A few years ago I attended a patient review panel in which patients were given the opportunity to work with Mental Health professionals to better the service we were a part of. It was an interesting couple of days and was great to hear the different views of patients and caregivers. Everyone was given a voice, whether they had a mental illness or not. It was an empowering experience.
It is however a sad state of affairs that not much of the things discussed were implemented. Things that a sample group of patients had suggested, as well as things that people working with them everyday had suggested.
One of the terms that I came up with during the two days was ’10 minutes not 10mg’. It was based around the concept that during my stays in an inpatient unit, whenever I was distressed I was offered 10mg of valium, where sometimes talking for 10 minutes would help to diffuse the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive, I know that not all distressing situations can be calmed down with talking. There are times when medication may be the only answer.
I was hoping that through those simple words, it would mean that medication was a last resort, instead of the first port of call. Mental Health facilities are so concerned about habit forming activities, and yet hand out medications before talking about what is causing the need for the medication. Not all workers take this route, but a good majority do. A practice that patients become accustomed to, but has to stop once they are no longer an inpatient.
On my first admission to an adult unit, it was all a bit surreal. I was stuck in my own head and didn’t notice much else around me. I did what I needed to do to get through. My first night ended with me being placed in the High Dependency Unit with enough valium to knock me out for 12 hours. Something that could have been avoided.
I wasn’t resisting, hell I wasn’t even being disruptive. I was simply camping on my floor because I felt safer. Something that I had been doing for months prior to my admission. I had my light on and was scribbling away in my journal. I was in a room on my own and had my door closed. I wasn’t disturbing anyone.
When the nurse came to do her nightly round, she discovered me and asked what I was doing. I said that I was getting rid of the thoughts out of my head. I have no recollection now of what exactly those thoughts were. I do know however, that the nurse did not ask what was going on, how I was feeling, or if she could offer any assistance. It was simply decided that I needed to be medicated and because I refused, I was considered a nuisance. I was already doing my own 10 minutes but it was decided for me that 10mg was needed instead.
I sometimes think that talking it out is underrated, both by patients and staff. The public units are so understaffed and over populated that the nurses just don’t have the time to sit and talk it out. I understand that not everything can be dealt with in talk therapy, but in the same train of thought, many people also don’t respond well to medication. So a more tailored treatment is needed, treatment that can’t be achieved because there aren’t enough staff to administer it.
Do you think that more people would benefit from being offered 10 minutes before 10mg?