Mental Health Services

Submitted by More Better on Tue, 11/08/2005 - 10:57.
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Mental Health : on oft stigmatizing issue

    Few people realize how many of us have dealt with issues of mental health at some point in our lives - it is no wonder people are often encouraged to be happy or not to worry.  This topic of mental health has often been considered taboo because few people want to associate with mental illness, or being 'crazy'.  Yet statistics show a majority of people on earth will grapple with some form of mental illness or disorder during their lives - every family on earth can relate to someone in their clan who has suffers from a mental disorder.  The fear and anxiety (a mental disorder in its own right) around assoicaition with mental illness causes many mental illnesses to go undiagnosed and often, untreated.   Among the most common of these is depression - anxiety disorders and eating disorders are not far behind. 

As a former pre-med who dating a clinical psychology intern for a long time (and have a father and brother who are physicians),  I learned a great deal about different mental conditions and a common framework for the diagnosis of mental conditions - the DSM !V.  Yet despite all there was to learn I realized mental health and the proper treatment of mental disorders is still a very inexact science.  I believe this is because all people are so unique and different that they cannot be exactly pigeonholed into specifc categories and pegged with exact disorders all the time.  Pracitioners do the best that they can, however, and many medicines have been developed that have been proven to provide significant relief for millions of people.  A persistent problem for many sufferers is denial - few people want to succumb to the thought that they may need medication for the rest of their lives.  Still others try medication but are so put off by side effects suffered they discontinue treatment and cope in other ways - typically with illegal drugs or alcohol.  

The self medication path is often chosen because it removes the sufferer of a mental condition from the stigma society (unfortunately) places on mental illness.  Unfortunately these self-medicating paths can result in probelms with drug and alcohol addiction that leave the sufferer worse off than before.  

Many feel that therapy plays just as important a role as medication in treating mental illness - science has proven that therapy, indeed has resulted in breakthrough results for many patients.  Typically a combined approach is best, because it can help prevent or catch problems like discontinuation of medication and allows the patient a critical outlet for expression under promised confidentiality.

I'm not psychological or psychiatric expert but these are many concepts i've learned in the past and have thoughts about now.  One of my biggest concerns, putting this in the context of social change and community developement is that we need to raise awareness around issues of mental health and help people overcome fears and anxieties around admission and treatment of a problem.  This region offers some of the highest ranked and highly regarded mental health programs and services in the nation, if not the world.   To successfully create a better quality of life for all people health issues need to be addressed - and mental health is no exception.  The difficulty is that mental health problems are not easy to identify or are always immediately apparent - and as alluded to earlier, fear of association with mental illness and the association of mental illness with 'craziness' or 'insanity' keeps many individuals from admitting to a problem or coping with the problem through illicit means.

What's the answer?  Many people could speak more expertly than I, but I believe that educating people as to how common these disorders are, teaching them not to stereotype or stigmatize those who admit to problems and get needed help for them, and encouraging everyone to participate in some form of therapy  to experience its benefits could have positive outcomes.  We could see a great improvement in a great number of people- on the whole creating a much happier, healthier, and productive populace.

I'd love to hear more thoughts from true experts - and just wanted to share some thoughts i've long had regarding mental health.

An issue of social health

As a recent psychology graduate from Case, and a clinically-diagnosed sufferer of panic disorder, I find this topic near and dear to me. Yet, in all my years of thinking about my condition and the condition of many psychologically-ill people, I have come to a different conclusion about mental health. Specifically, it addresses Norm's point on taking demographics into account.

I see our society suffering from a social disorder known as non-acceptance. I feel we live in and around a society of people who are unwilling to accept each other's differences, new ideas, change, and inclusion. The foremost value of honesty is replaced with complacency and ingenuine "niceness." We are prone to tell someone we like their dress in fear of hurting their feelings, instead of telling them our honest opinion that the dress is hideous and it would be in their best interest to change. With that, we have created a culture of distrust and fear of others not like us - because while they say one thing to our face, they say something completely different behind our backs.

This society with these cultures breeds a lot of isolation in people who yearn to be a part of a larger whole, to feel a sense of belonging, to be engaged in an effort to change the world into a better place. I think America has the highest prevelance of psychological disorders - now, some might say that that is because we are one of the more liberal countries in the world that no longer throws the mentally ill into asylums and recognizes these illnesses for what they are. I agree with that - but also say that we also have "civil rights" which aren't really TRUE but given at face value so those fighting for them will shut up. I do not believe American companies are inclusive of minorities or those with disabilities - they are merely forced to comply with a government law known as Equal Employment and Opportunity, so they tabulate their minority/disability quotas and feel that they have done their part to rid of racial/sexual prejudices in our society. Wrong - the prejudice and discrimination still exists on a very covert level, much like George Bush issuing executive power to spy on American citizens.

The larger point at hand is that I do not believe that all the people who have mental/psychological illness are predisposed to it and that a large part of these disorders have to do with the values of our society. Changing those is a matter of time (say 50+ years, if ever). Only then will we see our ideals materialize into our everyday lives, where humans use alternative energy for their consumptive purposes, where humans seek to help other humans through the struggle of life, where TRUE (not MTV or other POP) artists/musicians are given the resources and attention to create and share their talents and visions. The long-enduring fight for these ideals is what gets me going every day, while a silent struggle with the present reality is ever present.

Social change

MIke, I really enjoyed your commentary here.  You are exactly right when you speak of social disorder on a grand scale.  You speak to the way so many groups and subgroups take exclusionary viewpoints and make prejudicial decisions.  Many times this comes down to groupthink and the fact that many members of society instinctively ridicule or mock those different than us.  This could be applied to race or religion, but i'll specifically address behavior.  If someone sparks a conversation like others have never heard before or someone brings up points never made before these can be instinctively interpreted as odd or erratic behavior.   I participate in coursework through the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and it has been a very important aspect to be able to speak authentically from the heart, coming from a place of love.  Say a phrase like that, or better yet - practice this often : and be prepared to face the consequences - in this case, perhaps being labeled as an eccentric.  Yet everything in my heart tells me this is the right way we need to shift as a society - to transcend self-embeddedness and strive toward egolessness. 

So I really like your comment alluding to society's definition of what normal is - it just might be that the great visionaries are simply ahead of their time and context - and that which they speak of amounts to that to which the masses cannot relate.  I cannot tell you how many times I've proposed the advocacy of sustainability and it has just fallen on deaf ears.

One can be so easily labeled a tree-hugging fantatic by advocating greening measures to a conservative party.  That same individual could be embraced with open arms and championed a hero by a liberal group.

You speak to values of society and the necessity for these to change via paradigm shift, This brings directly to mind the need to inculcate class cirriculum at early stages on up with the new set of values.  For that it often either takes the monumental task of convincing school boards to advocate the new paradigm - or perhaps the creation of charter schools which bypass the bureaucratic process and 'just do it'.  Two such (local) charter programs include the School for Intergenerational Learning and the Entrepreneurship Academy.  

Take solace, Mike, in the fact that I join you in your fight, as do so many other agents for positive change.  As we continue to build communities using technology and polarize them toward meaningful action we just might make a significant difference in the short and long term.


Deep thoughts

Wow that goes to the foundation of human being in the world, today. I'd be interested in seeing more data on levels of mental disorders by disorder and other demographics, with trends over time. Whatever we can better address we should. In NEO, this time of year, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a big issue not found in other regions - we should be experts in dealing with that here.