A snap shop of a day in the life of a community mental health support worker

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In a previous career I worked in the Community providing support to people living with Mental illness.

My day would start at 7.30am in the office checking emails and getting organised for my visits for the day.

First up, it’s my turn to complete medication compliance in the community starting from 8am. The people I am about to visit are currently under the community mental health team or have recently been discharged from the psychiatric ward. These people need a helping hand or guidance in making sure they take their medications on time to keep them well.

I travel around the district to visit 5 people this morning, before my other case load. Usually they are waiting by the door for me to arrive with a drink of water in hand and also the blister pack of medication. I always start with a cheery greeting and chinwag, sometimes I am the only person they see during the day.

I quickly check off the medications they are required to have, watch them take them and then off to the next person. All is going well until I get to my last person. I can tell when she opens the door that something is not right. She seems to very disheveled, quiet and not her normal self. When I step inside I can see the furniture has been tipped over or broken, there are cigarette butts on the floor, the TV and radio are on very loud. I ask how she has been (avoiding the mess around me). This has happened before and the best thing is to be calm, respectful and compassionate. I soon work out this person has been hearing voices again and they will not let her rest and she has not had any sleep(hence the radio and T.V. being turned up). The voices she has been hearing have asked her to destroy everything. She has not been sleeping much at all.

I know this lady very well and she needs some time to speak with someone. I offer to boil the jug, so we can have a sit down have a cup of tea and a chat to see what we can do. On entering the kitchen, I can see that the fridge has been pushed over.

After having a long talk with her, we agree to tidy up as best we can in the lounge area and take the food out of the fridge and switch it off. We discussed that we are going to need a bit of help getting the fridge back up right and I offer to call her community mental health nurse to see if she can help. The nurse is fabulous and realises straight away what is happening and offers to come round. We do a bit more tidying up and chat, not once judging or asking a million of questions. The place looks so much better (except for the poor fridge). I leave this lady in good hands once her community health nurse arrives. I found out later she has been admitted into the ward to recover, rest and also undergo a medication review.

I dash back to office, write up my client notes, and jump back in the car to get to my own case load/appointments. My day is looking very packed, I am supporting someone at a work and income appointment, grocery shopping with someone who does not like crowds, home support with a someone who needs a bit of motivation ( medication makes them very fatigued), making omelets with someone who needs support with eating healthy on a benefit and last but not least a quick Multi-disciplinary meeting (MDT) at the Hutt Hospital for a new person I will be supporting in the community, once they have been discharged. This meeting is about establishing the care plan, who is going to provide what support and what are the de-escalation strategies if this person begins to present as unwell. The meeting goes later than expected.. its 5.30pm and I am on medication compliance again tonight.

I enjoyed my time working as a support worker, every day was different. I never saw myself as being “ the sage on the stage” but more so “the guide on the side”, to provide support, dignity and empathy.