Another question

Why are mental illnesses STILL taboo? It’s like it’s worse now, in the 21st century, to have to admit that you’re taking medication for mental health than it was in the 1800s when you had to retire for an afternoon due to ‘hysteria’ and ‘melancholy’.

And why are mental illnesses still considered personal defects, weaknesses, and looseness of character?

If I have spina bifida, diabetes, or neck sharks, I would have a ‘bona fide’ physical ailment for which I could get treatment and go on with my life. I can go to my boss and say, “dude. My pancreas just died” without too much trouble. If I have a flu, I stay home from work. But when I’m suffering from work overload or depression or schizophrenia, not being able to work is suddenly some big horrible, unmanageable beast.

What’s with the ‘buck up, little soldier’ attitude? The whole ‘just get through this and you’ll be fine’ bee ess? And why, for the love of God, have we done away with mental health institutions? Why does it take six months to get in to see a counsellor? Why are patients clearly in need of psychiatry, counselling, and/or drug therapy just released from hospitals and forced to live in the streets? Where’s the help for mentally ill patients? Where’s the sexy fundraiser? Where’s the brightly coloured shirt and armbands (that I wouldn’t *wear*, but we’ve been over this) and the informational PSAs and the sensitivity training?

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

8 Comments

  1. Well, Bell Canada, and Olympian Clara Hughes have teamed up to raise awareness and money for mental health programs in Canada.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=033-6MY8OpM

    But yes, thanks to the cuts to health care, one of the first things to go are programs to do with mental health, because they are thought of either as ‘soft’ diseases, something people can just deal with, or as too expensive to fix, because they take a far greater amount of resources.

    I’d say this has a lot to do with our curative vs. preventative form of health care, where the goal is just to hand out pills to ‘cure’ things.

    And that’s just one of the reasons why mental health issues get dealt with as ‘lesser than’ other health issues.

    1. How the hell do you prevent mental illness? I mean, what’s a staunch preventative against schizophrenia? Or “bipolar”? Or depression?

      Other than improving lifestyles and diet *in general*, which is *general* health thing, I suppose.

      1. I was speaking more from a point of view and how those systems are described. The British system is preventative, and their care for mental health is a lot better than the Canadian system. The curative system, the idea that everything not normal should be ‘cured’ somehow is where we are with the state of mental health in Canada.

        It wasn’t a question of if mental health could be prevented, more a rather meaningless description or classification given to types of approaches to health care.

  2. I think you’re overestimating the amount to which other diseases are accepted when it comes to work absences. An occasional absence (like the flu) is accepted. Acute, severe attacks like your pancreas dying are completely understood. But ANY chronic condition suffers from discrimination and negative attitudes from bosses and coworkers. Diabetes complications, MS, or depression — if you’re missing work for it, people will look down on you for it.

  3. One of the biggest “problems” I see with treatment of these issues is “permission to treat”.
    If the patient is 16 or older, the patient has to give consent to treatment. If that person doesn’t think they have problems or can just soldier on, the system can’t legally treat them. As far as I know, the only way you can have someone 16 or older committed to an institution, or forced into treatment is if they are a danger to themselves or others.

    1. Well, that’s certainly the case with *any* ailment. You can break your leg and refuse to go to the hospital, and die of gangrene just as easily as you can be living with mental health issues and refuse treatment.

      I think the reality is that far, far fewer people seek treatment for mental health because 1) admitting that you have mental health problems is such a stigma; 2) there’s an atmosphere of ‘it’s all in your mind, just buck up and sally forth’ that you don’t often see with physical ailments; 3) the waiting lists to get in are so unreasonably long.

      If I break my leg, I might wait in an emergency room for a couple of hours, or a day or so. But if I’m living with clinical depression or addiction or bipolar or schizophrenia, I might wait for *up to a year* to get an appointment with a doctor or counselor. Patients who present with emergent mental health issues are often given pamphlets and are urged to follow up with their ‘family doctor’, and sent on their way.

      ANY patient must give consent for treatment once they reach a certain age, regardless whether they seek treatment for physical ailments or mental ailments.

      Now, what would happen if you had a child who needed mental health treatment, who, upon seeing a doctor, was given an intake counseling session *on the spot*, and then was referred immediately to a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist? What would happen if people who suffered from addictions who made it in to the hospital or the clinic on the one day in the past year they’d decided to go clean, were immediately allowed to check themselves into a detox program that would then immediately flow them into a treatment program, and from there to sober living facilities/counseling, without *any* waiting period at all? What would happen if you could say to your doctor, boss, family, etc., “I’m really feeling overwhelmed” and not have that conversation turn into “well, have you tried sleeping more?” and “perhaps you should take a vacation”.

      I mean, if I go to a doctor and say, “I have an acute pain in my lower left abdomen”, my doctor doesn’t usually say, “just go sleep it off.”

      1. I’m trying to say that if my spleen fell out, there’d be no ambiguity about it at all. It would be obvious to me and family and doctors that I need help.
        Co-workers are bitchy cuz they have to cover me? Fuck ya bitches – take a look at my rotten SPLEEN! IT FELL OUT BY THE WATER COOLER!

        If my spleen fell out, there’s no way I could ever say “No it didn’t. I’m fine. I’ll just take a vacation.”

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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