We hear the word “stress” so often these days that many of us may not be fully aware of what it is all about. The Men’s Health Clinic at the Randall Phillips Polyclinic recently took the time to address the issue with members, as the Psychiatric Hospital staged a series of discussions commemorating Mental Health Month.
Stress is defined as “an abnormality in the nervous system”. All stresses occur from perceptual experiences; that is, how the different situations in our lives affect us from a psychological perspective. People may be going through the same situation but because each of them perceives things differently, they will all respond in their own unique way.
Resident psychiatric nurse at the clinic, Grantley Hunte, explained, “In life, you will always have stressful situations. They take many different forms and can either be positive or negative. For example, significant life events such as getting married, changing a job, having a child or grandchild, buying a car, buying a house, a serious illness or a death in the family can all bring about stress in some way.”
He continued, “Now all of us have coping mechanisms which enable us to deal with these issues. But if it gets too hard to handle, it’s always important to speak to somebody trained in these matters, because you don’t want to end up becoming ill to the point of hospitalization. For example, let’s say your mother passed away and you are worried about one of your siblings who is having a hard time adjusting. You can come in and share your concerns with us.”
One of the audience members asked how can you help someone who you know is in trouble but refuses to listen to advice. The nurse advised him, “Try not to use tricks. Sometimes just your physical presence in the time of need means a lot. If they are willing to share their thoughts with you, you can just listen to them without saying anything.”
Deputy Director of the Psychiatric Hospital, David Leacock, noted that there were only 16 community health nurses and three consultants dealing with psychiatric matters in the polyclinic network. “With those small numbers, we see over 1,000 people a month in our facilities and as outpatients,” he said.
Mr. Leacock added: “Our community health programme empowers the general public to determine what to look for if your neighbour or relative is having a problem and what you can do to help them. If you can prevent it, it saves the institution from having to spend $100 a day to manage one patient who comes to us with mental health issues. We have also launched a Mental Health in the Workplace campaign which will assist employees in managing any problems they are facing in their work environment.”
When asked about doctor-patient confidentiality, Mr. Leacock assured the audience policies and protocols that deal with confidentiality were in place. “If the patient threatens your life, we will have to inform the police,” he explained. “If I need some assistance from a colleague in dealing with a particular case, I can talk about the situation but not disclose the patient’s name”.
In terms of administering medication for conditions such as schizophrenia, Mr. Leacock said: “You speak to the doctor, go through your family history and describe what you are dealing with. The doctor will them come up with a diagnosis and determine how to treat it. Now, there are at least five types of schizophrenia and many different types of medication for that condition, so when we assess the patients, we must be careful in determining which medications will best suit them, because these drugs are very expensive, sometimes costing as much as $400 a month.”
One of the main recommendations coming from the discussion was: “Find a way to balance the different aspects of your life. Some of us focus too heavily on work and our family life suffers as a result. It has also been found that those with a spiritual connection to a higher being react differently to stressful situations, so we must pay attention to that aspect of our lives as well. At the end of the day, stress comes about when something happens you aren’t accustomed to, or you try to handle it similarly to how you handled another such situation and it doesn’t work. Consider it an individual learning experience and recognize that what stresses you today may not cause the same reaction tomorrow.”