As part of Mental Health Awareness week, I’m publishing a series of blogs telling the story of someone. This could be someone who suffers or someone who’s trying to help others.
In this one, I talk with someone who looks after people with mental health issues as well as experiencing them herself. They talk about how tough it can be supporting people who suffer.
This is the story of Vikki.
Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, I was diagnosed with anxiety about nearly three years ago, a few weeks after my Nana died. It set off that I couldn’t sleep, and then that I was either in a really good mood or I was in a very bad mood. I ended up on Fluoxetine, which has worked really well for me and apart from a few hiccups, the anxiety seems to be well controlled for now.
I have a lot more experience in working with people with mental health issues.
My current position has me supporting three men, all with depression and one with paranoid schizophrenia and another with bipolar. I also support a woman who has a personality disorder.
I know a lot about the medication they take and their symptoms, and how they are best supported, which helps when others need support.
Was there a main reason you got into the job role you have? Was it something you’ve wanted to do?
Yeah, it was something I wanted to do since I was 18. I set off as a teaching assistant at a local primary school and the child I was assigned to had schizophrenia and challenging behaviour, so the rest followed. He was the catalyst for me knowing I wanted to work within the mental health services.
I went further in to learning disability support for a while but then I had the opportunity to do some work as an Appropriate Adult meaning I was back in to supporting people with mental health issues, and that’s where I wanted to be.
These three guys are three very challenging individuals, because their issues to cause them to be very challenging behaviour wise.
Are there any particular challenges you face in your job? I know care work can be really demanding.
Our guys are really violent, I’ve had broken bones, bites, chunks of hair pulled out etc.
One guy used to spit in our faces if his delusions used to be scary or upsetting.
Other than that though, I find it more challenging and frustrating when we’re constantly fighting with adult social care/psychologists/doctors regarding the medication prescribed.
Apparently, benzodiazepines are being cut down on, and our guys heavily rely upon Diazepam/Lorazepam to help fight their issues sometimes daily
They can literally go days of having hallucinations/auditory hallucinations that are often only interrupted by their emergency meds, and it’s starting to be discontinued.
Do you find yourself more tolerant and with a better understanding with them now because of what you yourself have gone through?
Yeah, definitely. Being able to understand how they feel (and having experienced some of these feelings) easily makes it easier to empathise with them. Especially when they’re hitting crisis point, which is tough on everyone, it helps if you can put yourself in their position.
I know you’ve said that you’re anxiety is okay at the moment but do you feel it start to spike at times because of the work you do?
Yeah, especially if it’s a really stressful time there. We’ve recently moved the service, and I could feel it getting more noticeable when we were preparing for that and attempting to get the lads ready. I’m pretty lucky that my managers are really supportive of us all and do what they can to help us reduce how stressed we are getting so it’s never been able to get out of control yet.
That’s positive. It’s good that you’ve got a good management team with you as well.
What thing do you find the toughest about your work? And what is the most rewarding?
Our management team are the best I’ve ever worked for, they’re great.
Honestly, the toughest is the times they can’t be helped. The times they’re cowering on their bed because they’re convinced there’s a little girl in the ceiling trying to hurt them (has actually happened), or the times they’re unable to get out of bed for their depression is so bad.
The most rewarding are the days they are able to function ”normally” because of our help. It takes a lot to convince some of them that it will be okay, we’re there to help and willing to help, and that their medication will help. There’s days we’ve had them out in the community and doing things they’ve always wanted to do, and seeing their faces whilst they’re doing that is the best part of my job.
That sounds cool. What would you say to anyone thinking of anyone wanting to do something similar to what you do?
I’d definitely encourage it. It’s difficult at times, but those difficult times are worth it when you get the good times and can see the difference you’re making. I love my job, and the guys I support, and if you think you can do it, give it a go!
What, in your experience, is the best way to help or support someone who’s experiencing mental health issues?
Be there with them whenever they need it. Not necessarily all the time, but make sure they know that if they want to talk, or even just sit with someone that you’re available for that.
Try not to push them, but do encourage them to either seek help or continue to accept the help given by medical professionals, and most of all, don’t judge them for their mental state. Support them instead 🙂
Good advice. And, finally, any closing words?
Just that I think it’s great you’re doing so much for people with such issues, and i hope anyone who needs the help is encouraged to do so even just a little bit. Thanks 🙂
Thank you Vikki.