Monday, October 11, 2010

Get Well Soon

I have been doing this semester's clinical rounds in a psychiatric unit. This is a special interest to me, I guess because of my family history of mental chaos, including my own. There is one very distinct and profound difference in the 4th floor and the 3rd. When you step off the elevator on the 3rd floor medical unit, there are pictures on the walls. You go into a patient's room and see cards and flowers and balloons beckoning someone's loved one to "Get well soon." Take that same elevator up to the 4th floor psych unit and things look gravely different. The walls are static, painted cream some 20 years ago. No wall hangings, no pictures, possibly to reduce stimulation for the schizophrenic patients, but what about the depressed ones?

Walk into any room on the unit and you will not find any balloons. No cards, flowers, or get well soon notes. Just people meandering. The beds aren't even up to date, they are the old steel ones with the cranks at the bottom. Left overs. I ask why is this the case? Why does the psych unit look and feel so much different. Is it that people have lost hope in the mentally ill and do not believe they will get better? Is it because of the stigma that mental illness is something to be ashamed of and that they are all a danger to society and mass murderers? Is it because many "Crazies" aren't really paying attention anyway due to the copious amount of drugs flowing through their hypothalamus?

I don't know, but I do believe it is wrong. People get judged for being mentally ill. A person does something that others would never do and the "Normals" in society look at them down their noses and grimace. If a person had cancer, would people shake their heads at them and sneer? Definitely not. Why then someone with Major Depression or Bipolar? Schizophrenia? Dissociative Identity Disorder? Movies are made about these people with these illness and sadly, nearly all of them end in one of them killing someone or many people. Truth is you are most likely to be killed by a greedy person than a mentally ill person.

You can probe your churches' prayer list and you will see dozens of people with cancer and heart disease, things that are acceptable to get. But how many times do we see a prayer request for a person with schizophrenia? How about Major Depressive Disorder. People can't even get out of bed and have endless thoughts of hopelessness and self medicate with poisons, and they are not worthy of our prayer? When was the last time you saw a church ministry to the mentally ill? We go to nursing homes, soup kitchens, prisons, pregnancy centers and all of these things are beautiful to God and to the world, but what about a psych ward? I don't mean to be on a high horse, but it has been weighing on me since I started this rotation. Everyone is lovable. My pastor Dave was talking about that this morning at church. Loving people for real. Having your first instinct be to protect. I feel that there is a whole culture of people not being protected or loved very much. Loving the marginalized people is what Jesus was famous for, we should be too. I realize the tone of anger and self righteousness in this post. It wasn't meant to sound like that because I am to blame as well. I have laughed at a guy talking to himself before. I have assumed I should grab my kids and get them away from them. So the tone is not meant to offend, only to vent.


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