When working in mental health you begin to find an area, diagnosis or type of people you like to work with. Not that I don’t like other areas of mental health but you get a soft spot and a real connection.
One of those areas that I really found rewarding to work with and had a real desire to help were young males. As I started in Adult it was 18-25 year old’s but as I moved into the child and adolescent team I then worked with the 15-18 year old males. For some reason when I first started out I ended up with a caseload of young males, in particular those experiencing first episode psychosis. Although a few I worked with were older and had progressed onto a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
This population of clients were not the easiest to engage with. In actual fact they avoided treatment and were regular “no shows” for their appointments. Cheeky they were, as you would then see them walking down the street on your lunch break, interestingly they would cross to the other side of the road. mmmm wonder why =)
Although when they did arrive for their session or they did speak, as this depended on the time of day and their mood, they were very chatty they were happy enough to talk about the weather, the latest band they were enjoying or what they had planned for the weekend. Finally toward the end of the session we would be able to work on some areas that related to their mental illness and how we could make some shifts and changes.
I think this is what was endearing, you really had to develop rapport with them and truly understand who they were. In a lot of therapy people will come and want to “work on their issues” but that’s the problem. They encapsulate their problem outside of themselves. “Fix the problem” they would indicate, attempting to avoid any depth in understanding their problem and connection with the rest of their life and personality. I am not saying this is exclusive to males.
These males were so insightful, so pure, so connected. Honestly at times I thought these guys were too sensitive and so took substances to numb their perception and dull their awareness. Unfortunately I never had this confirmed as it was difficult to get a pre-morbid recollection from them and rarely did they want their parents involved even though it was hospital policy. My take: I’d rather keep them engaged with me and treatment and sacrifice further information gathering.
What did I learn from working with these beautiful blokes:
* Provide consistency, availability, regular sessions even if its only for 15 minutes, humour and boundaries. They like to know you are going to be there for every session you say you will, that they know what help you can and cannot provide, that you are willing to have a joke and laugh with them and that you will listen to them talk about the latest metal band, wave they caught or footy scores (I was good at the last bit)
* That most of the time they got into the drugs/illicit substances out of boredom, a lot of peer group pressure and availability of substances.
What can we do to help young males not fall into this trap:
* Listen when they want to speak
* Ensure they know you will always be available to talk and that they are never alone and they will not get into trouble from you. You wont always agree with what they are doing but honesty and assisting them get help is much better than ignoring the truth and hoping the problem of drug use will go away or even symptoms they may be beginning to experience.
* Ensure they have interests they are passionate about and that keep them busy.
* Encourage positive friendships
* Highlight good role models and reinforce those great models that they themselves choose.
* Reinforce positive behaviour. No one is ever too old to receive praise
* Act when you notice changes or shifts in behaviour
Behaviours that may indicate problems or symptoms of mental illness:
Please use as a guide only. This does not replace a diagnosis from your mental health practitioner. Please follow up with your GP or local mental health service if you are concerned about any of the following. I can not stress this enough.
– Significant changes in sleep patterns
– Appetite changes
– Routine changes with no apparent reason
– Secrecy and avoidance
– Anger outbursts which are out of the ordinary or extreme
Possible signs of psychosis:
– having certain ideas that you know are not true but yet they cannot be swayed
– hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting when sensation is not physically present
– speech is unclear, doesn’t make sense, is repetitive, often off topic and difficult to keep to conversation
– other symptoms that often coincide with those above are flattened mood and limited facial expression, really disorganised, decrease in self care, reduction in social interaction.
I have highlighted these to you as I feel this population is very vulnerable. As many in the community have realised with males it’s about finding the right forum and way to approach discussion and intervention as many are very restricted by common stereotypes unfortunately.
Organisations making a difference with men’s mental health specifically
STFU – http://softenthefckup.com.au/
Mens Shed – http://www.mensshed.org/page7859/Home.aspx
Men’s Line – http://www.mensline.org.au/home.aspx
I think of “my boys” often and wonder how they are doing. Hoping and praying that they have moved on with their lives. In reality I know that some I was seeing for their first episode of psychosis were only just at the beginning of their journey in the mental health system unfortunately.
Others I have hope. I will always have hope. That is why I do my job. We can’t stop believing.
Reach out to the males in your life today, this week and most importantly always.
Information on this website is to be used as a guide only and does not take the place of appropriate clinical care. Please Go To Tab – Mental Health: Where to find help
Its WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY today. Link up any blog post you have that relates to mental health or wellbeing. Lets break down this stigma and get people talking.
~Be The Change~