Charles Rush is a retired nurse who worked at Milwaukee Psychiatric Center.
Rush created connections with patients so he could help make both the hospital and the clients happy.
Rush stressed that the mental healthcare system needed more people that aimed at forming genuine relationships with patients.
By Casby Bias and Jacob Born
A nurse ran toward a mental health unit within a hospital. The alarm blared; someone needed help. The nurse rushed to the scene. He noticed an angry, elderly man with PTSD arguing with a group of nurses. The nurse also noticed that the man was wearing a baseball cap. But the hat wasn't just any hat. Plastered on the front of the cap was a 101st Airborne Division symbol.
This is not the first time Charlie Rush had encountered a heightened patient. Rush, now a retired nurse within the mental health care system, has more than 22 years of experience in the field, working at various hospitals, including Milwaukee Psychiatric Center, now called Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. He had a thing for calming down mentally ill patients.
Rush brought the 101st Airborne Division subject up toward the upset individual. The senior now turned toward the nurse and gave off the impression that he calmed down. There was a connection. The man had someone to talk to. The nurse used this moment to his advantage. He could now figure out how the conflict started. Rush grabbed a chair, sat down and shouted, "Someone come and get him a chair." He then turned his attention to the aging man. "Sit down, tell me what's happening, what do we need to do here?"
"In the hospital, I had a nag of going into a room and just changing the mood," Rush said. "[By] saying ‘What’s going on’ and finding out what’s happening, things would turn around."
Rush also created interactions with clients because their family and friends, the main people clients used to maintain relationships with, became confused and scared of the illness. Rush said he remembered a college student who suffered from schizophrenia. He helped her with receiving her shots. She "got back on her feet" only with the help of a group home.
"I don’t know if she had any contact with family or anything," he said. "But she was able to connect with people again."
Rush ended his service as a nurse a few years ago, but he ran into his own concerns about the Milwaukee mental healthcare system that still stand today. From watching such instances of the college student and the veteran, he stressed that if he could change one thing within Milwaukee’s system, he’d push more people toward developing genuine relationships with mentally ill people. Rush wanted more people understanding how others cope with their problems.
"You have different coping methods for different things," Rush said. "People who have a limited number of coping mechanisms are at greater risk."
An example that Rush used in proving his point was linking alcoholism and depression and using them as different ways that people cope. Neither of them are healthy, yet alcoholism is seen more of an illness than depression.
"Some people go home after a long day of work and have a glass of wine; if all you do is have a glass of wine, that becomes a problem," Rush said. "If some days you get so depressed that you just want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed; if that’s all you’re gonna do to cope with things, it becomes a problem."
Rush also said he believes people should treat mental illness just as they were if someone were having a heart attack.
"People are jumping up in the front of the line for the person with the heart attack because bipolar episodes aren’t pretty," Rush said. "People get grossed out and threatened; but we’re all just people."
Rush concluded that the mentally ill are real people, too.
"Being mentally ill isn’t pretty; you push people away," Rush sighed. "You burn your bridges; you lose contact with a lot of people."
"Everybody is mentally ill," Rush said. "Some of us get away with it better than others."