Common Codes

Since coming to Los Angeles for college, I have had all different kinds of experiences when working in hospitals. Shadowing physicians in their own private practices is one avenue, but I wanted to dive deeper into the huge population that is the City of Angels. So, my sophomore year I began working at the LA County Hospital. I mainly worked in the Emergency Room Department, but form time to time I helped out in the orthopedic area as well. There were only two rooms that the volunteers were not allowed to go into and those were the jail and the Psych ER treatment area. While working there for almost two years, I constantly heard the intercom system announce, “code greens”, which meant that a patient having a mental break or an emotional outpour. These codes were quite common and always followed with the location of “Psych ER”. Obviously this just made my mind more curious. Yes, I wanted to see what I wasn’t allowed to see, but LA County hospital has one of the largest Psych ER’s in the Untied States. Not only were the amount of patients extremely overwhelming but also the mental health patients are unlike any other.

LA County ER

These patients needed more than just some yoga classes or meditation, instead they need medication and daily treatment. Mental health and mindfulness has swept the nation and has become what I like to say as “trendy”. Yoga and meditation (now associated with kale smoothies) has been placed in many people’s mind for a blanket of treatment of several types of mental illnesses. Now, that is not to say that yoga has no benefits, but there is a huge distinction from people who need to distress and the people who need serious treatment.

Serious treatment can be identified as many things, however in my opinion it revolves around the amount of care/treatment needed. Unfortunately, what makes treating mental illnesses very difficult is the fact that treatments have be very specific towards one patient. Even within the same mental disorder, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, there are various types of treatments. More recently I began working at the West Los Angeles VA and I have met employees and patients that all fit onto the spectrum of PTSD. For example, one of my co-workers has a very “light” diagnosis of PTSD, while others came back from combat completely absent-minded and sometimes sadly commit suicide.

Luckily, our society has developed many PTSD medications such as Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor and Prozac. These are all the common names of these types of medications and they all interact with the brain in different ways. For example, Prozac is known to be a common anti-depressant drug. Many people who do not have PTSD actually take this medication. Since PTSD can affect every patient in various forms, Prozac might be required for one patient to take due to excess of depression while the next patient might only have extreme anxiety. However PTSD is addressed, it is crucial to really understand the patients in order to properly treat each one.