Kevin Huang, BSc Pharm Student
Recall the last scary movie you watched. There’s a good chance it had a stereotypically “crazy” patient locked in the hospital, screaming that they were going to hurt you. I’ll be honest; I was worried prior to starting my training at a psychiatric facility. I wanted to learn more about mental health, but I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be safe while doing it. What if a patient went mad and threatened me? What would I do? All of the horror movies I watched over the Christmas break probably didn’t help. In retrospect, it might not have been the smartest idea. Nevertheless, I was determined to make a difference and continued with my plan.
Fortunately, this stigmatized depiction of mental health was far from the truth. Upon entering the psychiatric unit, I was greeted by a compassionate team of medical professionals ready to help. They ensured I would be safe under their care and would nurture my growth as a healthcare professional. For the first time, I didn’t feel anxious.
In the beginning, it was intimidating to talk to my patients. I didn’t know how they would respond to my care. After all, I was working in an acute psychiatric unit. If their conditions weren’t serious, they wouldn’t be showing up on the ward. We had it all — those with depression, schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and some self-harming patients. Sometimes, we even had people with multiple psychiatric diagnoses. It made me worry if I was even capable of helping my patients.
Speaking with my first patient changed the way I see things. These were people who want to change for the better. Many reminisced and wished to return to their old days. Many didn’t fully understand their conditions and were afraid of what could happen if they didn’t improve. They came to us hoping to find an answer. As medical practitioners, we’re in a unique position to help guide them to a better place. We must be confident in what we do. Otherwise, our patients will start losing hope themselves. Sometimes, it can be a rocky road. Not every treatment will work, and sometimes we’ll reach roadblocks, but we have to encourage our patients to keep trying. Only then will we start seeing them recover.
The psychiatric field can be a fascinating area of practice. At times, it may be a little frightening, but working with your patients can be one of the most rewarding experiences. For those who may have interest in this field, I implore you to try it out. These experiences can be life-changing. And the next time you watch a scary movie featuring a psychiatric patient, remember that it’s likely not an accurate portrayal.