Monday, January 25, 2016

Just Good Medicine

Sparta and a new friend.
Our regular therapy dog gig is on an adolescent "crisis and stabilization" unit at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.  Kids come in who need some behavioral health intervention but do not require a locked psychiatric unit.

Kids come in suffering from depression, anxiety, family conflict, or any other number of personal or social crises.  The purpose of the unit is to make sure everyone is healthy enough to go home while making sure the family has a plan and the resources to start to address the underlying problems on an on-going basis.

Interjecting some joy into the day, well, that is just good medicine.

The staff also experience their own kind of traumas.  Most of them have spent years listening to stories and reports that most of us try to avoid hearing, or try to pretend to not happen every day.

When the local news reports a suicide or a mentally ill person attacks some innocent, there is a fair chance the staff person played a game of Uno or Mario Kart with the person at some time in their career.  Maybe they knew them twenty-years ago, maybe it was last month. Regardless, there is still the pain of loss and a temptation to futility.

When they're successful, you rarely hear a fifteen year update about how well things went afterward.

Five times a week, however, they put down the paper, listen to reports of abuse, bullying, loneliness, mental illness and go out and spend time trying to help kids, adults, and families "make today suck a little less and learn the skills to do the same tomorrow."

So therapy dog visits are for the patients but not just for the patients.  Sometimes interjecting a little joy in the day is the difference in "making it suck a little less" for the staff as well.

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