Sunday, 9 March 2014

So Here It Is by Susan L.

  I've had my rant. Now here's the truth of the matter. A large percentage of people who are admitted to a psychiatric facility, often because they are suicidal, end up committing suicide within two weeks of discharge. Yes, we have the hospitals. Yes, we have good, basic health care that is free but the system is on overload. There aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough medical and clinical supports to help those making the transition from institution to home life. On the other hand, sometimes the medical system does more harm than good. I've had my share of that end of the stick.
  I do recognise the value of the medical profession. I've come to realise that doctors alone don't have the ability to help us recover but do provide one aspect of wellness: medications, should we chose to use them. Perversely, a terrible side effect of meds is suicidal ideation. I've ridden that pony twice. Both times landed me in hospital, voluntarily. I had to fight not to be "Formed". I wanted the help!
  Following my release, I relied on an established relationship with a therapist who saw me a couple times a week. Still, there were a hundred and sixty six hours left over when I was on my own. Knowing I needed more, I began calling numbers: a sexual assault counselling service which sadly ended up with the counsellor only wanting to man bash, not a healthy or healing environment. Mary McGill signed me up for a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy group that was weeks away. I tried group therapy with the York Region Abuse Program, an hour's drive away. It didn't go well. But I tried.
  My pastor at the time was ill equipped to deal with mental health issues in his flock. That is sadly part of the reason I stopped going to that church over and above the noise and anxiety large Sunday services generated. I have recently offered to speak at the ladies group about mental health but that door hasn't opened yet. They do host various speakers from all over, just not a "crazy" one. It's in Your hands, Lord. Am I angry? Perhaps. I pray for Christians who struggle in silence, not knowing where to turn, not knowing where they will be accepted for who they are.           
  Thankfully, the peer based Krasman Centre is where I ended up, not that I knew what peer support was back then. They gave me a reason to get up and out of the house every morning. That's all that was needed, a reason to keep going while my body adjusted to medication changes and I went through a rapid withdrawal from others. I've ended up finding a home away from home, good and caring friends, and now a job I am most passionate about. Thank You, Lord, You have blessed with so much.
  The gap between discharge and finding resources that suit each individual in a community is where peer support work can really shine. A study done in the United States connecting discharged patients with ongoing peer support meant a higher chance of survival. Peers care and recognise that hospitalisation is extremely traumatising. We recognise that it takes time for meds to work or for our systems to be cleaned of any residue. Nobody knows or understands better than someone who has walked the mile.
  This connection is even more necessary in a rural community than in the city with lots of  resources a bus ride away. Yes, a preliminary study is being done in Toronto with a newly formed network of paid peer support working within the mental health community although it relies heavily on volunteers. The States have already verified its success so I don't understand why their study needs to be repeated. It's a financially viable system that ends up saving thousands of dollars in health care. Even when the peer supporters are paid well there's plenty of savings left over. I just wish they would hurry it up a bit so it spreads north where it is so desperately needed.
 More importantly, peer supporter saves lives. How do we put a price on that?
  "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." Mat 7:7

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