Food for thought: Working @ the Mental Institute

Yesterday, when I went for one of my job interviews to look for a part-time position as an assistant in any of the related clinical / healthcare / medical field, I was asked whether I was willing to work in IMH – a mental institute in Singapore. I said I was OK with it and it didn’t matter to me.

I’ve considered this question, about a year ago, because my interest lies in the social work – medical related field, which is why I opted for this position despite being asked by the interviewer why I chose to send my resume in to become a clinical assistant than a business admin job when I’m concurrently taking a Business course. But I know I’m not the only one who picked a course I was in doubt whether I had an interest in (but I know I wasn’t cut out for it & the field of study is certainly not an industry I can thrive any longer in).

I’ve wondered how was it like to work in an environment? We say it’s OK but does it not matter to anyone of you who say that? I googled about this and read about an article here, titled “Volunteer Work at State Mental Hospital: What It’s Like”

The interior did not look like the way mental hospitals are depicted in the movies. The outside of the complex did, actually: a sprawling gray stone complex amid a park-like setting away from town, but still nearby, with steel mesh over the windows so that patients couldn’t escape. But inside was not what you might expect of a mental hospital.

Mental hospitals are not the scary, prison-like places that movies depict, such as in the movies “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In these movies, the mental patients wore hospital scrubs. In real life, mental patients wear regular clothes.

At this particular state hospital, the nurses wore regular clothes; they were not dressed in sterile white uniforms with the caps, as they are in the movies. In fact, I hardly ever saw the nurses.

In the movies, the innards of a mental hospital typically show patients practically hanging upside down on ceilings, racing around acting “crazy,” pacing around in circles, and in the background, you hear shrieks or screams. In reality, mental hospitals are quiet and subdued, for the most part.

There may be conflicts between patients in a mental hospital, but this doesn’t necessarily mean “crazy” or psychotic behavior. People who are forced to live with strangers — whether in a mental hospital or college dormitory, will sooner or later have conflicts. I witnessed plenty of conflicts at the college dormitory I stayed at for four years. And I witnessed conflicts at the mental hospital I volunteered at.

We don’t always follow through our values and what we believe in through our actions. The question posed during the interview isn’t as simple to ask if one’s willing to, but it was indirectly meant to question whether one has the ability to work an environment which requires lots of acceptance to embrace a different sort of working environment one hasn’t encounter before.

Anyone can deny the difference working in any sort of hospitals – whether it’s an Asylum or any other healthcare environment, but the difference is explicit when you witness how the majority of us react to the minority ones in the public.

This post isn’t meant to discriminate anyone in particular, but a food for thought – since it really takes direct experience and encounter to realize whether we’re as accepting as what we say we are and do we really say what we meant most of the time?

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