The website, Reddit amuses and amazes me for many reasons. There is so much content of photos, videos, and posts of any topic that you could fathom. Even ones you can’t. I personally enjoy Reddit’s Ask Me Anything tag because you have a better perception of career paths, parenting styles, ways people grew up, different cultures, and different adversities. It was primarily an anonymous site, so you never see or “meet” the person behind the post, so to speak. In my previous posts, if you have been reading my blog, you have become to know myself and my thoughts, feelings, and ideologies. If you haven’t been reading them, to summarize myself, I am a God fearing, left leaning independent, bipolar, sex addicted, 22 year old woman. I enjoy writing, singing, painting, sports (mainly baseball and basketball), I love to cook, play Pokemon Go!, and work out.
In my short life, I have held a lot of different jobs. One of the most intriguing jobs that most people find fascinating and have asked me a lot about was when I worked graveyard shift for six months in a youth psychiatric ward. Since a blog post is one sided, I am going to list some FAQs and if you have any more questions, comment them below and I will answer them and edit this post to include the new questions!
What were your job duties at night?
First off, it was creepy working there at night time. There had been many children who had killed themselves by hanging or by suffocation. The kids were between ages 8-17 so it was a weird mix of elementary aged kids amongst high schoolers. I will be the first to tell you that ghosts exist. Not so much that there are ghosts everywhere and are out to haunt you. But the spirits of the deceased were definitely alive and well in the halls of that pysch ward.
Anyway, at night we had to ensure the safety of the kids. We had to do room checks every fifteen minutes throughout the night so that kids weren’t slitting their wrists with pen caps or have broken their toothbrush to create a sharp edge. We also had to make sure their comforters weren’t covering their faces in order to see if they were breathing at night. It was always hard to see if they were breathing because it was dark, so I had to prop the door open all the way so the bright ass lights from the hallway shone in. Most kids were on heavy antidepressants and sleep meds so they wouldn’t wake up, but if it were me, I couldn’t sleep knowing that every fifteen minutes someone was watching me…
Besides safety, I would chart their sleep patterns and clean. If the kids got up in the middle of the night, I would give them a snack or a drink or let them into the bathroom. Most of the time, night shift was calm and usually very boring. I spent a lot of my time swiping right and left on Tinder to pass the time.
What was something that surprised you when you started working there?
When I first toured the unit, it was during the day. Kids roamed around this big space that was called the living room. It contained a kichenette that only staff were allowed to use, some large plastic tables and lots of plastic chairs that were hard, cold, and uncomfortable and had one small TV for video games and movies. Everything was made from plastic because if they had couches made of wood or metal or fabric, kids would/could become violent and use them as a weapon or use the fabric to self harm with. That was interesting.
Another fun fact was that everything was under lock and key. Cleaning supplies, each bedroom, each bathroom, the office, the laundry room, janitor’s closet, everything had to have a key or a badge to get through. Even then, kids escaping was a semi common thing that happened.
Every employee smoked weed. It wasn’t even a question, it was almost a necessity to detox. Initially when I started working, they didn’t give out a drug test but by week 3 of working there, I realized they didn’t drug test because no one there could pass one. It was common occurrence for other night shift workers to smoke their weed pens outside and come back in and do their job. Often times, management would work night shift and make weed goodies and keep them in the work fridge. Not gonna lie, I may have stolen some weed goodies out of the work fridge and may or may not have been higher than a kite for the rest of the evening on more than one occasion. (Something I’m not terribly proud of, but no one ever died on my watch…)
Another fun fact is that physical restraints are still used today, especially in adult psych wards, and even more surprisingly, on kids too. Although straight jackets are not too common, manual restraints (restraints for your arms and legs) and the restraint chair are commonly used. Restraints are only used when a child has become violent to themselves or others.
Who is the most difficult client that you have had to deal with?
