Saturday, November 3, 2012

Society's Challenge With Mental Illness.

     My direct experience with mental illness has always been from afar. However , I have never ignored the  subject of  mental health . Mental health has been a challenge for all societies from the beginning.

     My earliest memories are from the late 1940's. Mental health was not really talked about. The people around me knew very little about mental illness and for that matter the health professions knew very little as well. The public feared people who were mentally ill and shunned them.There were huge government institutions were people were locked away. Little treatment was available so these people were warehoused and kept away from the rest of society, sometimes for the rest of their life..

    As I was finishing high school one of the suggestions my father made for a career possibility was to be a psychiatric nurse. I thought about it but not seriously. 

     Now most of the big bad black institutions are gone. Medication and counselling help to keep people in as normal a situation as possible. Some space is available to treat those with very acute conditions. Many changes have taken place from the bad old days until now. In many ways the treatment now is much more humane but there's much more that has to be done.

    So another incident that got me thinking about mental health is a medication that I was given when I was diagnosed with seizures. I was reading through the information which came with the drug and was shocked to find out that it was the same medication used to treat two of the common mental health conditions : schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. With a little research I soon discovered why this is so. All three have to do with some type of brain dysfunction. In the case of seizures there's an area in the brain that has abnormally fast waves. Now I don't like taking this medication. It messes with my balance and  moods.

     So now back to how mental health is dealt with today. For those people lucky enough to come in contact with the health system there is a protocol. First, counselling and medication are tried. If things don't work out and deteriorate a number of different agencies begin work on the case. They make a joint recommendation for treatment. There is a mental health board that deals with the patient and explains the reasons why and what will take place. The patient and family also have input. If all things go well the patient agrees with the health board to follow a set   treatment . The mental heath board is a somewhat legal body that puts everybody on the same page and attempts to safeguard all from problems.

     Those who do not come in contact with the health system have a horrendous time and tend to get into serious consequences in the general society. Some refuse treatment. I can understand why they wouldn't want some of the medication because it has some nasty side effects. One of the saddest things I ever saw in my life was a man in the Washington subway yelling at a huge wall. As I listened to him it was just words pouring out of his sentences whatsoever. He  was obviously not in contact with a health system and left to fend for himself on the streets.  

    Is this the ticket for success? Far from it.  Much more  research has to be done in the health field to find more effective medication. Society's attitude and support for mental health could go a long way to help people min their community .

    Now this is a black post but sometimes there are things that have to be said. We can't ignore the black all the time. Some good has to come out of many places to bring about a better life for people suffering from mental health issues.