Thursday, 4 February 2016

Time to talk about depression

Today is Time to Talk day, a day dedicated to talking about mental health. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to write about one of the topics I have been wanting to speak out about for a while. 

Before I start I want to state that this is my own experience. I do not want to put everyone in similar professions under one umbrella. There are some absolutely amazing people who work for the NHS, who literally change lives. There is one lady who I will be forever grateful to during my stay in hospital. She was just a student nurse yet seemed so experienced, comforting and always had an ear to lend. My post will focus around some members of staff in the NHS, ones I have experienced so far who have prompted me to write this post. This is my time to talk:

One of the biggest issues I have with some medical professionals is that some don't even seem fully trained in the role they are in. Whilst I was in hospital we would have regular staff during the week who we would grow to recognise and develop relationships with. If you knew a certain member of staff was on duty that day, it made the world of difference. Now I am not saying I expect these people to work every single day, that's impossible. However, what I am saying is that on specialist units such as for eating disorders, you should not bring random members of staff who have no previous experience with the illness. 

For example: at the weekends most of the common staff were replaced by others who worked on the general psychiatric wards. They would be with us all day, monitoring us at the dining table etc which is one of the most stressful times in the unit, as you can probably imagine. 

Some of these staff members had clearly no training or understanding of eating disorders. I was constantly asked inappropriate questions such as: "Are you enjoying those crisps", "What's on your sandwich?", "What did you give up to be in here?" Whilst to you they might not seem offensive questions to you, to someone with an eating disorder these are completely triggering. At this point I couldn't eat facing anyone and I would have to sit facing a wall covering my food and my face. To have some strange man, who never even introduced himself to me, come and sit down and then proceed to bombard me with all these questions, I just cried. It made everything more painful. 

One of the most clearest comments was a staff member was sitting at the breakfast table and casually dropped into conversation: "I normally skip breakfast." WOW. At a time when we are being given breakfast that is hardly the most inspiring comment to hear. There should be a training program in place which at least gives staff the brief outline of how to approach someone with an eating disorder and a bit of information to how the illness operates. 

Eating disorders admittedly are complex illnesses and I truly believe unless you've been through one yourself you can never understand them. I mean, I have one and I still don't understand the mechanisms of it. But training should be in place for anyone who steps foot onto an eating disorder ward. Hospitals are supposed to be the 'best' place for recovery. In my experience, it actually made things worse. The ward was tiny for the amount of patients it held, habits were picked up that I previously didn't have, talk could be triggering about BMI's and weights and considering they promised to keep us occupied, most of the time I sat there, in a chair, staring into space. If any I wanted to stimulate my mind I had to rely on things brought from home. 

I don't want this to seem like something from Trip Advisor for hospitals. But I just want to stress the importance of ensuring all staff are trained properly in a specific field. I think it needs to be ensured that each staff member is aware and understanding of the illness they are working with. There is nothing more frustrating than someone who is supposed to understand, who doesn't. 

Although today is time to talk, we should talk all the time. It shouldn't be just for one day, conversations about mental health should be regularly done in schools, workplaces, anywhere. Mental health is a big part of our society and we need to understand one another, to move forward.


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