A student pitches up in my office. She has come to see me before. She is depressed.
When she comes to see me we talk. I’m not a counsellor, I’m not a therapist. I did a course when I was at college but that was nowhere near enough to be able to call myself anything like that.
This student however is in a very bad way. Sleepless nights and not eating. So we spend time together. I give her an hour of my day. She comes back the next day and then the next I start to give her an hour and a half of my day then two hours. The depression gets much worse. Then there is the self harm. She’s hurting herself with all manner of things and it starts to happen fairly regularly.
I know she is under the care of all sorts of people who seem better at this than me. They have more qualifications than me for a start. The trouble is I don’t know what they are doing. I ask the student, she explains they aren’t doing anything. She tells me that she tells them things but says they don’t listen or do anything. I have no way of knowing if this is true. Are they really ignoring her? Or does she just feel they are? Or is she not communicating clearly enough. I don’t even really know who is looking after her.
They one day she comes and she has done something horrid with her hand involving a freshly boiled kettle. She claims that she hasn’t taken any medication. Apparently ‘they’ have taken her off it and aren’t giving her anything else. She wants to die. She’s not sure how to, but she is thinking of several ways. She talks a lot about death.
I’m not easily frightened and I don’t disturb easily. I have dealt with similar before but I’m really concerned so I ask if I can ring ‘them’. She gives me the number of the home treatment team and I ring them.
“Hi I’m the Anglican Chaplain at Southampton University” I explain “I have X with me”
“Oh yes” the person on the other end sounds bored.
“I don’t need you to tell me anything about her obviously she is your patient and you have to respect her confidentiality but I have some concerns here.” I explain my worries. After all I don’t know what they are doing. She doesn’t seem to be getting the medication she needs. She is suicidal and self harming and all of that.
I stop speaking.
There is a noticeable pause.
“That must be very concerning for you.” Says the voice “I would be concerned if I were you.” It’s fairly obvious she is not concerned but I have no idea why. After another lengthy pause I thank her for her time and ring off.
She comes back the next day. She still wants to die and now she looks much worse. There is not a lot I can do so after a couple of hours in my office I just pray while she sits there. She doesn’t want to say anymore, she just wants to go to sleep and not wake up. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t treat her and I have no idea if I’m helping or hindering. After a few minutes prayer it seems there is an answer of sorts. A Psychiatric Nurse rings her with news they have a bed for her at the DoP. They tell her to make her way there. She doesn’t know what time the buses are. They offer no suggestions so I see a way I can be of use. I tell her to sit tight while I get the car.
We arrive a little latter at the hospital. I could have just dropped her off but I decide to walk her to the door. Inside she clams up so I tell the guy on reception who she is and that she is going to be admitted. There is a bit of flustering and calls to the ward and her consultant. Eventually they decide to admit her.
“Take her up to the second floor” he barks at me. I’m just the taxi but it seems I’ve now got to go up on to the wards. We are met by the ward manager. I explain who I am because well I’m not sure what I’m doing there so I pretty sure he doesn’t know either.
“I’m just the taxi” I explain. I turn to her. She looks terrified. I offer to stay for a while. They say that’s ok if she wants me to. She nods and stares at the floor.
We sit for a while on the ward. One of the nurses brings me a cup of tea. I try to chat about stuff...you know shite...stuff that doesn’t involve hospitals and psychiatric wards and one flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Suddenly she grabs my hand shaking. One of the nurses looks over. I imagine she wonders what I’m trying to achieve sat on her ward holding hands with a patient. I try and reassure her. Eventually I tell her I have to go.
“I need to let these people take care of you now. I can’t help and they can.”
She is very agitated. As I head for the door I see the ward manager in his office. I knock.
“I’m going now.” I say.
“Riiiiight?” he looks at me confused.
“She seems quite agitated. I was a bit worried about leaving her.”
He looks at me blankly.
“I just thought I’d tell you she is agitated and upset.” I say with a bit of frustration ”I don’t know if that’s helpful or not.” I add rather pathetically.
He blinks at me “Well it’s not unhelpful”
“Right” I say “Doors over there?” he nods. Sometimes I feel like I reach my competency level about 3 seconds after my eyes open in the morning. As I leave the ward I notice a sign on the entrance: Infection Control. Apparently they have an outbreak of the norovirus.