Have you ever heard of the terms “burnout,” “compassion fatigue,” or “secondary traumatic stress?” If not, you’ll soon find out what these terms mean in this article. Each week we discuss issues specific to parents, families, caregivers, and individuals who are living with or helping someone with a mental health condition. But this week, we’ll talk a bit about the mental health professional and the challenges many helpers face. This is important for you to know because burnout, compassion fatigue, or secondary traumatic stress can interfere with the level of care you or your loved one receives.
As a mental health professional I often find myself confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed by the mental health needs of our youth today. Even with a few years of education and career experience under my belt, I still feel lost for words when a parent describes the grueling process of seeking services for her child. I find myself inwardly say a prayer in hopes that she will find her way. If I have the opportunity to be close enough to reach that person, I will. I almost “flood” a parent with resources and direction. My ultimate goal has been to offer the direction I see so many families without. I have been close enough to families to see the frustration and pain inherent in not knowing where to turn, feeling alone, and maybe even cursed.
What comes to mind when you think of the words “safety plan” or “behavioral contract?” The word “contract” can sound a bit intimidating and “safety plan” could almost sound immature. But both are essential and basically mean the same thing. Either way, they are useful for individuals battling severe, untreated, or resistant (unable to be easily treated) mental health conditions. But they are most useful for children and adolescents.
Would you know what to expect during your first psychiatric evaluation? If you were accompanying a loved one, would you know what to do or say? Would you be able to offer the detailed information needed to help mental health professionals determine treatment needs? Most people would not. So lets discuss what a mental health evaluation is, what to expect, and what to bring.
When someone treats you with disdain and uses every verbal attack they can think to use on you, do you walk away thinking “this person hates me, they think I am completely worthless?” If you have never thought this way, would you? What about if your boss walked by you without smiling or greeting you after you just applied to another job? Would you think “he completely hates me?” If so, have you considered that perhaps you were engaging in a Cognitive Distortion?
What do you know about the topic of self-forgiveness? Does the word seem idealistic and not realistic to you? Have you exercised forgiveness in your life before? The term “forgiveness” brings a host of feelings to the surface for many people.
How did you feel when your loved one was diagnosed with a severe mental illness such as borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder I, or schizophrenia? Did your entire worldview change? Were you depressed or anxious? If so, you are certainly not alone. I receive multiple emails and phone calls from parents, family members, or caregivers of individuals suffering from a severe or untreated mental illness. These contacts are not easy for me to hear, they are disturbing. But for that parent, family member, or caregiver, the situation has surpassed disturbance and become trauma.
I recently had a conversation with a representative of Bupa, a United Kingdom, Edinburgh based healthcare service. Our discussion was about caregivers and the challenges they face. They offered to write an article for Caregivers, Family, & Friends, and I said “yes.” Bupa offers us tips below on how to care for ourselves as caretakers of individuals who are ill.
“Bupa is an international healthcare group, we serve over 14-million customers in more than 190 countries. We offer personal and company-financed health insurance and medical subscription products, run hospitals, provide workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and chronic disease management services. We are also an international provider of nursing and residential care for elderly people.”
When have you fallen apart in your life? Was it when the family couldn’t get along? Was it when your divorce happened? Was it a mental health diagnosis? Was it job loss? Whatever the case, falling apart requires that we learn how to pick up the pieces of our soul and move forward. We may never move forward in total healing, but the right tools can push us in a better direction.