Most nursing students are genuinely scared about their mental health rotation, which I never understood. Don’t they realize that every single patient they meet in the hospital is most likely suffering from some kind of mental problem? I think they have this fear that a patient will attack them or find out their last name and start stalking them or some other kind of irrational fear (which, by the way, is called a phobia, which is considered… guess what?…. that’s right, it’s a MENTAL DISORDER, you hypocrites!)
We have a warped sense of mental health. This is partly due to Hollywood dramatization and partly due to the fact that many of those horrific images we think of when we hear the word “asylum” do in fact portray an element of truth. We are only now starting to graze the tip of understanding mental illness. I’m sure you can imagine what that meant for people who “saw God and heard voices” over a century ago when our understanding was even less than it is now.
The mind is an elusive concept and for that reason mental illness is both fascinating and terrifying. This conflict creates an ambivalence in us. Ambivalence to truly understand, to expose ourselves and to help people suffering from mental illness. The amount of fear and stigma that surrounds the topic is abounding. Not to mention almost no funding at all for mental health programs. All these factors leaves the mentally ill with little resources to find treatment or even survive.
Keep in mind they are not putting you with violently crazy people (unfortunately). I would LOVE to be exposed to the criminally insane, the truly sick minds; I find that fascinating. But instead I’m stuck with the less crazy people who talk to clouds and are trying to convince themselves they are worth something (addicts, depression, etc.)
Here’s a tip if you ever find yourself talking to someone and you don’t know how to respond to an inappropriate/uncomfortable comment they make (like, one patient told me “I was so mad at her I was about to poison her, which is when I decided to come here.”). Under “normal” circumstances I might respond to a person with, “You sound effing crazy.” But instead I said, “You must have been very frustrated in that moment.” When in doubt, identify the feeling they are expressing and REFLECT it in your statement. Works every time, like a charm. Of course you have to be able to read people’s feelings in their words and face. Make sure you’re up to date: