MY CAREER AS A PSYCHIATRIC NURSE IN ARIZONA

Alice Parris-Arizona State Hospital

Alice Parris-Arizona State Hospital

I spent sixteen years of my twenty-five year nursing career as a Psychiatric
Nurse. In Arizona, they call it Behavioral Health. I worked in private facilities
for adolescents, where they had a private chef, to registry work with adults-
also in private Behavioral Health facilities, to the Arizona State Hospital where
I worked on all of its Forensic Units. I spent more time in Geriatric Forensic and
Adolescent Forensic than I spent with adults. Any call-offs by scheduled Registered
Nurses could mean that any nurse could be floated to any unit at anytime.

When I first went to the State Hospital, as a registry nurse, I admit that I
was terrified by the looks in the eyes of the patients. We would describe it
as “looking off.” I spent my first day grateful to be in the medication room
preparing medications and not on the floor being terrified. Patients would cue
up to receive scheduled medications at a door at the med room which had a top
that could open, while the bottom of the door was locked. This was to prevent the
possibility of a newly admitted patient from charging at the medication nurse.
A staff member stood beside the patient to help identify them, many or most had
removed their admission wrist bands.

I cannot describe the first few minutes of that first day, starting with the
sound of doors being locked behind me. Fear welled up inside of me. By the end
of the first day, I had been chased around the unit by a new patient (who had
been in and out of physical restraints all day.) New patients were not stabilized
on their medications and staff did not know their “cuing behaviors.” Cuing behaviors
are predictable movements within certain patients that would proceed an attack on
other patients or staff member-such as pacing, increased verbal assaults, facial
expressions. As a medication nurse, the faster a nurse could draw up IM medications,
the safer the staff would be. Staff would dislike a “slow nurse” who put them at risk.

Chaos could break out at any time, over anything. When one patient “blew” it was
like the popping of popcorn; others would follow suit. Soon a “riot” would have
broken out on a unit. One of the jobs of the floor staff was to monitor for cuing
behavior and when observed, notify the charge nurse or med nurse so an oral liquid
form of the medication could be offered to the patient. If the patient refused, it
would more than likely lead to a “show-down” and sadly, physicians orders for a
Seclusion and Restraint would be issued for the patient, so that they could receive
their medications IM. Seclusions and Restraints follow strict safety guidelines for
the patients: continuous monitoring of vital signs, bathroom needs and a re-assessment
for compliance every two hours. Remember at a state facility, if compliant per
verbal agreement, the patients were allowed back into the general population. Many
of these patients had already had a brush with the law or community and were determined
to be a danger to themselves or to others. Some were petitioned and some were court
ordered until “competency” could be established (if facing legal charges.) Some patients
could not understand the charges against them and had to be prepared to go before a judge
by virtue of role-play undertaken by professionals.

Malingerers, who had broken the law, but were there to avoid “real jail” were easily
weeded out by behaviors. Occassionally, a patient had become so “institutionalized,”
that they were terrified of leaving a “step-down” unit and going into a monitored
living environment outside of the high metal fences and barbed wire. Such a patient
could easily try to “cheek” their medication as to allow the fullness of their mental
illness to resurface. By “cheeking” I mean not swallowing their medication-hiding them
in the mouth, until they could “stock-pile” it.( which in itself is dangerous should
the patient decide to try an attempt at suicide.) Not taking medication would lead to
the de-stabilization of the patient. Erratic behavior and violence were not far behind.
There was a protocol to ensure that patients could not “cheek” their meds. Every now and
again, a patient would “outfox” the staff, anyway. Every shift that a mental health
professional stepped onto the floor of a Forensic Unit was an act of courage and bravery.

It is needful to make a distinction between “non seriously mentally ill” and “seriously
mentally ill.” Also, to make a distinction between someone with suicidal ideation versus
homicidal ideation. “Non seriously mentally ill” could be cyclothymic, bipolar along with
personality disorders. Also, poor impulse control, poor insight in various combinations.
Seriously mentally ill, could cover the gamut: sociopaths (antisocial personality disorders)
with homicidal ideation, Paranoid Schizophrenia; a combination of diagnosises rendering them
incapable of holding down a job. I believe that many homeless in Arizona are mentally
ill. They fell through the “criteria-cracks.” They were too ill to get out of the relentless sun in the summer where dozens yearly would die from heat stroke. The summer before I left Arizona, the good citizens went around to the homeless passing out bottles of water. I often wondered why emergency lodging was not provided for these people, for the water would run out. They looked too shabby or scary to hang out in the air-conditioned mall. They would more than likely be chased away by mall security for frightening the shoppers and ruining their spending day.

