Friday, 25 April 2008

Schizo Episode

I was helping out with Inn from the Cold (a program that provides homeless people with a supper and a place to spend the night) at my church today. Normally it's nothing too exciting - I mostly just wash dishes. Today was a break from the ordinary, however.

Since I only got there to wash the dishes, I missed the first part of the episode, but I still witnessed the police and EMS.

One lady, a schizophrenic, either hadn't taken her meds, or the meds weren't working. When she first arrived, she threw a fit because someone else had put some things on the particular cot she wanted to sleep on. She loudly demanded that a MALE volunteer come sort out the problem for her, and she was very adamant that it be a male, and male NOW. Wouldn't this have to be the one day that there was no male volunteer there? While my mom and the other volunteers were trying to get a hold of the one missing male volunteer (he was supposed to be there...), the lady continued shouting and disrupting things, but eventually gave up when she saw no male was forthcoming, choosing instead a particular woman to sort it out for her NOW.

But her fit wasn't over. Then she proceeded to take a glass water pitcher and pour it out onto the carpet. And then she poured some more. Luckily it was just water. But when one of the women went to take the pitcher from her, she threw it onto the floor.

At this point, my mom called the Inn from the Cold head office, and they told her that she should call an ambulance for the lady. While my mom had the dispatcher on the line, the schizophrenic lady marched past her and locked herself in the washroom. It got worse from there. The lady was making a ruckus in the washroom and yelling at my mom so loudly, mostly about how she was going to hold my mom personally responsible if she ended up in a psych ward, that my mom had difficulty hearing the dispatcher over the phone. When the dispatcher asked if there was a potential for violence my mom related the pitcher situation, so it ended up being both police and EMS that were sent to pick the lady up.

That's when I got there. I guess it was a slow night or something, because four police officers were there (eventually two more arrived, but they didn't come inside), and three EMS paramedics. One would think it wouldn't take that many people to deal with one poor schizophrenic lady, but it was somewhat exciting to have so many uniformed people down in the church basement.

After my mom phoned EMS, the lady stalked off and curled into a ball on her cot, so things calmed down until the police and EMS actually went to talk to her. Then she got REAL noisy, holding everyone, especially my mom, the ***** who called EMS, personally responsible for her ending up in a hospital, which she would be going to against her will. She was not playing games, she had dealt with the ****ing EMS and police officers for thirty years, and she was NOT going to this particular hospital, only that particular hospital, and she was not going to be booted out of the hospital the next morning (she was done playing games). She was going to sleep now. And did she mention she was going against her will, and she held everyone personally responsible? And that she had dealt with these effing people in this effing city for thirty effing years?

And I want to be a counselor who deals with these kinds of people one day.

Eventually the other guests, who were eating supper in the same room, began complaining because children were present, and could the police get her out already, because her language was both horrifically filthy and tremendously loud. Eventually the police asked the other guests "Do you want her out?" to which everyone replied "Yes, now!".

When the police told her they'd had enough and it's time to go, she stood up and started very slowly putting on her coat, stating (still very loudly) that they would all wait for her. And they would all wait for her. And they would have to WAIT for her. She had dealt with these beep beep beeps before, and THIS, she yelled, is what you call verbally assaulting a police officer! The officers eventually had to pull and shove her to get her out of the church. By then some of the guests and my mom had lost their appetites.

The official police report was labeled "Removal of an unwanted guest." It's too bad really, that a church had to turn someone away, especially someone who was clearly in need. But I was struck by the behaviour of the other guests. Perhaps I've just thought stereotypically, but I've generally expected street people to be rougher around the edges than most other people. Yet they were quite sensitive to her language, and very kind. You could hear that they were more concerned for the lady than they were angry with her. I feel really badly for her, too. Apparently the other guests who had happened to stay with her had noticed that her condition was worsening recently.

My psych prof says a lot of homeless people are schizophrenic. In Alberta, instead of locking schizophrenics away, we try to get them back on their feet and living on their own. Problem is, they often don't stay on their meds, but nobody notices in time, so everything goes downhill for them from there.

Call me sheltered, but that was my first real exposure to what I'll be dealing with if I follow through and become a therapist. My heart goes out to people like that. It's so sad, really. They badly need help!


Moving on, exams are almost done - my grade point average is dropping a bit this semester. I have to figure out job-wise what to do with myself all summer and get next year's school all sorted out. Let's see, what else? Upgrade my license, get some overdue blood work done, and it wouldn't hurt to visit the optometrist again. I'm having trouble reading street signs.


On the upside, I got to snack on some leftover ham from the supper. It was really good.

Don't let your worries get the best of you. Remember, Moses started out as a basket case.” Anonymous


Art said...

I was thinking, if the police decided to taser the lady, I am sure someone would have video recorded the whole thing and we could be watching it on YouTube right now. Umm, actually I am glad the lady did not require tasering. I have read that about 1 in 4 people suffer from some type of mental illness.

Bri said...

That is really quite the story!! I'm glad you were able to tell it. We'll hope the lady is okay...