She banged her hands against the thick cement walls of her room. She screamed, “Let me out! Let me out!” The nurses and assistants standing next to me at the desk tried to act completely unfazed by the deafening noise.
The loud bangs slowly turned into hollow thuds. Everyone turned to look at the monitor sitting behind the counter. We all saw the patient banging her head against the wall of her room, attempting to break the walls and escape the facility.
One of the nurses instructed me to stay at the desk and watch the other patients on the floor. The other nurse rushed to the medicinal cabinet, put gloves on, and came out with a loaded injection.
“Ladies, let’s go,” the nurse with the injection said to the three other women.
One of them slowly opened the door to the patient’s room as the three other women rushed inside to prevent the patient from escaping.
I continued to watch the whole situation unfold on the monitor. The patient screamed and ran to the corner of the room, where she continued banging her head against the wall, except this time the banging was harder and louder.
All four of the women ran over to the patient. One wheeled the bed next to her. Another held her head to stop her from hitting the wall, and the other two prepared to strap her onto the bed. The patient kicked, spit, scratched, and yelled, but the four ladies finally succeeded. They managed to strap her to the bed and give her the shot, which calmed her in minutes.
All four women came out of the room, out of breath. Some had raw, red scratches across their arms.
“We had to restrain her or she would’ve killed herself,” the nurse explained to me as she disposed of her gloves.
I knew many of the patients here were battling some mental illness, and most were suicidal; however, I did not truly understand the extent of what these individuals were going through until after witnessing this event.
This was one of the many intense situations I experienced as I was interning at a mental health rehabilitation center in Wisconsin.
Over the course of two weeks, I saw and interacted with patients suffering from drug addiction, extreme paranoia, delusions, clinical depression, sex trafficking, suicidal attempts, and other debilitating mental health conditions.
I sat in on every patient’s evaluation with the psychiatrist. Each patient I interacted with had a different story to tell. One patient rolled up his sleeves to show the doctor the marks from his numerous morphine injections. One described how she had been domestically abused and ended up getting raped. One was too scared to step into the evaluation room, paranoid that someone was trying to kill him.
Not only did I get exposure within the mental health facility, but I also experienced the lives of individuals living with mental illnesses outside the facility. I travelled with social workers to different parts of the county to help these individuals find jobs, maintain finances, find group homes, and set goals. Sometimes our work was to provide emotional or daily living support- whether taking them out for breakfast, driving them to their appointments, or even taking them to the food pantry to get their week’s groceries. I attended probable cause hearings with behavioral case managers, observed social workers answer crisis calls, and even learned to make hospital beds.
As someone who strives to be a mental health advocate, this internship elevated and further shaped my passion for spreading awareness for mental health illnesses and ending the mental health stigma. Combining my experience and passion, I aspire to further enhance my knowledge of mental illnesses in hopes of developing better treatment and environments for these individuals.