When I Watched Nurses in the ER Call People Like Me ‘Crazy’

My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. I dreamed of having perfect health, breezing through college, landing my dream job and soon marrying the man of my dreams. But at 15, I was diagnosed with depression and spent high school struggling to find my place. I went to college and the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, anger and sadness flooded me once again. I found myself crying in my room and isolating myself from my roommates. I stopped going to class. I ended up quitting the college I was going to and soon moved home. I felt like I had failed, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or which direction to turn.

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When I started working in a hospital emergency department as a registrar, things got a little better. I loved the atmosphere and my coworkers, and I even started thinking about becoming a nurse. I figured I would see a lot of trauma, but I also saw a lot of emotionally hurt people in dire need of help.

During almost every shift, someone would come up to the desk and check in because they were depressed and afraid they were going to hurt themselves.

The nursing staff I worked with would roll their eyes, instruct them to wait for a room and then go finish what they were doing. I always felt bad for the patient, knowing deep down how they may have felt inside. When a room would open up, the nurse would take the patient. But upon returning to the nurses station would make comments such as, “Will you get the psych patient a glass of water?” or “Oh, they’re so crazy!”

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Labels such as “crazy” and “psycho” would get thrown around all of the time. Each time I heard these words it was like a knife in my chest. I would begin to get beaten down in my own head and think, “Am I crazy too? What would they think if they knew I went through these issues?” Even referring to our patients as “the psych patient” or “the suicidal patient” got to me. Should we be labeling human beings like this?

From that moment forward, I knew I had to be the advocate for mental illness. I had to stand up and fix this stigma. I decided to start with my Facebook, posting a picture of my semicolon tattoo and explaining why I got it. I revealed my experiences with depression and passive suicidal thoughts. I laid everything out on the table, and soon my message box filled with support. People congratulated me for making such a big step and even told me about their struggles with mental illness.

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I’m now in nursing school and plan to keep advocating for mental illness. I strive to end the stigma and want to change how my fellow nursing students view patients who are mentally ill. My dream is for all nurses to be compassionate toward these patients because I know how dark it can be. My biggest advice for people experiencing depression is to know you are not alone. You are never alone. There is always someone there to help you.

By Paige Johnson

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