Listen and learn

Recently, a friend posted something on Facebook challenging  the very existence of mental illness. Her theory is that if we allow everyone to express themselves in the right way they will fulfil their potential and find their niche in life. To me with my background of having worked in the field of mental health for over twenty-five years this is a gross exaggeration and simplification, yet it contains an element of Truth.

I have written some time ago about an adolescent girl I worked with though not as a key worker in an in-patient adolescent mental health unit.  She suffered from depression and also self harmed.

She began to hear voices at the age of about eight or nine and initially these were dismissed as being just an imaginary friend. However Erin (name changed) soon learned through social pressure to keep quiet about these voices. (They did not cause her distress as unlike many of those experienced in schizophrenia they were not persecutory but friendly in nature.) It is a sad indictment of our society that Erin did not have anyone that she felt safe to talk to about these voices.

Around the age of fifteen they became more controlling in nature and this led to treatment initially by outpatient services and later the in-patient unit where I worked at the time. While I was never Erin’s key worker, in my post, I did work with all the young people on the unit and one day I asked her what it was like growing up with this secret she was unable to share and I also asked about how distracting it was when doing school work etc.

Erin was able to talk about this with me and I think gained from being able to do so. What really surprised me was that no one had ever asked her these questions in the past.

I truly believe that had she been able to talk openly about her experiences from the time when they started, she would have had far fewer problems and might never have come to the notice of mental health services.

I will as an aromatherapist sometimes ask a question that seems to come out of left field when to my (admittedly sometimes weird mind) something doesn’t add up. On a number of occasions that has elicited information that has had a major effect on my choice of essential oils with a client and also enabled me to understand them more fully.¬† Crucial to this in my mind is that I don’t judge what I hear but I need to remain positive towards them whatever I hear.

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