Ten Minutes not Ten Milligrams

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?

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15 thoughts on “Ten Minutes not Ten Milligrams

  1. Dorothy

    I was lucky to have stayed in private psych. hospitals and found the nursing staff there always willing to talk, if not immediately, then as soon as they were free. Whenever I asked for valium out of the blue, they would always check in with me and try to find out what was happening.

    It sucks that the public system can’t provide that sort of care.

  2. Alison

    I nearly always find myself nodding in agreement with your posts. This is no exception. If only people would LISTEN to those who know what the hell they are talking about.

  3. Sharon @ Funken Wagnel

    I think you have a really good point. My partner never made it to the psych ward as he was supposed to, due to lack of beds, so we don’t have any experience of hospitalisation as you have:)

    However, I do get frustrated about these types of meetings and not being listened to as well. We had a meeting with my partner, myself (carer), my carer support worker and his mental health worker.
    I was asked what I thought was needed. I wanted him off the seroquel, as it was making him gain a large amount of weight. His worker (this was the first time her and I met) then decided *I* was his entire problem! She decided we had marital problems, and that I couldn’t accept him how he was, eg overweight.

    I was frustrated, because she brushed me off saying his weight wasn’t important, his mental health was.

    Now, what I tried to get through to her was my partner had been told prior to diagnosis, he was already morbidly obese and was told by his doctor he’d die if he didn’t lose weight. So yeah, sure I can love my man however he is, it’s just that I PREFER him alive, if that isn’t asking too much! But no. It was decided I was a bitch who was being picky about his looks and it really pissed me off.

    Once he changed to different meds, he’s lost and still losing so much weight! Now, instead of being morbidly obese, he’s ‘just’ overweight, if you know what I mean. And what that means for him, is he has more self confidence, which in turn helps him to be much healthier mentally, which I knew his weight was causing problems for him mentally as well.

    So yeah, I think workers need to LISTEN. Sorry for the ramble, but although I mentioned a different side of things, I get what you’re saying. Why bother asking us what we need if there’s no intention of implementing ideas??

  4. Lisa aka Lybliss

    I totally agree and I can see it from both the point of view as patient and as nurse. I work in the public system and sometimes we simply do not have time to sit and talk it out… and even less time on night shift when your patient load is doubled. I wonder how long ago your first experience was. In the hospital I work , I find now there is less urgency to medicate, even to the extreme that some patients who really need some form of medication can get it due to Dr’s reluctance to prescribe. In an ideal situation the steps or pathway to medication should be part of the patient plan, agreed to by the patient, family and staff when the patient is lucid and able to state their wishes. I think it is sad that your nurse didn’t even know that your night time routine was exactly what you were doing. That information would have been so easy to obtain on admittion. How do we change it? Slowly, one proud voice at a time xxx I absolutely love the catch phrase “10mins before 10milligrams” – think I might take that one to my next team meeting xx

  5. Mamagoingsolo

    Asolutely – I am fully in support of a more holistic and less medicated approach where possible. My word, medicines can have such awful side effects as you know so well, and therapy in the form of simply connecting, talking, or more formal guided therapy all has proved benefits and no side effects at all. I hope that someone takes notice.

  6. Katyberry

    What you are suggesting sounds like exactly what I would want to see happening – but you are so right, without the funding, and subsequent staffing, noone has the time. It is such a shame, and sounds like it is reinforcing the idea that medication is the BEST fix, when I’m not sure that it is in many situations – it’s merely “the most convenient” for the carers

  7. Josefa @always Josefa

    What a beautiful and much better perspective! Goodness, it almost sounds like it could be a new policy. I actually warmed to the idea of you camping out, writing and bearing your thoughts and soul in your words. Sounds like something many of us do often xx Josefa #teamIBOT

  8. Emma Fahy Davis

    Yes, yes, so much yes! I developed an addiction to Imovane (and later Valium and codeine) because it was a band-aid solution for my insomnia-driven mania. If I’d had the opportunity to talk thru some stuff, learn some techniques to wind myself down, I’d potentially have avoided a terrible battle that affected far more than just myself, and I wouldn’t find myself 4 years later sober but still not able to sleep!

  9. Vanessa

    I’ve thought in recent months that I’d like to get someone to talk to (vent to?) but what’s putting me off is my fear that they’ll recommend medication when all I want is someone who understands.

    1. Alison

      My psychologists have both been ok with me not wanting to be medicated, it hasn’t been a big feature of our talks. From experience, it’s my GPs who push push push me to go on meds, no matter how many effing times I tell them I have tried medications from all different families, repeatedly, and am not doing it anymore.

      Once again, why won’t people just LISTEN instead of always having an agenda?! I’m not stupid. I have some education on psychological matters. I am not a child. I am the one living this. Maybe don’t discount me because it doesn’t fit with whatever you’ve been taught.

      Le sigh.

  10. Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    Oh my gosh definitely! 10 minutes of someone’s time is not much to ask at all. It is always disappointing when you take the time to provide relevant and real feedback and it doesn’t get taken onboard. Esepcially with something as serious as this!

  11. Eva @ The Multitasking Mummy

    I completely agree with you. It took me a loooongg time to get to the GP after I realised something was not right after having my son, I was in tears and pleading for help, and instead of her helping, talking or referring me to a psychologist, she was more than happy to just put me back on the medication I had taken myself off of. Thank goodness I found another GP (a long way down the track mind you because the first one made me feel like nothing was wrong) and was diagnosed with PND and General Depression and referred me to a psychologist who has been extremely helpful and a person I can talk to about anything. Talking is such a release, it is an opportunity to get things out of your head, to set things out a bit straighter, to release the pent up energy.

  12. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me

    I totally agree Tegan – medication is offered too freely – but I also do see the value in it. Someone very close to be suffers from panic disorder and anxiety and he has never sought help but has suffered physical attacks from it – he takes something similar to valium called serapax? Not sure if that’s how you spell it, and without it he’d be a mess. He just won’t talk things through, old school type person. However in your case I think it sounds like they TOTALLY overreacted!! Em x

  13. Becc

    That makes me think about the choice of Psychologist or Psychiatrist. I have been to both and do believe the talking was better. The things some of those drugs did to my system were hideous (don’t get me wrong there was a time and need for them). I just think the talking and cognitive behaviour are suited in certain situations and play a lot less havoc on your body.
    Definitely drugs come after understanding.

  14. Janine

    Oh I totally agree, speaking from personal experience (myself and someone close to me I know whom is going through stuff right now, and has been prescribed the wrong meds…then more meds…).


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