What Everyone Should Know About Being A Mental Health Worker

Julia Lillard
Julia Lillard

When you work in a psychiatric hospital, there is no “bring-your-child-to work-day.”

There is no “wine and cheese night” or “happy hour,” as any kind of alcohol is prohibited on hospital grounds.

Your friend can’t swing by the office with a surprise coffee, as it would violate patient confidentiality.

In fact, many of your work specifics can’t even be talked about out of the same principle (no silly work SnapChats.) You’ll find that people will ask about your job, but they won’t really want to know what it is you actually do. They’ll exchange glances and pat you on the back with the old, “That must be really tough; I don’t know how anyone can do what you do.”

You’ll encounter two kinds of people: those who assume that your workplace looks something like the asylum in American Horror Story, and those who will look at you, stony-faced and say, “Oh. We had to put my aunt in a place like that,” before awkwardly changing the topic.

Your friends will complain about working a half-shift on Thanksgiving, and you’ll laugh at them as you explain how you were mandated to work a double on Christmas. Happy Holidays.

You’ll also find yourself becoming increasingly irritated when you hear people say that they wish a friend could just “get over” his mental illness, or that they wish their clinically depressed sister could just “look on the bright side again…after all, it’s all in her head.” And people will certainly think you’re a bit strange for choosing the career you did.

But what they don’t know, is that you don’t need that cocktail bonding hour with your co-workers, since you already spent half the shift laughing about all the weird and ridiculous shit that went down that day. Others will complain about their listless 9-5 jobs, while you struggle to remember what boredom feels like. You may not be at home fighting with your family over turkey at Thanksgiving, but you’ll be helping a patient’s holiday be a little brighter. Most importantly, you’ll be learning more about yourself and others than you ever thought possible, and each patient will teach you something new. No work could be more valuable than that. TC mark

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