We Heal Together
As a mental health worker, I’ve heard of and seen dozens of emergency room experiences of all kinds.
As a parent, I had tried all sorts of resources, emerg wasn’t the first stop but our last resort when it seemed the thread keeping our daughter, Daisy, tied to the world had worn so thin it could break at any moment.
I already felt immense responsibility that I couldn’t help my own child, so when we were not allowed to travel together to the hospital and separated for hours by security and locked doors I understood I was being blamed, albeit subconsciously. When finally, after 14 hours that most recent time, I received some kindness but not what I had yearned and waited for, practical help and guidance. I was told to take my beloved girl home. Go home, and wait for six more months to see the psychiatrist we’d been referred to three months before. My Daisy who was covered in cuts, dozens of bleeding open mouths begging for help, my baby, who was in so much pain she didn’t know how to face her own life any more.
I stopped being a mother and I became a jailor. Room searches, making her shower with the door open, carrying every pain reliever and vitamin pill in my purse. Barely sleeping, on high alert for every sound and every silence. Still Daisy found ways to harm herself. Her closed bedroom door was the worst, every time imagining what I might find when I opened it.
It’s my belief that healthcare professionals genuinely care and want to help. I see two challenges; one is stigma.
When you see people who have been hurt in a terrible accident, it’s hard to understand why someone might cause injury to themselves. That, and the fact that you only see people with mental illness at their worst, desperate, hopeless, psychotic, makes it hard to stay optimistic.
The other challenge is that of resources.
I’m an advocate for health promotion, for recognition and early intervention. You can’t always prevent mental illness but you can build resilience, coping strategies and a variety of opportunities that can reduce crisis and improve recovery.
In the worst situations, where crisis is already happening, please remember this could be your child, and that this terrified family needs you to bring the calm, the compassion, and most of all hope because right now they have absolutely nothing left.
How’s my girl? She’s amazing.
Daisy lives with her challenges boldly, and is a lived-experience speaker who helps other young people believe in recovery. It’s been a long process, four years, where some days the biggest achievement was clean pajamas.
This has been a team success, with her psychiatrist, the family doctor, friends and family working together with her. We helped her believe she can take the steps and held the strength for her when she can’t find it for herself. Sometimes it felt like we were getting nowhere, but none of us were giving up and Daisy least of all.
By degrees, over days, weeks and months, she worked on living. She opened up for the first time about the sexual assault that triggered the suicide attempt, she let us hold and love her as the truth poured out. Daisy took on the challenges the psychiatrist set, one at a time, and started to recognize that his care for her and pride in her progress was genuine, a huge step forward in trust for her. The self-injury slowed, then stopped, with only one relapse now in over a year. If she’s having a bad day, we talk about it and plan our strategy – it might be a dog walk, tea and trashy TV, or a review of the techniques that she has learned will work.
When I look at Daisy now, I see stars where there was darkness. We heal, together.
And, as we mark World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, a day where the world works towards ending stigma associated with mental health issues, we also recognize more can be. Alberta Health Services has created two surveys for youth and their families to help AHS map out a patient’s journey in helping improve care. Help make a difference and share your experience by filling out the survey.