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Centerpointe Research

Psychiatric hospital

Dangerous Situations

English: Former recovery sanitorium for Psychi...

English: Former recovery sanitorium for Psychiatric hospital Wolfheze (today a cafeteria for personnel); protected building (gemeentelijke monument Renkum) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you ever wonder if it ever got dangerous in tense therapy situations or diagnostic interviews?  The answer is, “Yes.”  You are never as safe as you think you might be.  I had just about finished a two hour interview with a man and he told me that he had thought about bringing a gun to the interview and had gotten talked out of it.  That was after he told me that he had once stalked a guy with a gun and the only reason he hadn’t shot him was that he never came out of the building that he was watching before he got discouraged and left.  That was my closest call and it wasn’t at one of the prisons where I had worked and was often alone with prisoners.  (Please note that they now do the counseling there with video counseling and counselors are not actually in the same room with offenders).

Earlier in my career, I was in a dicey situation and I actually got hurt (not seriously) in one of them when I least expected it.  I was working temporarily at a large mental institution where I was often left in charge of a large number of people.  This happened at lunch time when I was alone in the cafeteria with three different wards.  Only one of them was mine and at least one of them was an open ward.  Technically I was not alone, but the cafeteria workers had nothing to do with watching the residents.  A lady (whom I later found out was from an open ward) was creating a disturbance and smearing condiments all over herself and the furniture.  I decided to take the calm approach and went over to her and touched her on the arm (which I later learned was a “no-no” with a patient you didn’t know) and she slapped me hard in the face.  Did I say that I was surprised?  Fortunately a nursing staff member came in who knew the patient came in the cafeteria and talked to her and walked away with her.  Did anybody pay attention to me to see if I was injured, of course not?  That was fortunately the only time that I have ever been hurt.

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I Worked in a Snake Pit!

English: Austin State Hospital entrance Españo...
Rebuilt 1773 Public Hospital for Persons of In...

Mental asylums have been around for a long time.   Now we call them mental hospitals, addiction treatment centers, stress management centers etc.  I experienced the real thing when I was in college and worked as a psychiatric aide one summer at the local state mental hospital.  We were hired to cover for the regular psychiatric aides when they were on vacation.  We were not allowed to work alone so every ward I worked on required that there be two aides instead of just one.  These were the locked wards with problem inmates.  Some were combative; others were escapees, and there were ones that had committed murders.  To justify having two aides, the problems of the inmates (now called patients) had to be severe. Of course at that time, there were none of the modern psychotropic medications.  I received no training and because I was covering for aides who were taking their vacations, I  might not work on the same ward from one day to the next and I also worked swing shifts, the day and evening shifts, but not the night shift.  The state hospital was set up like a small town and I had to check the roster each week at the main building so I knew ahead of time where in the complex I had to report each day so I would not waste time and wind up late for work.   Some of The buildings looked like they had been there since the civil war in the previous century.  They were sometimes as much as three stories tall and of course had no air conditioning.  I was required to wear a  white uniform dress, white stockings, and white nurses shoes.  I remember my main duty was to be sure that we had all the inmates we were supposed to have and I quickly learned to match the name on the roster with each face on the ward that I was working on each day.  There were a large number of patients to keep track of and it was important that I quickly learn what idiosyncrasies each one had because if I didn’t I might get hurt and that did happen to me that summer. Fortunately I only got slapped hard by a patient with a grounds pass whom I didn’t know while I had lunch room duty by myself with a couple of wards besides my own. The only thing that I had that they didn’t have were the keys to the doors.  Conditions were so crowded that cots would be put up in the halls and the day rooms each night for the patients not accommodated in the bedrooms.  Since there were only two aides and lots of patients, a lot of the work was done by “trusty” patients.  For example, there was the clothing lady.  Also inmates helped other inmates bathe, get dressed, and clean up after toileting accidents.

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