Hello and WELCOME to PsychAssist. This week’s article comes from Kiera Frost who as of last August, was a support worker within a private hospital. She followed the same route as most hopeful psychology graduates; however, faced many extreme challenges during her time as a support worker. This is a perfect example of how working within a service with very little support can have an effect on your mental health. This is part of Kiera’s story of What It’s Like Being A Support Worker With Little Support.
Just Graduated? Check out: 6 Jobs for A Psychology Graduate straight out of university?
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Are You Struggling As A Support Worker/HCA? Check out: Why You Should Never Sacrifice Your Mental Health For Mental Health Services
Missed The Last PsychAssist Article? Check out: Why The Clinical Doctorate Isn’t For Me….Serkan’s Story
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My good friend recently made me aware of the article written by a brave individual who opened up about their struggles with mental health and how working in mental health services contributed to their poor mental well-being. As the experience was so similar to my own, it made me question how many people sacrifice their mental well-being for mental health services.
“I found a service user in the bathroom with a ligature tightly around their neck, struggling for breath”
Kiera Frost (2018)
Like the other article, my mental health career started soon after I graduated from University with a Psychology degree. I managed to get a job as a Mental Health Support Worker in a psychiatric hospital owned by a private company.
My first day on the ward was a real eye-opener. I found a service user in the bathroom with a ligature tightly around their neck, struggling for breath. I did what I was taught and pulled my alarm whilst trying to verbally de-escalate the service user. Those ear-piercing alarms became so familiar, a daily occurrence across the hospital.
“Most shifts were usually spent between the psychiatric hospital and A&E”
Kiera Frost (2018)
As months passed, self-harm incidents followed; head banging, inserting foreign objects into their bodies, cutting, ligating and restricting their diet. It was hectic and exhausting. Most shifts were usually spent between the psychiatric hospital and Accident and Emergency at the general hospital, due to serious incidents such as overdoses.
No one ever really speaks about restraints. Imagine using all your strength and adrenaline to physically hold and control a distressed service user, it’s horrible for everyone involved. The first time I was able to respond to an alarm I was assaulted by a service user in the midst of a psychotic episode. They grabbed me from behind and put me in a headlock whilst kicking my shins trying to get me to the floor. Although it didn’t leave any physical injuries, my anxiety began to spike.
“Then came that dreaded day. The incident that let to me developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”
Kiera Frost (2018)
More months passed, my stress levels were sky high and my mental well-being was suffering massively. I was working 12-hour shifts, some without breaks due to lack of staffing, and I was mentally and physically exhausted. I began taking the work home with me, I couldn’t leave the stress at work and this led to my sleep suffering.
Then came that dreaded day. The incident that let to me developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I cannot go into too much detail about this specific event as it would be too graphic however, I will say that it was an extremely violent and traumatic attempt at suicide. There was lots of blood. Thankfully, I managed to save that service users life with the help of the team around me. The screams will be something I remember forever.
A lot more happened after this, more incidents of self-harm, a service user passing away, an extended period off work due to stress, yet I kept going back. I knew deep down that the work was destroying me but I felt like it was my duty, I did not want to fail. This mindset along with my stubbornness only prolonged my suffering. It was August 2018, a year after I started, when I finally decided enough was enough. I decided to leave to focus on my wellbeing.
Working in that environment cost me my own mental health, I ended up being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD. I still live with things that happened there and I’m still dealing with the effects of working in mental health services.
This article was not intended to deter you from working in mental health but shares an honest account of what it involves. Please do not suffer, your health and happiness is way more important than any job. If you are struggling speak up and seek support.
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