exceptions out of 11) so lazy and drug-addled and irresponsible that even the local Walmart wouldn't hire them to night stock or clean floors - they resent the fact that this is the only job they can get (that they really, really are still not at all qualified for but the HR dept is told "don't care, just get some bodies in there, hire whatever") and they take their unfounded resentment and anger out on the clients.

In short, cry me a f*****g river, staffers. Y'all prove all the damn time that you abuse people whether they're violent or not.

At my facility we're all paid well above minimum, most of the staff get vacation and benefits and work no overtime with weekends off, with no drug testing and hilariously minimal and lenient background checks - and yet they act so damn put-upon when a disabled person needs their f*****g help sometimes. Most days the staff sits around gossiping while they have the clients watch TV and when that gets interrupted they f*****g lose it and hurt somebody again because they had to do their damn job. It's f*****g unbelievable. And management jams their fingers in their ears and goes LA LA LA I DON'T HEAR ANYTHING LA LA.

This is only the day program - worse happens in the homes. Some of our clients come in with gangrene because their home staff won't help them bathe, infected lesions because they won't cover a wound or get them to a doctor, sitting in day old s**t because no one could be bothered to change them (IT'S PART OF THE DAMN JOB AND YOU CAN SAY YOU DON'T WANT TO WORK WITH A CLIENT WHO NEEDS THAT WHEN YOU APPLY, DAMMIT). Some steadily lose weight and waste away because their home staff doesn't want to deal with their specific dietary needs (chopping / blending / thickening) and either doesn't feed them at all or feeds them the bare minimum. Clients who need to be supervised while eating are left to their own devices because no one gives a f**k if they choke to death. I hear disabled people threatened and verbally abused on the daily by day program and home staff and nobody so much as bats an eyelash - even the few staff that don't hurt people themselves are afraid to stand up against the culture of abuse because we need our damn jobs.

There is no excuse to hurt anyone who depends on you for care. NO EXCUSE, EVER, AND IF YOU HURT A DISABLED PERSON IN ANY WAY YOU ARE IRREDEEMABLE FILTH.

FUCK YOU, CLYDE. [Clyde is the male nurse from the initial article.]

Comment 6:

I work in one of these places as a contract security guard. We get very little pay (80 cents above minimum wage) but damn if it isn't rewarding work. And yeah, there's no excuse for this kind of behavior. I've been spit on, punched, headbutted, had all manner of awful things said about me and my family but I've never hurt someone. My company are real pros and they drill it into our heads our responsibility to keep people safe, and to understand that most of the time a person is SICK and not deliberately cruel.

I recently got a new gig assisting training new people. I hope I can help them out.

Comment 7:

I've worked at different psych wards and I've seen some truly demoralizing s**t. I've had so many discussions with the head psychiatrist about a chosen path, and more often than not, I hated being proven right. Sadly, mental health care in my country is so damn subject to cost cutting (in all the wrong ways), that I've actually had to plead to the psychiatrist to NOT send a (to me) clearly suicidal patient home, in order to make room for a more "high priority" patient. The psychiatrist didn't listen and the patient was sent home. 48 hours later, her daughter found her dead, after downing a bottle of whiskey and hanging herself.

Comment 8:

I've worked security at a number of Mental Hospitals and it really is a difficult job. You get the best results by being empathetic with your patients and always remember that they are sick and deserve respect, but that can be really difficult after standing in place for up to 16 hours without a break because the nurses hate the security guards with a passion and everything smells vaguely of piss and s**t.

I've been very fortunate that I have managed to talk people down from crisis more times than I can count just by treating them as a person, but sometimes due to the illness they must be restrained or secluded for everyone's safety (watching a coworker get his nose broken, or fighting someone who ripped a door off its hinges and is trying to beat you to death with it, or getting stabbed by a 90 year old dementia patient has definitely shaped my opinion on that). But it does feel sometimes that nurses are far more comfortable chemically restraining someone loud than actually taking the time to work with them.

The amount of rules, regulations, laws and hospital policies surrounding the whole mental health field are incredible and being subjected to them definitely explains why we have so many issues in the field. As a final note Wednesdays and Full Moons are always busier than you can hope to imagine.

I should mention. Empathy Drain is very real, and I quit once I noticed I became someone who I wouldn't like to meet on the street.

Comment 9:

The "excuses" made for the people responsible for this are f*****g bullshit. I worked as a support worker for severely autistic teenagers for a few years, providing respite care (specifically a club during the school holidays for 6 hours a day and after school care).

As one of three men amongst a workforce otherwise entirely female, I was always given the responsibility of supporting one of a few older teenage boys. We worked on a one to one basis, i.e., I looked after one kid and one kid only. The boy who I primarily worked with was 15-16 for the couple of years I worked with him. He was non-verbal (couldn't speak a word), needed assistance going to the toilet and because of a mixture of regular teenage hormones and his condition, was prone to extremely violent outbursts.

To put it bluntly, he was a toddler in a hormonal teenagers body. This isn't the autism you think of when you picture a socially awkward person who struggles to make friends, this is completely different.

When a violent outburst happened, it was my responsibility to keep him safe and any other children around him safe. He was a big kid, around 5 feet 10 inches tall, and would bite, kick, punch, pull your hair, scratch at your face etc. these happened quite a few times each day. He was by no means the only kid who behaved like this.

So I can relate to what the people in this article had to put up with. Not ONCE did anything even approaching anything described in this article ever happen, either to the boy I worked with or any other child. What is being described in the above article is absolutely horrendous, and no amount of excuses can change that.

Somebody threw s**t at you? Deal with it. Somebody bit you? It's part of the job. The crimes described above, and make no mistake about it they are crimes, are horrifying. If you can't handle the situations that your job as a care provider for some of society's most vulnerable people will put you in then leave your job and report your colleagues to the police.

PS I f*****g loved my job as a support worker, unfortunately I couldn't keep doing it as the hours were irregular and not enough, but it was genuinely an incredibly fulfilling time.


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