Reflections from the past two weeks…

It’s been a good week for me. The second week of placement.

A good week in the sense that I’ve learnt and am learning lots, and I feel I’m growing too.

My placement is in mental health services and it’s really interesting. I’ve been placed across two parts of the service: community and long-term inpatient. (Those are layperson’s terms for the areas; they have more formal names.)

The work I’m doing is challenging and rewarding. We do what we can do to help the clients engage in treatment, under a model of “least-restrictive practice”, using practice models like the recovery model and others. I’m supporting seriously unwell people, advocating for them and above all, doing my best to keep them safe. They’re really vulnerable because they’re unwell. At higher risk of being a victim of violence and other trauma than they are of being a perpetrator.

It’s challenging; figuring out how to engage with and build rapport with clients, trying to prevent them from coming to harm, supporting their over-stretched families and support networks, as well as dealing with the bureaucracy of funding and resources.

Some days and moments are really hard. This role teaches you about boundaries and self-care, because you can only do good work if you’re taking care of yourself.

You have to become really good at reading someone’s mental state and analysing their risks, which is a skill that develops and is honed over time. But you can only do what you can, as best you can. After a certain point, it’s not up to us but to the clients. We’re working with real people, after all.

That’s what makes it so rewarding. Real people, real personalities. Real stories. It’s things like making the time to start a conversation, finding out what interests them, inviting them to activities you think they’ll enjoy. Taking pleasure in observing positive changes, even small ones, and creating space when people need to talk about things that matter. Advocating for them, while helping them (re)develop skills including the tools for self-advocacy. And more besides.

The next six weeks, like these past two, will be challenging and rewarding. I know I will keep learning and I hope I give something back, too.

In my current mood, this comic panel about life, by Awkward Yeti, speaks to me. Especially the last panel.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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