Within days of entering the Forensic Mental Health Unit, staff begin hearing from a new client about his goals. Goals for discharge and goals in life. We heard about his amazing resilience in response to challenges he has faced, how he has struggled to come to terms with care providers telling him he has a mental illness and how he has tried desperately to understand the complex legal processes at play in the forensic mental health system.
We also heard how he just wanted a new pair of shoes. Not just any shoes but a special pair of black Nike’s he had been saving for. As he spent months working his way through the forensic system he shared his frustration, confusion and his hope for discharge and going to buy his Nike’s. Just as we all get excited about a certain new item whether it be the new shoes (for me the new bag!) or that fancy new technology; being able to make choices, pursue our goals and feel hopeful about the future is important for wellness and essential for recovery. For our client, the new shoes signified a new beginning and gave him a sense of autonomy and choice (shoes from the jail are not fashionable or fun!). After several months a staff member stepped forward and offered to work with the client on finding his dream shoes.
After many weeks, lots of saving and lots of googling the perfect pair were located and delivered to the client 1 day before his court date. Not only did the client get his new shoes but he shared with us his gratitude for hearing his goal, seeing him as a person who was more than just his crime and giving him hope.
Providing care in the forensic mental health system can be complex for staff as we work to balance care and custody. Essentially, we provide assessment and rehabilitation services for individuals with mental illness who come in contact with the law.
The individuals who come into contact with the forensic mental health service require our specialized services but they also require hope, compassion and respect. This group can experience stigma and is often vulnerable and marginalized. As a team we look for unique ways to serve the whole individual. It is in the moments of the magical and apparently “perfect” black Nike’s that we can all be reminded about the importance of treating the whole person and instilling hope. More innovation, more compassion and more heart will continue to make providence care a great place to work and a great place to receive care for all of those we serve.