Creative Arts

The creative arts can relate to many forms of the arts embodied in action and practice among them (but not restricted to) drama, dance and musical performance, visual arts, writing, publishing, graphic arts, cartooning, film, multi media and design.

In Humane

To be humane is to have or show compassion or benevolence.

Being concerned with the alleviation of suffering.

To interact with care, consideration and respect.


the word medicine is from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing.

Broadly speaking the practice of medicine is to be

active in the prevention and treatment of illness.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mental illness and the Health Professional, A story of my mother the psychiatric nurse

Always a Nurse

Cheryl L. McLean

Delivered as part of the keynote address to the Alberta Psychiatric Conference
Banff Alberta 2014
My mother who is now 85 had been the  head nurse at a geriatric ward at our city psychiatric hospital (previous know as an asylum for the insane)  in Southwestern Ontario for over thirty years.  She started her career in geriatric care  as a nurse in 1952  and worked her way through the 50's, the  60's and 70's, through the days of  electroconvulsive therapies ,  lobotomy surgeries, insulin shock therapy,  strait jackets, restraints.  One of my mother's many assignments was to  dispense medications like tranquilizers and phenobarbital to 450 older patients twice daily on five wards.  Many of her geriatric patients lived out their later lives and  died in hospital.  My mother was proud of her nursing job.  When I was a girl of  fourteen and thinking about nursing as a career myself she drove me to her hospital, turned off the main street  past the grassy fields  and up the shaded tree lined road and down the curved driveway leading to that big old building.
 I met her patients.   They told me their stories.  Some were very interesting.   One elderly lady said she was friends with a "gangster" named "Duninger"  who, she said,  went everywhere with her. 

Mom made sure she kept the staff and the ward together.  But there were serious troubles at home.  Mom worked late most nights and always took her work home with her, sitting at the kitchen table, draining the coffee pot, coughing and chain smoking Export A's while trying to get her time slips done, couldn't sleep at night, was  worried about how to cover for staff  when attendants said they were sick or took time off.  Then one day  she just stopped talking, wouldn't eat, went to her bedroom, turned off the lights and shut the door.  But somehow even through these  darkest of times  she managed to get up in the morning at 5:00 a.m., still got the car started in the dead of winter and  made it in...on time,  to work. My mother, an attractive woman,  always concerned about her appearance, her hair, her makeup, was  meticulously, even compulsively neat.  We knew there was something terribly wrong when she started falling asleep in her uniform...  One sleepless night while fighting yet another migraine headache she cried out, "What's the use?"   Yes, she had her nursing friends,  but most of the time she tried to make it through these dark times alone.  Mom would never have admitted she had a mental health issue nor that was depressed.  You just didn't talk about those things.  She was a psychiatric nurse, and proud of it., she cared for patients with mental illness, consoled the families when their loved ones passed away. Her staff came to her when they were depressed,  to solve their problems.  She was praised by the psychiatrists  for her meticulous attention to detail and  tireless  dedication to her job and her patients.   My mother wasn't just a nurse.  Nursing was my mother.  As I reflect now in this writing  years later I see now that  my own mother, herself a professional working in mental health,  suffered with depression, the  classic DSM  indicators of major depressive disorder but, according to my mother she wasn't sick...she was fine.  It was her job as a psychiatric head nurse to keep in all together at all times,  to keep everything under control.   

  For more information about Cheryl L. McLean keynote presentations