Friday, July 21, 2006

I'm Just Sayin'...Again...

     Perhaps I should have titled this post, "There Are Two Sides To Every Story"...it seems more fitting.

     I just watched the local evening news and my field of practice (and specifically MY office) was once again blasted by a one-sided report on mental health services in Seattle and Washington State.  Now, it IS 97 degrees here locally, so this may be contributing to some of my "hot under the collar" response...I suppose I COULD say that if I had more than a sport's bra on and shorts to stay cool (don't even go there...it's an unpleasant sight!).

     Most of you know I work in some wacky government division of mental health services in Washington State...I don't blog about it for two reasons:  1)  Confidentiality laws prohibit me from sharing work stories and, 2)  It would just be in poor taste.  But I'm just too hot under the collar (and under my sport's bra) to let this evening news report slip by without a word or two in support of ALL HEALTHCARE WORKERS, past or present, who tolerate the one-sided, biased, shit-stirring (can I use that word here without censor?), politically motivated, sensationalism-provoking, uneducated, and misinformed CRAP that makes headlines these days just to promote television station ratings!!!  I suppose here would be an opportune time to say, "I'm just sayin" and hope no one sues me over this one...

     As someone who has worked in the healthcare "biz" for the past 20+ years, I feel quite qualified to say, "What you see on TV ain't the whole story".  We are constantly bombarded with sensational news about murderers with mental health histories, healthcare workers making life-threatening mistakes, hospitals and doctors who failed to diagnose correctly, and a number of so called "drama stories" to raise public awareness.  I'll just stick to the mental health side of things because it's what I know best.

     Cold, hard facts:  Nearly 1 out of 3 Americans have a "mental health history"...if you've ever taken anti-depressants, YOU have a mental health history.  The majority of violent crimes in America are NOT committed by "mental patients"...they are committed by criminals, pure and simple.  Domestic violence is NOT a mental health issue...it is a crime.  Although I seriously wonder about the mental health of women (and men) who stay in violent relationships.  Homelessness is not a mental health diagnosis, although some homeless people certainly have mental issues...try living on the street for more than one night and I bet we'd ALL feel a bit "crazy".  There is no CURE for most mental disorders...only treatment, which usually requires long-standing drug therapy and/or psychotherapy.  Treatment compliance among the mentally ill is quite low for many reasons, which I will not go into now (But imagine you are told you have to take several pills for the rest of your life to control the voices in your head that are telling you NOT to take the pills!).

     Now, specifically to my department:  My office sees the sickest of the mentally ill into the thousands of referrals.  There are never news headlines of the daily lives my coworkers influence, change, and perchance even prolong.  These "success" stories are never told.  Occasionally we are thanked for our contributions, but more often than not, we are cursed at, spat at, yelled at, swung at, and are general targets of animosity for the community at large.  We do not get "quota bonuses" or any financial bonuses at all.  We go to our homes each night hoping we have made a difference and praying we have made the "right" decisions.  We do the work that we do because we CAN...it's what we know to do...it pays our bills just like any other job...and we have genuine interest in the field.  I'm not even going to touch upon the word "care" here because it's over-rated and over-used in healthCARE.  My coworkers (and dare I expand and say even doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, accupuncturists, spiritual guru's, etc.) are no different than the people we see each day...we put our pants on the same way and we experience the same bodily functions (no visuals provided about "potty" ettiquete here!) as our clients/patients.  We simply are hopefully functioning at a bit of a higher level than the people we see with perhaps a more objective view.  What seems to be left out in the news however is, WE HAVE FEELINGS, TOO...we are human.

     I blogged way back in March or April about how I used to go to my doctors and expect them to "fix" me, but how I now expect them to "consult" with me...by chance, age and experience in the field of healthcare helped me make that switch for myself.  I recognize my doctors are human beings...they make mistakes...they don't know EVERYTHING...and they are certainly not "god" to me.  I get caught up sometimes in my own fears of my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis or symptoms and I desperately WANT them to fix me, but I know this is not in their power or their role to do.  I try to remember to say, "thank you" even for the little things I've grown to expect (like just returning my phone calls).  I have learned it is only I who can take responsibility for my destination...my psychiatrist, therapist, neurologist, nurse practitioner, etc., can only take me through the course of "Driver's Education", but I am the one steering my own car (and I get very upset if they tap on that secret brake on their side of the floor board!).  I'm still learning this lesson and I'm certainly not perfect at it...but I think we ALL could use a good lesson now and then about steering our own vehicle (and you thought I had no point at all to this blog?!?).

     SO...to all of you past or present HUMAN healthcare workers out there...thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you have done or continue to do.  Your thankless and tiring hours of service go unnoticed by most, but are treasured by a select few.  There are always two sides to every story...but you already knew that, didn't you?  You just rarely ever get to TELL your version...

     I must share this quote with you before I close...it comes from another MS blog site, http://blog.healthtalk.com/ms/ , and I apologize for plagiarizing (not really):  "You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and martyrs get burned at the stake".

     And now I'll close this rather "cryptic" blog...because due to confidentiality laws, I cannot openly write what's REALLY on my mind (and it would also be in poor taste).  I will just have to seek solace in knowing some of you canread between the lines and even if you can't, you're smart enough to get the gist of things.

     It's cooling off here already...how 'bout that?

2 comments:

hagartyjj said...

I can SO relate!  I worked in the medical field for 13 years (not mental health, however I did take care of my sister who was born with minimal brain damage at birth for 4 years....so I do understand both sides of the field).  It is a shame that people don't seem to understand that healthcare workers (esp. the doctors) are only human.  This has become a major problem in our country!  There are people who look for any reason to sue based on a simple mistake....they are not God and never will be.  Unfortunate things happen and there is only so much one person can do, mistakes are bound to happen....and maybe those mistakes were in God's plans, who knows anyway.  It is not our place to judge, only to look past it and forgive.  

hagartyjj said...

I do think that there is another problem going on here.....there MUST be more funding coming from the government to help people who do need services however.  (Being in Washington State....I know there is a shortage in funding in the healthcare industry as a whole...at least in Central Washington).  When we first moved back to Washington from Utah, I was amazed at how difficult it was to get both my sister and my son services because of the changes in criteria for Mental Health.  My sister who was born with minimal brain damage and has been diagnosed with manic depression did not meet the criteria for services (and still does not....only for medication management and a DDD casemanager) and my son who has PTSD, depression, and severe anxiety as a result of a trauma from his early childhood did not meet criteria (until I pushed for it).  Now he is able to get the counseling he needs.  Mental health can be a tricky thing (not something that can be diagnosed over night) and so it can be hard to determine if someone meets that criteria.  The problem is not as much with the workers (who do it for the love of wanting to help....NOT for the money as many times they are under paid for what they do) but with the system as they just don't have the proper funding, not to mention sometimes their hands are tied because a person who may need help only meets 4 of the 5 required symptoms.  

I agree with you whole heartedly....to each person who works in this field, thank you for all you do!  You do not have an easy job.

I wholeheartedly agree....to all those who work in this field...thank you!  You do not have an easy job.  

Jaime