Last Sunday, I asked a nurse if I could speak with her. She said I could, but not then. A while later, she went on a walk with some other clients and I went along. Then was coffee break and I, some other clients and the nurse were chatting. All evening, the nurse was busy with other duties, so even though I periodically asked whether she had time for a talk, she never did. Then at 9:00 PM, I burst out into anger over her not being clear whether or when she could talk to me. This was when she said that we’d gone on a walk and had coffee together. “You got enough attention.”
Now let’s get the facts straight. There were other clients being attended to too whilst we were going for a walk and having coffee. Not a problem with me, but I can’t see how I was supposed to talk over my relatively private issue with the nurse at that point. I know that in legal terms, care is defined in minutes of attention, not needs being met. Then again, suppose I didn’t go for the walk or attend coffee break. Then the nurse would still have taken the other clients on a walk and had cofee with them. Would she have been any less busy then, had any more time to have a talk with me? Most likely not. Would I have been any more entitled to time with her to talk over my issue? I don’t think so, but her commetn about me having gotten enough attention, suggests I would.</P
Now let me get this real clear: I wasn’t freaking asking for attention per se, I was asking for a talk about a specific subject. If all I needed in my mental health care was enough attention, why would we hire expensive nurses, social workers and psychologists for it? Couldn’t a high school student meet the same needs? The thing is, in reality sometimes all people need is attention, and this is all understandable given that most mental health inpatients are rather isolated. That’s why I advocate volunteers or inexpensive workers being hired by mental health agencies to provide activities or a simple chat about the weather with the patients. That walk and coffee break didn’t require nursing supervision. Then again, that talk I wanted to have surely did.
I didn’t touch here on the connotations of the attention-seeking presumption, which are that mental health patients, and especially those with a certain diagnosis, like BPD, have an excessive craving for attention. Well, I for one don’t. I probably spend less time interacting with people than most currently mentally healhty individuals. I may sometimes draw attention to me in a negative way, but that still doesnt’mean I do it for attention. Let me just say I hate that attention paradigm that keeps floating around in mentnal health and especially personality disorder care.