Pain, of the mental variety, seems to be a huge part of peoples lives, and it's only recently that it's become more socially acceptable to talk outloud about it. There is a constant, steady flow of pain in the world. Some dip their toes in it. Some are thrown in head first, and unfortunately for them, it becomes their world. But for those that can't pull themselves out to live healthly lives, there's still hope and help.
Destructoid's Mike Martin is one such person who has not only been able to pull himself out, but able to give help and hope to others as a Program Manager/Head Instructor at a school for the psychotic and developmentally disabled.
1. What activities, duties and work do you do every day?
I start my day at 5:30am getting all our vans ready to go pick up our patients. Then I hand out driver/rider assignments and get them all on the road. Once that's accomplished, I pull lesson plans and setup our various classrooms with their activities for the day. With that done, I answer emails, call back care givers/parents/state workers, schedule meetings and then grab another cup of coffee and a smoke.
It's usually 8:30 by this time. Patients start arriving at 9, so I continue the above stuff until they arrive. Once patients get there, I greet them all individually, while giving my workers 10 minute breaks (my asst. manager also helps me do this) and we get them settled into their classrooms. At this point, I supervise the floor, address any issues that arise, deal with any violent situations, deal with employee problems and break employees for their lunches.
By this time it's around 1pm and it's clean up time. My asst. manager leads the team and patients in cleanup, while I prepare for any meetings or calls I have that afternoon. We get everyone out the door and on the road home by 2. At this point, it's meetings, reports, calls, payroll, budgeting, supply gathering, responding to any emergencies occurring on the way home, etc. This all ends around 5pm. Now I check all the vans, double check the site and have it all locked up and ready to go for the next day by 6pm. If there have been issues or problems, sometimes I don't get out of there until 8-9pm.
Then it's home to be daddy, eat something, put the kids to bed, take care of whatever I need to, relax and sleep for a few hours before repeating it all.
1.5. What are the age ranges of the patients at your facility? Is there a mix of male/female patients? What various disorders are typical for them to be diagnosed with?
My current facility; 18 - As long as they can breathe. Our ultimate goal is to get them functional in society and public instances, so the mix of sexes is crucial.
Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective disorder, Delusional disorder, Bipolar II, Borderline personality disorder, PTSD, Autism, PDD-NOS and Dementia are the most common ones I'm familiar with.
2. How were you trained for this career?
I began working in locked psychiatric facilities when I was 22. I was lucky enough to get in the field before it required a degree in psychology. I worked for the state, then moved onto prison and settled into the private sector finally, after having enough of almost being killed by prisoners/patients. All together that amounted to almost 7 years of experience. At every facility I was able to rise into management or training positions, while on the side I became a certified paramedic and got a cognitive-behavioral management cert from night classes. At that point I left the field for a year after the loss of a patient I was very close to, that could have been avoided. That shit hit me hard and a co-worker I felt was responsible almost got destroyed by me. Upon deciding to return to the field, I needed something different.
Locked psych takes the life from you. It drains you. Fights everyday, screaming, injections, restraints, abuse, neglect, death and other terrible things take their toll, you know? So after searching around, I found this "school" that practiced behavioral therapy for those that suffer from psychosis and/or developmental disabilities who happen to have violent urges. These are people one step away from being locked up the rest of their lives. The unwanted and abandoned. If you know my past, that really struck a chord with me. I applied and presented my credentials and was immediately hired on as an asst. manager of a site. At that point, the company also put me in classes with our local Regional center (Alta Regional, Regional centers are state run places that assist parents or care givers with their children (age does not matter) care and growth, as well as offering placement options and appointing social service workers to the patient/client to help make life decisions). The classes I took broadened my training and allowed me to run a facility myself. Once I was done with that, I was promoted to running a facility all by my lonesome. Took around 2 years.
TL;DR: I worked really fucking hard and I got really fucking lucky.
3. What is the salary range for people in your line of work?
Anywhere from 40k a year up to a million plus, if you own and run your own facility. I personally pull around 45k.
4. What are some of the fringe benefits you enjoy?
I have a gas card and occasionally someone buys me a sammich.
4.5. What kinda sammiches we talkin' bout? Like, deli, or straight out the vending machine?
I love a good homemade sammie. Soft french roll, chicken or cold pastrami, Nathan's dill slices, whatever cheese strikes my fancy and one of my weird mustards (really into sweet & hot atm). If that's not possible, Safeway or Raley's deli sammies are the only way to go. Cheaper than Subway or Togo's as well.
5. What are the positive aspects of your work?
I get to help people no one wants to help. I get to watch them grow and do things they never thought they could do.
