Mental Health Technician – Will Rice ‘24
I have been working for Mental Health Services of Clark and Madison County since November of 2021 as a Mental Health Technician, making that almost 4 months. I initially found the job posting online, I was immediately interested in the position since I have had the interest to go into the mental health field. One day, I would like to be a psychiatrist and family doctor, with hopes of integrating our mental health into overall health plans, viewing the whole person as a diverse and interconnected entity. I want to help end the stigma surrounding mental health, practice preventative medicine, and begin reshifting the perspective to building healthy habits, breaking unhealthy ones, and living healthier lives rather than waiting for something to happen before taking action. However, I have many battles ahead of me as this is not always the easy thing to do. Some people do not have the agency, equal access, or wherewithal to worry about things like healthcare, especially mental health for that matter. So not only do I want to help individual people, I want to also help raise consciousness about matters involving social justice and unequal access and distribution of means, in an attempt to help make change. I can see it now, “militant medical anthropologist doctor on a warpath to help the underdogs of the world.” Sounds great, right? I have to laugh at myself sometimes because I think of a variation of the phrase above and wonder what I can really do to help change the world. So I’ll use a line I like to often use with clients coming through Mental Health, which is a question; how do you eat an elephant? An elephant is surely too big to eat whole, the obvious answer is just take it one bite at a time. I can’t expect to change the whole world overnight or even in my lifetime, I’m not advocating eating elephants here but I can start with that one bite or spark, if you will, and like a ripple effect; change will beget change.
This is what I have been finding at Mental Health. Not only do I get to feel good for helping others but I get to see people go from no light in their eyes to glimmers of hope. I get to be first in line, working hands on with clients who have nobody else, no support line. I see people struggling and people coming back to reality after being so lost. I get to have a hand in helping to shape someone’s life for the better. If that’s not changing the world, I don’t know what is.
Some of the duties I have as a Mental Health Technician are simple, others, not so much. A typical day for me is 7am to 7:30pm, including a 30 minute lunch break with other opportunities throughout the day to take a sometimes well needed minute. Working with mental health patients can sometimes be emotionally draining on the mental health workers as well, we take in a lot of problems and emotions they may be dealing with.
I am responsible for things such as low-level cleaning of work areas, keeping supply closets and the nurses station cabinets stocked, serving our catered meals to patients, assisting with providing access for clients to do laundry, doing admissions on the computer, and other things as needed by the unit. My favorite parts however, are the duties that give me the opportunity to build rapport with the patients. These are things like recreational activities, leading groups, and just being there to support and check in on the clients wellbeing. I try to go above and beyond to be there for the clients, I will typically, when time allows, make time to play games, be a non-judgmental ear, offering encouragement to make goals, and rethink possibly unhelpful rules and assumptions about the world that I myself struggle with. I try to be as transparent as possible without crossing certain privacy boundaries. I think it’s important for the clients to feel and know they’re not the only ones that struggle with things and it pushes them to be more vulnerable, which, as I often tell them, is where the most growth can happen.
Mental Health Technicians are the direct care support personnel first in line to help the patients during their journey to being healthy. My other favorite part is the knowledge I’m gaining in this environment. I get to see firsthand the different characteristics of mental disorders and how psychiatrists implement treatment plans in conjunction with other members of a care team, such as nurses, social workers, families, and even technicians, like myself.