I had to deal with a fifteen year old, Autistic boy. He had severe anger issues and became very agitated and would get angry because he was agitated and then he would take it out on those around him. He liked to poke fun at others, but if you did it back to him, it would send him into a blind rage. Each shift, he was forced to go into the restraint chair and was injected with his medication because he often refused any of the medication that was prescribed to him. If and when he took his meds, he could usually stay away from the restraint chair, but it would take a lot of coaxing and bribery to get him to take his medication. Even during night shift, he would wake up to see the nurse who he was infatuated with. She was very beautiful and she is a great friend of mine to this day. He would make her beaded necklaces and bracelets during craft time and would come to me for relationship advice in order to get the girl of his dreams. When she was busy helping other clients in the other unit, he would be sent into a rage that he couldn’t see her. One time, not on my shift, he broke into the fire extinguisher case while no one was watching him and began to carry the fire extinguisher over to the wooden door that separated the living room from the foyer to the fenced in courtyard and proceeded to smash the wooden door to smithereens. No one could stop him because they were worried that they would get hit with the fire extinguisher. Once he dropped it, two workers carried him to the restraint chair while he was kicking, screaming and crying and he was put into a seclusion room under lock, key, and surveillance.
How did you start working there?
It amazes me that I was even employed by them considering I had no mental health experience besides the fact that I more or less belong inside of a psych ward, not running it. But the job was emotionally draining and was a place of high turnover so any young, willing individual who was willing to learn the ropes was let in.
I was hired on as a Psychiatric Aide, someone who ensures safety of clients, gives out meals, and just socialize and talk to the kids if need be. There were three psych aides and one supervisor for each shift and at night time, there was one supervisor and one aide. We were never allowed to work alone in case something dangerous happened, which often did. There was one nurse per shift to administer medication and if someone felt sick or got injured, medical help was right there. Then there were the therapists. There were three therapists assigned to the youth inpatient unit and kids would see their therapist two times a week, more or less depending on how long they were going to stay. Then there is the doctor whom each child sees initially after being checked in and then once a week thereafter for medication.
So most crises was dealt and put upon a psychiatric aide who has no formal experience or training to help those with mental illness. Sometimes all you can do is listen and be there for a kid, but when you are the one to catch a kid self harming or trying to hang themselves with their bed sheets, that shit stays with you.
Did anyone escape on your watch?
Short answer is yes. I was working a double and was the supervisor for both night shift and day shift. During night shift, we were dealing with the Autistic boy that I described previously and had to put him in restraints. So once 7:30 a.m. hit, I was exhausted. By 10 a.m. the kids were all awake, showered, and had had their breakfast. It was a Saturday so they could read, play games, watch movies, and do crafts. There were a total of seven kids that we had to account for, including this boy who took up most of our attention and time, which wasn’t fair to the other kids. The two other aides were fill-ins and so I gave them three kids each to look out for, all relatively easily to play with and had few emotional disturbances. I took the troubled one. He begged to go outside and play basketball on that sunny, spring morning. So I tell the other two aides that we would be outside in the courtyard. We play basketball for about 40 minutes when he begins to fixate on the lock of the fence gate. I tell him it’s time to go inside for lunch and he says no. You know what he did? He drop kicked the lock to the gate and the lock pops right off and off he went running. I chased him across the parking lot on my broken foot until he was too far ahead of me and I said, “Fuck it.” I went back inside and everyone asks where he was and I went into the office where the director of the program sits and observes on the cameras what had just happened and I said, “you probably already know this, but he ran away. Now it’s your turn to deal with him.” I walked out the back door for a smoke.
He eventually was found and escorted by police back to campus where he came kicking and screaming. He was then put back into restraints and the second I saw second shift enter the building, I bounced. I never cried so hard because I was happy to be done with a shift in my entire life.
What made you leave?
I despised working graveyard. It was boring and I didn’t have a whole lot of involvement with the kids, which I didn’t like. I also got into it with management a few times over something small and then that supervisor treated me differently and made me not want to work there anymore. I was smoking weed every day to wind down from a stressful day, every day was stressful because you are always on edge, waiting for the shoe to drop. It wasn’t healthy for me or for my relationship when I tried to rebuild things with my ex.
Til next time,