6. What are the negative aspects of your work?
I get the crap beat out of me, I have to deal with employee drama, angry parents, disgusting state officials and recently have suffered what may be permanent nerve damage and restrictions to my left arm from a nasty bite. Yay! I have scars covering my entire body, had my nose broken at least 5 times, I've been stabbed, concussed so many times, fingers broke, ribs broke, a guy tried to carve my eye out of my head once, seen and smelled so many nasty naked people, witnessed disgusting abuse of people that deserve better, got paid shit for what I dealt with and worst of all rarely had backup in most altercations because I was trained and I'm a large man with muscles. Well I was. Got kind of fat the past few months due to no exercise from the arm thing.
7. What are some of the major trends you see in this career field? What predictions can you make about this field in the next five to ten years?
Growth. More and more of these folks are getting older and have no where to go and no one to take care of them. I personally want to start my own facility as even though I only answer to one person at work, that's one too many.
8. Is there a lot of competition to get into this field?
Virtually none. No matter the level. I've never seen a job with a higher turn over rate.
9. What are the strongest skills/personality traits a person must have to do well in this career?
You need patience, caring, understanding, a high tolerance for pain and that little thing inside you that stops you from punching the poor kid who just broke your nose. He doesn't know what he's doing. You need to be good at writing detailed reports, be good at paying attention, have some medical training for dealing with emergencies, a psych degree, behavioral management training and be trained in whatever safe and sane methods of restraint your state allows.
11. In what other fields can a person with your training go?
Medical or prison. Not really sure as I've never wanted to branch out.
12. If you had it to choose all over again, would you still enter this field? Why or why not?
In a heartbeat, though I would never work with prisoners again. Fucking terrible piles of shit most of them. 1 out 5 actually had something wrong with them and required help. The rest were gaming the system. But this field has allowed me to give back to the world in a way I never thought I could achieve. With how crazy I am myself, I don't think I could do any other job. Takes one to know one after all. My own personal traumas are easily applied in everyday work. What other job lets you apply rape and abuse traumas to daily work?
12.5. I myself have briefly mentioned before on my blog that I've been a patient at psych wards, and despite seeing chaos around me, my own personal experiences with most of them were pleasant, fortunately. The knockout drugs certainly didn't hurt, but individuals on staff that garnered a rapport with me and had similar experiences and interests helped much more. It made me think I could return the favor by doing what they did for me one day, either through employment or volunteering at a facility, so I completely understand the feeling of gratification and fulfillment in working in this field specifically.
Were/are there any patients or staff that inspired you to get into/keep going in this line of work?
Sounds like you were in nice, private facilities. Those are great to work at and be a patient at. Working at those and at my current place are the best times I've had in the field. As for patients who inspired me: almost every single adolescent I ever worked with has inspired me to keep going. I seem to work well with kids for some reason, probably because I treat them with respect and not like they are idiots and demand the same back from them. Kids require structure AND respect imo. My little brother (that is still with us) is a huge factor for what I do now, as he suffers from autism. Two of the main people I do this for though are no longer with us.
One was a young girl on suicide watch who wasn't watched and died in my arms due to another staff leaving their post. I'll never forget doing CPR on her for what seemed like forever. Then being pulled off and almost killing an EMT out of rage for what was happening.
The second is my little brother who took his own life late last year. I've been told I'm great at what I do, so if I stop doing this, I'll guilt myself to death over people I could have helped. I already blame myself for too much as it is (like both peoples deaths I described above, just to start). The non-depressing part is that I truly love helping others in any way I can. I love making sad people smile, those that feel worthless feel worth something, etc.
I don't just feel like I owe the world for what I survived and have, I actually want to do this stuff. Sometimes it's horrible, sometimes it makes my day. Either way, I don't know much else to do with my life.
13. What is your next career move?
Owning my own facility by 45. 12 years to go. Need to save up.
14. Where can I get more information about your career?
Google your local regional center, search for schools that deal with people who suffer from these handicaps, read about various psychiatric issues people suffer some, read up on locked psychiatric facilities and what they do. Most of this information can be found on your states website or through a quick Google search.
15. What advice can you give someone who is trying to choose a career?
Don't do it unless you have the traits I listed above. I'm not talking about the education either. The people who join this field and don't care about the patients, or abuse them, get theirs. This isn't something you do for money, glory or recognition. No one cares that you do it and no one wants to hear about it other than bar stories. It won't get you laid either. Don't do it if you can't work with people like me. Everyone I know who has done this as long as me (10 years plus now) or longer, has a dark, odd, vulgar sense of humor with each other.
Eternal thanks to Mike for his dedication, friendship, and love of the cock, and to the Destructoid community for housing such remarkable specimens. I like to think the search for water across the harsh unforgiving wastelands is going to suck less, thanks to you all.