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The Kids in Purple Gowns

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the title of this blog and I want to take a minute to explain.

While I’m doing this blog in chronological order for the most part, I wasn’t quite to where I wanted to talk about my experience on the inpatient unit after my work in residential. But I will talk about it a little here and then a lot more in depth later.

After working in residential for five years, I was ready for a change. There were a lot of reasons as to why I left residential and for a while I regretted it. However, there’s always a reason for things happening the way they do and while working inpatient was awful, to put it nicely, I learned so much and met so many great people. I don’t regret it now, but it definitely taught me where our problems in the mental health care treatment start.

When kids were brought to the inpatient unit at the hospital on admission, they had to change into a purple gown prior to coming. More often than not, they were brought to our unit from the emergency department or the floor beside ours as they waited for a bed to open. A nurse, an aid, and a security officer had to go and get the patient and escort them to our floor. We would arrive to wherever the kid was, have them change into the purple gown, and then head with us to the unit.

The purple gowns mean that they are a flight risk, a mental health patient. It was an unspoken label that they were forced to wear so everyone could see.

I get it, don’t get me wrong. We want the hospital to be safe. We want the kids to be safe. We want the unit to be safe. We want the staff to be safe. Safety always trumps everything else.

But when we would be walking the kid to the unit, the stares were limitless. It was like every single person in the hospital knew.

Oh no! A purple gown! That’s a crazy kid!

Some people would look the other way or put their heads down. Even some of the nurses from other floors would give worried looks as we passed them in the hallways as we headed to the unit.

The hospital has an IV team that spends their day just doing labs and IV’s which is great, but they were a snotty bunch and after my first experience with them, they knew I was not their biggest fan.

I had a patient that needed an IV and she was a really hard stick. Four nurses had tried and we were unable to get anything. She was very psychotic and extremely dehydrated. We couldn’t get her to eat or drink anything because she thought we were poisoning her food. We will talk about her soon!

The IV team always came up to our floor in pairs of two. I’m not sure if that was normal for them or if they just didn’t want to be alone on our unit. I told them a little bit about the patient and about how we could not find a good vein anywhere. They didn’t really respond to me as I spoke. I reminded them before we went into the room that the patient was psychotic and it may take a minute to earn her trust.

Again, they blew me off and walked into the room and sat in the chair beside her bed before they even started talking to her. So needless to say, this poor girl started to panic and was telling them to get out of her room. She thought they were there to kill her.

The two girls from the IV team quickly walked over to the door. I told the patient who they were and what they were doing. I reminded her multiple times that I would keep her safe and that it would be over soon. She calmed down as I held her hand and the two nurses looked for a vein. After about fifteen minutes and three sticks, they were able to get the IV started. I hooked up the tubing and started the medicine then escorted the IV team nurses back to the door.

The unit was a locked unit and you had to go through a sally port before you could enter the unit. The unit clerk at the front desk would buzz you in and out of the doors after you had signed in or out. I walked them to the hallways and pointed to where they needed to go to exit the floor. As they started to walk away, I heard one of them say, “I told you! This is where the crazy kids go!”

The other nurse replied, “I could never work here. These kids are insane. They’re all probably going to end up in jail.”

I was heated. I could feel my face turning red as my blood pressure started to rise.

I walked quickly to catch up with them before they got to the door. Right before they were buzzed out of the door, I asked their names again and told them to have a great day. I also told them that I would make sure they were never allowed back on the unit. They both looked at me oddly at first and when I reminded them that no, not all of these children were going to jail, they both put their heads down and walked out.

Don’t worry. I made a report of their rude behavior. But the truth is, things like this happen all the time!

These kids are not crazy. They’re not all going to go to jail. They’re not scary. They are sick.

It blows my mind that people understand heart issues, lung issues, even eye issues. You can’t see, you get glasses. You have high blood pressure, you get medicine. Asthma? Get an inhaler.

But brain issues?! WHATTT?! You crazy psycho! Don’t tell anyone that you’re depressed. You can’t be anxious. Just get over it. Go on a jog. Drink some wine. You’ll be fine. Just deal with it! Hearing voices? Oh, definitely insane! ADHD; that kid ruins everything for the whole class! Shut him up! Sit down! Manic? That’s not an excuse for your erratic behavior! Stop spending money and having sex with everyone, you slut! Bipolar isn’t an excuse! Avoidant personality disorder? Not a real thing! Get out of your room! What are you scared of? PTSD! Oh, that sound wasn’t that loud. You’re fine! You take meds for your mood? Wow. Just eat better and take a nap. Get a hobby. It’ll go away.

Can you imagine!? Telling someone in heart failure, just take a nap. It’ll be fine.

Or diabetics; you take insulin for that?! Why? Just exercise!

Kidney failure? Don’t tell anyone! Oh, and dialysis won't work. It’s a big pharma scam!


Why in the hell are we okay with teaching people to take care of their bodies? Exercise daily. Drink water. Wash your face. Eat veggies.

Why aren’t we telling people that they need to take care of their brain!?

In case you didn’t know, we need it, to, you know…live!!

Educate yourself, people.

The stigma around mental health breaks my heart and lights a fire in my soul. I’ll never understand why people are so afraid to talk about brain health. It’s an organ, just like the heart, that can malfunction. The functions of the brain are so complex; everything we do relies on our brain. With such a big responsibility and so many components, it's bound to malfunction at some point! We have to check in on our friends and family. We have to stay attuned to our own mental health needs. We have to stop being afraid to talk about it. We can’t be scared to ask for help.

If you have migraines every day, you go to the doctor. The doctor refers you to a neurologist. The neurologist will do some tests, give you some medicine to try, ask to see you again in a month. And you take the medicine, follow up in a month. Do what the doctor says.

But if you’ve been crying every day and don’t think that you need to go to the doctor to get help…

Or you’re to anxious to leave the house…

Or hearing or seeing things that others aren’t…

Why are you not calling the doctor?

I’ll tell you why: because people like those two nurses from the IV team exist everywhere.

If we don’t speak up and take a stand and share our own stories, nothing will change.

So, I’ll end my rant with this: you’re not alone and fuck what everyone else has to say about it. You are not crazy! Actually, you’re quite intelligent for making sure that you are taking care of your brain!

The Kids in Purple Gowns became the title because although I only worked inpatient for a little over a year, seeing the stigma still existing all around the hospital, just because the kids were wearing these purple gowns, reminded me of why I do this.

I’ll never stop speaking out for these kids. I’ll continue to do my best to break this stigma and I can only ask that everyone reading this does the same.

Please, take care of your brain.

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