I volunteered to pick up a shift as a sitter for the pediatric unit over the weekend. Usually when I sit, it’s for a suicide attempt and/or overdose patient. Sadly, I am no longer shocked by the number of patients we would see in a week for this. However, the patient that I was sitting with was in for seizure monitoring. To make this story short, the patient needed more assistance than seizure monitoring. After the parent’s not liking the information that the doctor’s gave them, they decided they wanted to leave AMA (against medical advice). Which I thought was weird because they had just agreed to the treatment plan. So then things got really awkward because the patient is mouthing “Help me” and “this is what I deal with everyday” while the mom is on a rant. I asked to be relieved so I could relay this information to the doctors and nurse caring for the patient. Luckily, they eventually agreed to having the patient evaluated by a psychologist, but it took some work to get to that point.
The point of that story was to provide some insight into the challenges that health care providers face when it comes to getting assistance for our youth. I was able to talk to the patient while the parents were out of the room and some of the things that were shared broke my heart and I wanted to do all that I could to make sure they obtained the assistance needed. Psychiatric issues run on both sides of the family but the family was more concerned with being able to get back home than getting their child the care that was needed.
This isn’t the first time I have witnessed a family not willing to acknowledge that there is a potential for psychiatric reasons for the behavior or they are in denial. I have witnessed a mother and daughter joking about the daughter’s admission for cutting herself again. I did not see what was funny about the situation. We have had to prevent family members from visiting patients because they would get the patient upset because they did not want to accept a diagnosis. I have had patients tell me that they will attempt suicide again if they have to go back home with their family. I literally cried when I walked out of that room because I knew it was an unsafe environment and I feared that one of her attempts would be eventually be successful.
Being a child is so much harder it seems than when I was growing up. While there is more awareness about mental health, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. There are so many children who are attempting to kill themselves and it is often chalked up to “attention seeking”. Which in some cases that may be true, but there are may children out there who genuinely want to die for a multitude of reasons and often their home life is the reason but they have no one they can confide in or who believes them when they try to explain the way that they feel and the thoughts they are having.
I used to want to be a social worker but quickly realized that was not the field for me because I would have a hard time taking work home with me. I want to save as many children as I can but unfortunately I would not be able to and would have to send kids back to places that I knew were not safe for them. Not to say that being a nurse is any easier. There have been many parents I have wanted to shake some sense into but cannot or prevent them from being able to take their child home because they were too selfish to really see what was going on with their child.
Ignoring the symptoms and behaviors of mental illness is not going to make the issue go away. Pretending that it doesn’t exist does not mean that it will go away. Ignoring only leads to finding ways to self-medicate which often is unsafe for the person and possibly for those around them. More needs to be done to treat mental illness and it should be taking place at as early an age as possible.