Saturday, September 28, 2013

how the mental health system stigmatizes its own.

I have been working in mental health for about 1.5 years, so I'm fairly new to the field. I guess that means that you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm often left questioning many of the decisions that are made around me. The first thing I have to say is the system itself and  unfortunately some of the people in the field stigmatize their own. I often hear words like "behaviors" "redirect" "decompensation". "does so and so have any "behaviors"? Really, that's how we discuss a person with a serious illness? I find this degrading and humiliating. That's something you say about a dog. The same thing is said about "redirect". Can we redirect this person? no, because they aren't a puppy or your kid and it's not something you should be saying to a child either. Not only is it humiliating but it's just not  correct. You will never be able to "redirect" someone with schizophrenia, sorry, but it won't happen. how do you "redirect" someone that hears voices from inside their brain?? This kind training for pavlov's dog is outdated and incorrect. Behavior methods don't work for seriously ill people.
The mental health system doesn't seem to be able to keep up with the new information that is coming by the way of science and breakthroughs. There is plenty of evidence that supports the idea that people with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and bpd will have their situation greatly improved by psychotherapy and  treatment teams don't cut it in my opinion. The term mental illness itself has a large stigma around it. what if you changed the name? What if people saw schizophrenia as a brain disease/disorder because that is what it is after all. These "behaviors" are symptoms of a much larger disease. A disease of the brain like MS, Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
After reading about the closing of Mayview(state hospital in Pittsburgh)  almost five years ago it's clear that many people in the system are falling through the cracks. 15% of all patients at Mayview state hospital are now dead. I'm not a fan of state hospitals they can be horrible and nothing but  warehouses, however, there needs to be a higher level of care. Community living is a nice idea but it's just not realistic for some really ill people. Of course a lot of this has to do with funding but tossing people around like trash is horrible and immoral. How many people from Mayview will end up in jail, homeless or dead in coming years?  We wouldn't do that to someone with MS or Parkinson's.
We always hear why are the mentally ill killing people? Well we know why this happens: they don't get treatment. These are very rare events and anyone with an internet connection could tell you that. The more realistic scenario is the seriously mentally ill going to jail, the street or dying prematurely. I don't think people in the field are bad people, in fact a lot of in the field really mean well, I just think they don't really know what to do and have been taught with outdated ideas. The stigma around mentally illness or should I say brain diseases runs deep and until that changes nothing will improve.

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