Mental Health Direct Care Nurse
I’ve worked in mental health for 24 years. Getting in to mental health was a happy accident. I started my career at Homewood Health Centre working in specialized psychiatry. Over the years, I’ve worked in acute psychiatric care units, both ACT Teams and psychiatric emergency services in hospital. Currently, I work with clients in community mental health
It’s been a real blessing to come to the WWLHIN. I’ve been here for over a year now, and everyone I’ve met has been very supportive. It’s been a great place to work and an incredibly positive experience.
My clients keep me motivated to come to work every day. It’s amazing to see how resilient they are. No matter what they’ve been through, they still fight so hard. They could come from broken homes. They may not have any support around them. They struggle with hunger and homelessness. They don’t have family and friends. But they still go on.
I like to focus on their strength. They get passed around a lot from service to service. Sometimes, they have to tell their stories 5 or 6 times. The biggest part of my job is around building rapport, which can either happen quickly or take many visits. I have some clients who are very guarded and do not want to talk, while others will tell me everything and just want someone to talk to.
The thing with mental health is that it is so personalized. A medication that will work for one person will not work for another. The ups and downs can be very painful. The medications can take time to work and can have debilitating side effects. It can be hard for these clients to even make appointments. The obstacles are everywhere.
If you have kidney failure or heart failure, if you find out you need treatment, you get it right away.
If you are told you have a mental health issue, getting help is very hard. There aren’t any agencies that offer everything. Mental health is not a one or two visit issue. It can take years.
Even after years of care, these clients may always need our help. I remember one patient who had schizophrenia. He was getting service for a long time and was stable, so they reduced his services. Without that support, he decided he didn’t need his medication as much, so he started to taper off taking his medication. Every time you get off medication, it is much harder to get back to a good level. He may never get back up to the level he needs. We have to understand the impact of our services and what happens when we reduce those services.
Sometimes we have to go the extra mile and do the right thing for our clients. It can make a life or death difference. I worked with one woman who had a huge addiction issue and depression. She was working to get sober and get treatment. If she didn’t, she was going to lose her kids.
After being gone overnight without permission, everyone assumed she was using. Her urine screen came back positive, but when I compared it to a drug screen from a few days earlier, there were some inconsistencies. She begged me crying to help. I offered to do a supervised urine sample and ran the test again. It came back clean. When I spoke to the lab, they admitted that mistakes happen. If I hadn’t done it again, she would have been discharged from the program and she may have lost her children permanently.
These are the stories I remember when I work with my clients. Knowing that we can make a huge difference in their lives is incredibly humbling.
I love working in mental health and I really love the direction we’re heading with mental health and what we’re doing to make things better. We have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way. We’re not there yet, but I’m really pleased and proud to be part of an organization that’s going forward with more and better mental health support.