While the conversation ensues about guns and the mentally ill, it is my belief that people who display poor impulse control, who hate & fear are just as dangerous as the seriously mentally ill, in a “perfect storm. It is my concern that people who are not knowledgeable about the differing degrees of mental illness do not put everybody into one lump. There are “Patient’s Rights” to consider. The mentally ill have these rights, as well they should. In Arizona, there is petitioning process available. I suspect that those who observed Jared’s behavior were afraid of him. They would be afraid to petition him, even his parents were probably justifiably afraid of him. They would not want the repercussions of having petitioned him not knowing what he might do when he came out. Most of the community probably recognized the possibility that he had “homicidal ideation.” Police can be called in to pick up and take to an assessment facility those who need mental health services but are not willing to seek them on their own.The criteria in Arizona is “danger to self or danger to others.” Someone could have called the police anonymously to ask them to monitor a person behaving strangely within their neighborhood or community.

It is my hope that this blog will help America not to further stigmatize people who have already been stigmatized. Americans always seem to need a new underdog to kick-about. I hear the words, “nuts” and “crazies” bandied about. It is NOT OKAY! Rather use the terms “disturbed” or “seriously mentally ill.” Talk about “suicidal or homocidal ideation.” I pray that the people who are seeking a solution, find an effective, compassionate way to deal with mental illness as it relates to gun ownership. We do not need any more cruelty in our minds or our conversations. We do not need those in need of our help to
be hiding fearfully in the shadows. We do not need the seriously mentally ill to feel paranoid about being discussed in a perceived “threatening” way. This might prove counterproductive. All of the seriously mentally ill are not in “the system.” Our civility in this specific matter, itself, could save lives.

Alice Parris

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ALICE PARRIS

Alice Parris @ 60 yrs old

Alice Parris @ 60 yrs old

I would like to take this opportunity to say to one and all: Happy Holidays! My daughter took this photo from her cell phone a few minutes ago. When I was born, the physician said that I would not live to see two years old. I have exceeded all expectations, for the which I am grateful. Now, two months shy of sixty, I can say that my length of days has been miraculous. Blessings and peace to all.

Alice Parris

ALICE PARRIS FAMILY TREE: THE KELLY CHILDREN

Harold B Kelly Jr. In his Cardinal Farley’s Military Academy Uniform (boarding school)

Harold Kelly Jr. In his Cardinal Farley's military academy uniform-HS

Harold B Kelly Jr. During his early Oberlin University years

Harold Kelly Jr. in Oberlin U.

My mother and brother at Christmas time in the living room in Shaker Heights, Ohio

My mother & brother at Xmas

Harold B. Kelly Junior with wife, Bonnie & Daughter Danielle (both Oberlin grads)

Harold Jr. with wife & baby daughter

Rhonda and me. She just graduated from Villa Maria HS. I’m wearing the “Twiggy” style

Rhonda & me at her Graduation from Villa Maria HS

Rhonda at home in our living room in Shaker Heights

Rhonda Kelly at home

Rhonda at home from Tufts University

Beautiful Rhonda Kelly

Rhonda Kelly at Fisk University

Rhonda at twenty

Me dresed for Junior Prom

Alice Parris at Junior Prom

Me at sixteen years old

Me at sixteen years old

Me on the steps of boarding school: Villa Maria HS

Me on steps at Villa Maria H.S. in PA

Me as a Fisk University Freshman

Me at nineteen yrs old


Alice Parris Family Tree exists because it is doubtful if I will write my autobiography. I lived my life hard and fast. I would not even know where to begin. I started college at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After being undecided about a “real’ major”, I spent a little shy of two years being a “beach-bum’ in Freeport, Bahamas ( where my parents owned condos) I returned to Nashville and attended Tennessee State University where I got an associate degree in science; nursing-which went from med-surgery to specializing in Forensic Psychiatric Nursing. After working in many fields of nursing for twenty-five years, I went on to write two poetry books, published song lyrics, wrote jazz music, sang jazz renditions of my favorite influences, and become a Spoken Word Artist.

Few people could ever contemplate the lifestyle of some African Americans who had money and status in a country which had tried to deny both. Few would understand the “tri-racial” community which is my mother’s heritage. For example when both race riots broke out in Cleveland, Ohio in the 60’s, I was in Europe. We lived a fantasy lifestyle provided by my father, Dr. Harold B. Kelly.

The Kelly side of my family is atypical. My grandmother, Catherine Kelly was a school teacher, her husband Peter was one of the first black postal workers. Out of seven children, three became physicians, three educators and one nurse. The Kellys are well known in South Carolina and the children of the Kelly clan still own real estate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Dr. Peter C. Kelly lived in Conway, S.C. They were buying property in Myrtle Beach before most people realized what a treasure it was. Dr. Peter C. Kelly sent my father, Harold B. Kelly to Howard medical school. My father in turn, sent my Aunt Dr. Vermelle Kelly Piper to medical school.

