The Big Girl Chronicles: Mental Health Awareness Month 2014
Millions of people in this country depend daily upon the mental health system for treatment and to advocate on their behalf. However as with any other service, sometimes you find yourself surrounded by a system that is in dire need of repair itself before it can provide adequate and effective services to its consumers. Some systems seem more enabling than operating with the intention of encouraging independence. The reason this is allowed to continue I imagine is because the voice of a person diagnosed with mental illness is quickly silenced among the general “healthy” population, being disregarded as having the potential to exaggerate more than others or is less credible. Also, no psychiatrist wants his decisions questioned and some tend to take offense when patients challenge them. There are also instances when complacency is favored above creating a rift in schedules, routines and services that most employees would rather not be altered. And let’s not overlook the fact that a long list of clients is always much more fruitful.
Why is revamping the mental health system of such importance? The answer is simple. Of however many millions of citizens that reportedly endure mental illness, there are however many more who have watched a relative, friend or loved one get trapped in the system to the extent that they themselves shirk from getting help that could be necessary to assist with day to day living and/or prevent a personal catastrophe that could have unintended victims. Additionally, we are bombarded with commercials advertising drugs that come with warnings of bodily harm while attempting to treat your mood or other psychosis that can also seem intimidating for someone wanting to engage in mental health treatment. Areas where some clients can seem to feel their mental health is being “held hostage” more so than being adequately treated include diagnosis, treatment and therapy (which pretty much encompasses the entire system).
It would be ideal to believe that most people who have mental illness are insightful enough to identify need for intervention and seek treatment. Unfortunately that isn’t the case often times and it becomes necessary for someone else to assist in getting that person the help (s)he needs. There are those who enjoy every moment of psychotic perceptions so much so that it has become a world within itself. In those cases the need to “convince” the client that there is a need for treatment can (and often does) interfere with accurately identifying symptoms and behavior that support the correct diagnosis. However, those who are insightful enough to identify need for intervention and seek treatment can -and sometimes sadly are- blindly thrown into a system that treats a diagnosis rather than the person. For this reason, it could be more effective to consider more of the client’s personality and background in naming a diagnosis so that the client isn’t being robbed of those characteristics that make him or her the person (s)he is. Someone who has always been lively, talkative and humorous with a bright personality could become lost in a bipolar diagnosis that could’ve been avoided had the doctor have been more aware of the client’s personality to differentiate what symptoms and behaviors have become problematic versus those that are part of the client’s persona. Also, a client that has had such a bright personality would more than likely experience some degree of sadness and should be given a fair amount of time to adjust rather than immediately bombarded with diagnoses and meds, depending upon severity of illness.
As with any health concern, helping the client understand his/her symptoms and diagnosis is key to gaining full participation in mental health treatment and curbing regression. After all, compliance is the single most important element in sustaining quality of life. There are some clients that enter the mental health system eagerly hoping to begin an end to whatever form of psychosis has held their life captive for however long. But remember the presumption mentioned above about those managing mental illness seemingly considered less credible? How can the client feel comfortable enough to openly discuss their concerns if (s)he doesn’t expect those concerns will be taken seriously? Or that those concerns are conjured up in attempt to avoid medication? It seems unfortunate that the mental health system has a tendency to stereotype those it is intended to serve.
Ideally each client is to receive individualized care. Individualized care is inclusive of not only access to those therapies that are easily available but also new therapeutic interventions and activities that could prove beneficial to clients. What can be most therapeutic sometimes is to allow the client to lead rather than continuously layering information upon information and employing various techniques that can seem tiresome and draining to the client rather than therapeutic. Also there can be a tendency to provide treatment and interventions based upon what a client might do. Unless there is some absurd intention on behalf of the client or (s)he has shown potential to be a danger to self or others, it is counter therapeutic to prevent clients from opportunities, ventures and interests that could be considered a form of therapy because of unfounded and unsubstantiated “maybes.”
Media campaigns encouraging the removal of stigma from mental illness often describe life while managing mental illness as something that doesn’t have to interfere with quality of life. To remain credible, it is imperative that the mental health system – or rather those that are employed within it- begin to advocate for and provide services to clients with the fewest restrictions necessary for treatment. This being understood, if you or someone you know are experiencing a disruption in mental status that impedes your capacity for daily functioning talk to someone about it immediately. You can contact your physician or local mental health facility to schedule an appointment and speak with a professional. Early detection and treatment is essential to managing the deteriorating effects of mental illness and sustaining a desirable quality of life. You can click the following links for more information: