mental health

A short overview of my time working in a mental-health/substance abuse facility in the southeastern United States.  This breaks no anonymity or HIPPA Laws.

I’ve worked in the mental health and substance field before and am currently working in film.  I had about a month off and decided I’d like to give it a shot in the behavioral health field.  The hospital that I chose to be employed at was one of the oldest ones in the area and when going through orientation was told that it was going through some “changes”.  Besides a very rushed and brief orientation, I’d be on the floor as a mental health technician in three days.

As for me, knowing what it was like to suffer from severe depression coupled with self-medicating with substances, I had great sympathy and understanding for the patients I figured I’d soon be working with.  This was quite a different standard from the other employees that were soon training me.  I was rushed into employment quickly on the “drug-seeker” and “dual-diagnosis” unit.  Being open-minded, I was sure that many of the employees dealt with some rather aggressive and manipulating patients.  That there was surely some built up aggravation overtime.

When I was brought in, the patients were stationed in a large group room with a TV, most were sleeping, since they were locked out of the rooms all day.  They had two groups a day.  Once a day they would see the doctors and have their medications amended for the day.  Most of the day was kind of like babysitting and steering clients away from the med-nurses when it was not their scheduled time. These nurses had a special hatred for the patients.  It seemed for them getting them their medication, was pure torture.


Realistically though, this is what this was for, a detox protocol.  Just like the med-nurses, the other techs were condescending, arrogant, and would often outright ignore any questions from patients for more toilet paper, drawing paper, or simple reasonable requests.  I was quite shocked at the attitude of the workers at the institution.  Several instances, patients were obviously sick, but not attended to and would just lie on the floor.  There was no sympathy, generally because I think that because most of the employees never had any mental health issues or knew someone in their family that did.  Nor were they trained.

What I saw from the employees was a general disdain, mockery, disrespect, and inhumane treatment.  As one can judge as well, no one would believe a patient over an employee.  So there is no recourse.  Overwhelmingly the employees were from the Caribbean Islands, so maybe this also played a part in a cultural aspect.  Perhaps, mental health is not at a level where it should be here in the states.

As for the detoxing, the nurses seemed to prefer giving out stronger medications to subdue the patients, so they would be passive.  I never once saw a patient aggressive or demanding.  There were high levels of Benzos and Opiate tapers for five to ten days.  The question in my mind is, what happens when they leave?  They are still detoxing and will go find something to feel “well” again.  It seemed to be a revolving door for a for profit program.

I lasted twelve days, saw several patients come back and resigned in sadness.  There are better places for addicts and those dealing with duel-diagnosis and the ones like these need to be shut down.