I qualified as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 2012.
Since then, I’ve had two nursing jobs and multiple promotions.
My first job was working in a forensic medium secure hospital in the UK. I worked with a number of patients who suffer from a joint diagnosis of learning disabilities and mental health problems. It was an eye opener to say the least.
On a day to day basis I would be thrown challenges from men who would self harm for tactile stimulation, men who had a history of murder, rape, assault and arson. Men who from a learning disability were so childlike in their manner.
I worked with a man who had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. He was a man of little words but I always remember one conversation that I had with him. We were stood in the kitchen on the ward, he was making himself a coffee and turned to me. He informed me that at night, he sees green monkeys out of his bedroom window. They go through the bins and then climb up to the roof above his bedroom. He told me that when I left that evening, I’d have to be careful because they had been watching and would attack the staff.
Obviously this did not happen.
But it got me thinking, how awful and intriguing it is that this man believed he had seen these monkeys and that he believed the staff were in danger of being attacked by them.
How scary must that be? To see something so bizarre but believe it is so real and true.
Since that day, I feel I empathise with my patients much more. Who am I to challenge their beliefs that are so real to them. As real to them as my name is to me. How would I feel if someone approached me tomorrow and told me that I am not me, everything I believe is false and I’m actually mentally unwell.
Imagine that your whole life is a lie. A lie that your own brain told you. Tricked you into believing that you are God, aliens are after you, your doctor is trying to poison you, you’re being followed by the FBI, you sister is actually a spy who isn’t your sister at all. These are all delusions that patients I have worked with have experienced.
I think we should all be more aware of mental health in our lives. We should be more empathetic towards people who suffer every day.