“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “we”, illness becomes wellness.” – Shannon L. Adler


Physical Health vs Mental Health

What a week in the hospital world!! The challenges of treating both mental health and physical health were on FULL display for this observer. You didn’t need binoculars to see that our current medical system was woefully unprepared to tackle both.

Sitting on the sidelines of the medical world, I’ve seen some change. It appears that just now, we are beginning to understand that finding “the cure” for our physical problems cannot be done within a silo. Unfortunately, its taken our society this long to recognize that the body and the mind are not separate but connected. Interestingly, this new (not really NEW…) philosophy on providing treatment has not made it into the main stream, much less the majority of the curriculum for our providers.

So this week, (for everyone’s viewing pleasure) I got to witness usually very capable and confident medical staff, look at mental health like a toddler tasked with crawling up Everest. Frankly, it was painful to watch from both the patient and the provider side…but what it really came down to was (hopefully) a lesson in caring for the total individual.

  1. Provider meets patient. Interprets the patient’s behaviors as “noncompliant”. Instantly the patient is labeled as “difficult” and this is shared from one staff member to the next nurse to the next doctor to even housekeeping staff.
  2. Ongoing interactions with the patient, cause the Provider(s) to think that his/her “noncompliance” is really a sign of unsafe behaviors. Because there cannot possibly be any reason that an individual would not follow the directions of a medical provider, right? (INSERT SARCASM).
  3. Attempts were made to have this patient screened by psychiatry and “institutionalized”.

Now… Was this individual fighting a mental health concern. Yes! Was this person “noncompliant” by medical standards..well Yes. Was this person a danger to him/herself? Depends on your perspective I guess. But did this person deserve the same level of respect and care as any other? Whole heartedly YES!

But at no time, did this patient’s team consider altering their methods to meet his/her needs. There was no investigation as to the real reasons for “noncompliance” through conversation or questioning. We took the same old worn down treatment templates that we try to apply to everyone and applied it so someone with very different needs! (Which also begs to question, why does the medical world feel that these worn down treatment plans should work for ALL of us? Square Peg…round whole…I digress!)

As a result, an opportunity was missed… to provide care to an individual whose reality is already different than the most. The patient did not receive the best care. He/She left the hospital feeling dismissed.

And I viewed this, wide eyed…reflecting at the inadequacy of our medical teams ability to see this patient as an individual..not so different from ANY of us… Sadly this isn’t a brand new experience for me as the observer…individuals like this patient become what the medical world sees as “frequent flyers” who are likely to relive this experience every time they set foot in a medical facility. Until there is more acceptance and understanding and appreciation, it’s unlikely we will ever find a cure to this particular fight of priorities PHYSICAL HEALTH VS MENTAL HEALTH.

The Cure

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be here! From a very young age I new I would NEVER want to work in a hospital. Did I mention, NEVER? Really never! The smells, the sounds, the bland colors on the wall, that obnoxious flooring that screams “institution”… But guess where I have found myself? Yep! Everyday I go to work in a hospital. I got here because I love people and their stories and because I want to help! Isn’t that the standard answer for why most people go in to medicine?

Well, ironically, I’m not medical. I don’t diagnosis diseases. I don’t give prognosis. I don’t even give medicine. I guess you can say I’m an outsider. Let’s call me…an OBSERVER. But I am here to help and daily I bring a very different perspective that has long been absent from those endless halls of a hospital.

Every day I participate in the care of individuals, all of whom came to the hospital to feel better. They came to receive some sort of care, some sort of help, some sort of treatment. But as I sit at that multi-disciplinary table, it feels like we have “missed the boat”. There IS a disease being left untreated and an element missing from the equation. THE INDIVIDUAL.

I’m starting on this journey of thought and reflection to find the “the cure” to the missed opportunities in hospital care everyday… Hopefully, with your help, we can find a way back to caring for the individual, instead of treating the disease.