Mental Illness and Education

In a past life I was a foster parent to some pretty special kids. They needed care and routine, an established home and someone who could provide for them, a meal on the table every night, and a person to talk to when the decisions they were making might not have been positive or pro social.

That person was me.

These kids ranged in ages, were from all socio economic backgrounds, and had all types of personalities.

But they all deserved kindness, understanding, and love.

Often there were children who struggled with mental illness and we would work closely with them to get them to psych appointments, get established on a med routine, and see that they managed in their everyday life.

But as with any illness that didn’t always go as planned.

Sometimes we had to take drastic measures.

This would be when we call in the police to assist, for safety purposes, and transport the child to hospital.

My expectation was that the child be treated with respect, understanding, and patience during the transition. This was a confusing time not only because they were away from their family but because they were dealing with a mental illness which transforms a person, taking them into a place that can be uncomfortable, dark, and lonely.

I was often disappointed with the services the children received.

Zero compassion, threats of violence, acts of violence, name calling, handcuffs. All to transport a child to a place of safety?

Actual words?

“You are being arrested under the mental health act, but you know that being the nut bar that you are.”

Is this how we are dealing with our mentally ill?

No wonder so many suffer in silence.

1 in 5 Canadians suffer with a Mental Illness. Mental Illness does not discriminate by colour, race, gender, or age. And we are doing a disservice to our communities by not training our police services and hospitals to effectively assist those in need.

Reaching out to help only takes a second, a kind word, a hand, a sentence. It’s a simple as listening and understanding where to refer.

Training the appropriate people in this could save lives.

Mental Illness is not Contagious.

Education is the answer.


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8 Responses to Mental Illness and Education
  1. Mom
    March 18, 2015 | 9:41 pm

    My hat is off to you. Well said. Love you.

  2. Nic
    March 19, 2015 | 4:29 pm

    Oh how this makes me think back to those days….I understand so much how those children were treated. I was never ok or understood how they could be treated so poorly. Its so important to receive the proper training for all levels of contact these children had. It just pulls on my heart and makes me so sad that some professional people couldn’t have more empathy and understanding. Great post!

  3. Carrie Baughcum
    March 20, 2015 | 5:00 am

    Oh how long has it been since I have visited this space…too long! I had no idea that you had been a foster parent. What an incredible thing you did for those children. I can’t imagine how challenging and rewarding it was. I too have been disappointed with how others treat and the level of support for people with mental illness (with my mother) . I keep hoping it will change. I read words by amazing, stong woman like you and hope that together and with support from those like me the stigma can slowly change. XOXOXO

  4. Sandi
    March 22, 2015 | 5:19 pm

    I to have seen the horrendous treatment I’m sorry I’m going to actually put a label to the exact people “the police dept” they had no idea on how to deal with mental illness what so ever and the meanness and bullying and hurting on purpose is atrocis, but I will say the ambulance attendants are amazing the care and compassion these people give is over the top!
    The police dept have like a “ol boys club” mentality and it’s like the jocks out to bully anyone who’s not on a mainstream like them.
    I really wanted to go hold a seminar for them on mental health but I knew the odds of the officers attending or even listening was 0 to nil and once out of the room it would go no where, but as I get older and hear more stories the more the idea festers in my head….maybe someday

    • multitaskingmumma
      March 23, 2015 | 8:19 am

      thank you for this, Sandi. It’s so important that we reach out and talk about our experiences. Advocating for mental health is key and just by speaking about your experience you are making a difference.

    • Jordan
      March 26, 2015 | 2:06 pm

      I completely agree with this post. I agree with the “ol boys club” and “jock” reference. It’s sad that the ones who are supposed to serve and protect us and keep us safe, can make others feel unworthy. We are all human, we all deserve compassion and kindness. Mental illness is something that needs to be explained thoroughly to the officers, so they can learn that more than likely they are scared and unsure of what is happening to them. I fully support the movement to educate our police officers. Great post Leighann!!

      • multitaskingmumma
        March 30, 2015 | 1:51 pm

        yes! you are so right. We all deserve compasion and kindness. Empathy and understanding.
        There are some situations where that might not be the case but dealing with mental illness is not one of them.

  5. Kimberly
    March 25, 2015 | 9:50 am

    When I used to work at the Children’s hospital, kids who came in that were being seen for a mental illness related issue were coded a “1”. When patients are placed in a room, there are lights outside of the doors. Each code – 1, 2, 3, 4 etc – is assigned a light. Code “1” was a red light. So when the patient was placed in a room, their corresponding code light was turned on.

    Patients with a mental illness were thus referred to as a “Red light special”

    These kids and families had no idea that when the triage nurse escorted them to their room and chuckled while waving the chart and shouting “Red light special” that they were being made fun of. So fucking demeaning. I hated it. HATED. IT.

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