I felt compelled to write this account of my experiences as a mental health nurse. All identifying details have been changed. However, this is a true account of the conversations I had and the people I met. I believe it needs to be heard. It’s been three years since I completed my training to be a mental health nurse. During the course, my time working on hospital wards and within community teams shocked and disturbed me profoundly.
My heart goes out to anyone experiencing withdrawal but especially those surrounded by unsupportive judgemental people, and those who are so ill they can’t work and are struggling to navigate a heartless and cynical ‘benefits’ system. Denial and minimisation make it even more difficult for people to access help, support or seek understanding. Their only crime is to have experienced difficulty from a prescribed treatment, yet they are treated as medical pariahs.
Psychiatric diagnoses have far-reaching consequences for every area of your life: welfare, employment, health and travel insurance, physical and mental health assessment/treatment, adoption rights, and social stigma, to name but a few. Yet they are just subjective opinions with no scientific basis and can change over time.
Psychiatric drugs can’t address isolation, poverty, inequality, racism, intolerance, hatred, bigotry, sexism, etc., but they can mask those things. Perhaps that is why they are so successful. The blame is placed on us, the patient, for being broken because it obviates the need for powers that be to take any action to address those underlying causes of distress and suffering.
I’ve been teaching mental health nurses in England for two decades. Over the years I’ve developed several inter-connected gripes about mental health nurse education and, by extension, mental health nursing more generally. Sadly, I see no reason to believe that this state of affairs will change dramatically in my lifetime.