The Kellys owned a house in the middle of white Georgetown S.C. which was bequeathed to two freed slave children long ago. One of my father’s ancestor jumped off of a slave ship outside of St. Maartin. He was never a slave, but a free man who acquired the name Pierre Calais upon the tiny island. Pierre Calais ventured to New Orleans and worked as a trapper. The name Peter Kelly came from the name Pierre Calais. There is no Irish connection to be found here. All of the aforementioned has been obtained by oral tradition.

There are too many fascinating events happening with this family, that I cannot figure out where to begin. A picture is still worth one thousand words. This will be the last installation of family photos. Alice Parris

ALICE PARRIS FAMILY TREE: MY FATHER’S HOUSE

My father, Harold B. Kelly M.D.

My father, Dr. Harold B. Kelly

My mother with children before I was born

Before I was born

My father with us as young children

When we were young

My mother with us as growing children

As we grew older

These are the houses that my family lived in. Some commentary from my mother about dates

Houses where we lived


These photos are of my father, my mother with my brother and sister (before I was born), My father, brother sister and I young, my mother, brother, sister and I a little older, and the houses that we grew up in. French was my first language because I grew up in Fontainbleu, France from ages 1 1/22 to 3 1/2. We were raised by French nannies, because my mother and father liked to travel all over Europe. Dr. Harold B. Kelly was a Captain in the army and that is where we were stationed. We traveled across the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Mary. As I have aged, the more random French will roll off of my tongue in the most inappropriate of places.

I do not remember my very early childhood. I have watched films of myself running around at an Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the villa in France. They had to show me where the eggs were. My sister, Rhonda reports that we were locked in the cellar at the convenience of Antoinette or Louisiette, when their lovers would be over when my parents were out of town. I imagine that we were naughty children; my sister, Rhonda, threw a wooden coat hanger from the winding staircase and cracked one of them in the head. She was replaced.

We also lived in North Carolina (with a beach home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.) New Jersey (while my father did a residency in OB-GYN at Harlem Hospital in New York) as well as Shaker Heights, Ohio, as my father’s medical career dictated. I attended tenth grade in the High School where Paul Newman graduated. Alice Parris

ALICE PARRIS FAMILY TREE: MY GRANDPARENTS & CHILDREN

My young grandparents before marriage & their young children, Norma and Plummer

Plummer & Alice Richardson with children

A young Plummer Armstead Richardson-my uncle

Young Plummer Armstead Richardson

A young Norma Louise Richardson- my mother

A young Norma Louise Richardson

My grandfather, Plummer Benjamin Richardson

Plummer Benjamin Richardson-my grandfather

My grandmother Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper-my grandmother

My grandmother, Alice Cooper at an older ageAn older Alice Cooper

My grand father and uncle: Plummer Benjamin and Plummer Armstead Richardson

Plummer Benjamin & Plummer Armstead Richardson

Plummer Benjamin is shown at various stages of his life. Alice Cooper is shown at various stages of her life. While Plummer Benjamin was a mortician, Alice Cooper was a teacher with her Master’s Degree. She continued to pursue her academic career but because of the times, getting a P.H.D. that she could never use seemed pointless. Alice Cooper is a direct descentant of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper II, son of the First Lord Proprietor of North Carolina, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper I, per King Charles II in the 1600’s.

Alice Parris

ALICE PARRIS FAMILY TREE: VERY OLD LEAVES

Lucian Battle of Nashville, North Carolina

Alice Parris's great-great grandfatherLaura Battle Richarson in old age

Alice Parris's great-grandmother; Laura Battle RichardsonPlummer Alston Richardson in old age

Alice Parris's great-grandfatherPlummer Alston Richarson in middle age

Alice Parris's great-grandfatherPlummer Alston Richardson’s voting registrationPlummer Richardson's voting registration

Plummer and Laura Richarson with first born, Ethel
Alice Parris's great- grandparents

Lucien Battle was my great-great grandfather on my mother, Norma Richardson’s father’s side. He lived in Nashville, North Carolina. Lucien’s daughter was Laura Battle Richardson. She married Plummer Alston Richardson. Plummer Alston Richardson is shown in his old age. Laura Battle Richardson is shown in her old age. Plummer Alston Richardson is shown in his middle age. Plummer and Laura are shown in their youth, with Laura holding their first born child, Ethel Richardson. Also shown is Plummer Alston Richardson’s voting registration dated in 1902.

According to some family historians, Plummer Alston Richardson left a North Carolina reservation and became a “colored” barber in Nashville, North Carolina. A marriage was brokered by Lucien Battle (Caucasian) for his daughter, Laura (mulatto) to Plummer. Plummer was a European/Native American mixture. During his life, Plummer Alston had become a millionaire from multiple businesses and real estate. What part Lucien Battle played in Plummer’s ascendancy is speculated upon by rumor. His wife, Laura, survived Plummer and lived to be ninety-six years old. This information was not gotten from an ancestry registry. These are the actual photos and documents preserved by the family. Alice Parris