Psychiatric support

35d50b24d8494e3988ad5bd901c2bfb5This picture may seem funny at first but for someone who suffers from paranoid personality disorder, schizophrenia or other disorders where paranoia is a symptom, this is their reality…24/7!  As service providers working with folks who suffer with paranoia, it is exhausting.  We can’t get them to see how irrational their thinking is.  Or sometimes they admit that their thinking isn’t logical, but they still cling to their beliefs about certain people, situations or events.  It is exhausting for us working with them but imagine what it is like for them.

I have one particular client in mind.  A think about him a lot.  Let’s call him “Fred”.  Fred has been with us for many years now.  He suffers from an undiagnosed mental health disorder with the main symptom being paranoia.  He has many conspiracy theories involving friends, staff, medical personnel, the “guy on the bus”, etc.  He can take something innocuous that was said during a conversation and ruminate on it for days, twisting it around until it validates his theory or belief.  Fred has left me countless voice mails that ramble on for 10 – 15 minutes, usually 5 or 6 in a row, about something that happened 2 years ago and his perception of the situation.  It’s not his fault.  He is ill.  But he does not have a diagnosis.

We have tried numerous times over the years to get him in for a psychiatric assessment.  Currently in Calgary there is only one entry point for this service; Access Mental Health.  The wait list to get a diagnosis is 6-8 months and then another 4-6 months to be assigned a psychiatrists for community follow up.  Due to Fred’s paranoia, it takes quite a while to get him to agree to get his name on the wait list.  But as the month’s go by, he will convince himself that, for one reason or another, he should take his name off the list.  And more time goes by without Fred having the appropriate psychiatric support that he needs and deserves.

Hopefully, this will change for Fred and many of our other clients that have various mental health disorders.  Out of 85 clients, 80 have a mental illness and only 12 of them have a psychiatrist.  We have provided them with an apartment to call their own and case management support but we need to do more.  Will 2015 be the year we are able to provide psychiatric support?  When I think of Fred and the other folks we serve, I sure hope so.

Courage to change

With the new year upon us, I began to think about all those that make resolutions to change their behaviour.  Resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, get a new job, start school; all with the full intentions of making these changes in their lives.  Why do they make a resolution at the stroke of midnight?  Is it to strengthen their resolve?  Do these changes happen?  Although they mean it in the moment, chances are that the resolution is soon forgotten and the change falls by the wayside.  Changing anything is difficult and most people resist it.  Change takes courage.

Think about the changes you have gone through in your own life.  Perhaps you were offered a new position at a different company. Or maybe you quit smoking.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t easy and there was some level of fear involved.  You thought about it for a while and maybe even changed your mind once or twice before making the change.  But it didn’t happen over night and you probably had support from friends or family.  What if you had no support?  What if you were homeless with an addiction?  What if you also had a mental illness?  How much courage would it take for you to not only change one thing, but everything in your life?  Welcome to the early days of a Keys to Recovery client.

There are so many changes in such a short time that causes immense fear, but they walk through it.  Some stumble at first.  After all, these behaviours have been engraved into their being as a way to survive the turmoil and trauma they have faced.  For those that do stumble, Keys to Recovery is right there to help them up so that they can continue on their new journey.  They do not lose their home.  They are not judged.  They are supported in whatever way they need to be in order to replace those engraved behaviours with new, healthy ones.  This change takes time and we are beside them every step of the way.  We are so proud of them, but the thing we are most in awe of is their courage.