“Jason”’s Story (as told by his Community Mental Health Worker)
Jason is a single Asian male in his early 60s. He has been living with schizophrenia for more than three decades. He lives alone and has no children. He was referred to the H2H program due to his frequent use of the emergency room (ER) and the crisis line at the Scarborough Hospital (TSH).
Jason has an impressive background. He went to one of the best universities in Canada at the age of 16 and became the youngest student in his program. Although struggling with mental health challenges, he managed to graduate from the university, found a job as an engineer and later was promoted to be a manager. However, his mental health condition deteriorated in his 30s through his mid-40s. After being hospitalized for several months, he never returned to work. He has been financially supported by a disability pension ever since.
In recent years, Jason’s situation has improved and he has not experienced hallucinations or delusions. He was discharged from TSH’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team two years ago. However, he chronically felt depressed and suicidal. There was a time that he would visit TSH’s ER a few times in a month, call different crisis lines multiple times in a day and email his psychiatrist frequently.
When I first met Jason in late November, though he reported feeling lack of energy and constantly depressed, he was a very resourceful and brilliant person. He knew where to seek support, including various support groups and activities in the community. He is also familiar with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and various coping strategies for stress and anxiety. However, he re-visited the ER after our first meeting. We explored the reason behind his frequent ER visits. I found Jason had very little social support. He had no one to talk to. He mentioned his frustration of not able to get back to work. He said, “People despise those who are unemployed and have mental health issues.” This was one of the reasons that he isolated himself.
The great thing about the H2H program is that community mental health workers are working onsite in the hospital. As a result, the H2H workers are able to discuss and exchange information with hospital staff, including psychiatrists, mental health nurses and social workers. Through discussions with Jason’s psychiatrist and previous case workers, his major issues were explored and identified. Jason was encouraged to join activities and expand his social connections. It was a challenge for Jason to go out due to the stigma of mental health disorders. Therefore, we discussed his thoughts and emotions regarding meeting new people.
When Christmas was approaching, Jason had not called any crisis line for a week. He reported his mood has improved and he has decided to engage in different activities. He made a friend from his support group and went to dinner together. He was occasionally attending activities at church and taking an online course. He also started thinking about joining a ping-pong group in his neighborhood.
Today, Jason has not visited the ER for nearly 2 months. He occasionally uses the crisis line, but has started to meet new people and strive to find a new focus in his life. He recently connected to a therapist at TSH and will see her regularly. Although the H2H program only offered support for Jason in the short-term, the program was able to offer him emotional support and explore his concerns while he waited for other resources.
Jason sees a difference in his life and his well-being before and after connecting with DMHS’ H2H program. “Before, when I came back from the ER or was discharged from the hospital, I would feel lost. I would ask myself, what things should I do that would help my illness, help my recovery? I had no friends at this time.”
“My community mental health worker played an important role in referring me to a therapist and also in discussing my fears around meeting new people. With her encouragement, I found the confidence to become more socially active and have found new friends. The first few friends are very important – if you lack those, you feel very isolated.”
“I think the H2H program is very valuable. Especially when hospital resources are in such high demand, they definitely need people like my community mental health worker and other community support specialists working in the hospital environment.”