From Carnegie Hall to a Mental Hospital

by Angela Brooks


from carnegie hall to mental hospital

From Carnegie Hall to a Mental Hospital

by Angela Brooks

As a instructor who has the opportunity to speak to nursing college students the biggest question always comes up "what type of people will we see here". I have to ask them a question before I can reply. "What kind of people are you expecting to see?"

As one student confessed, she was not sure what stereotype she would see but she guessed they would be homeless people who had long hair, who had poor clothing, who would be sitting and staring into space and not able to have a real conversation. I smiled.

The stigma of mental health only happens to poor people. It only happens to broke people. It only happens to not very smart people. All of those are very incorrect.

Over the years I have met some of the most amazing people – ones that I would speak to in line waiting to go into a movie. Someone I would speak too at dinner or out on vacation. The young man who came in who was very confused and stayed to himself, had very little to say to the staff. But when he did, he was very polite. His medium length black hair hung in his eyes and his body frame was a small 19 year old.

There was something different about him – wearing flip flops and levi jeans I could not decide what it was that made me like this kid. It was not until the afternoon that he began talking, after the small amount of medication he was on began working for him.

He graduated early from high school with a 4.0 – and did not walk the graduation line because he was invited to play in Carnegie hall as the youngest person who had ever been invited to play with the orchestra. He went on to Europe for a two month tour playing and writing his own music. He had pictures brought in of his trip with his black suit and tie making him look much older than he was.

As this young man came out of his depression he said he wants to go back out on the tour that is coming up – as a young man going out alone with so much pressure so early he had a mental break down. He did not stay in the hospital long – nor has he been back. When he shows up in the newspaper I always smile at the success he is having and that I had the opportunity to meet him in person for a short period in his life.

As I shared that story with the class a co-worker who stood close by made me aware that a patient we had who had been a very talented bag pipe player had been killed in a car wreck. I paused for a moment thinking about this person I had met. He came in very manic, but a fun person to talk too. He said he knew he was getting sick but if he had a big contest to perform he did better without the medication. By the time he ended up in the hospital he had waited too long to restart his medication to get himself back under control. He had been accepted into nursing school with grades at the top of his class, life was going well for him before he was killed.

One in ten people have mental illness – 50-60% of the people in jails and prison have a serious mental illness. Only about 35-40% has ever received treatment or medication. Mental Illness can go into recovery with support and the right combination of medications and therapy.

It is not for the broke, the poor, and homeless. Both of these musicians made me smile and had an adventurous life that most are not brave enough to live. 

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IMG00582(2) Breaking the Chains   When You Want More and Do Not Know Where to Find It

Angela Brooks is a mental health nurse educator who spent the last 22 years working in a state funded mental hospital. She is the author of "The Nurses Voice" who exposes raw truth as a nurse. She is transitioning from nursing to one of the top positions in a health company changing life's one oil at a time.


Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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