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 This kind training for pavlov's dog is outdated and incorrect.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.

Monday, July 1, 2013


When someone close to you dies you feel a numbness and shock that lasts for a period of time. Sudden death makes that shock last even longer. It’s unpredictable and the brain can’t make sense of it all. Add on other elements: the end of a family unit, uprooted from your home, loss of possessions. To me it feels like a loss of identity. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a long time. Things aren’t coming back the way I thought they would. It’s like my brain is in auto-pilot. I don’t really feel sad or anxious, I just feel numb. Maybe it’s just that I need more time. It’s only been 1.5 years and all the changes. It’s hard to feel that excitement about life, and pleasure and when I do feel excited it usually has to do something work related, a crisis of some sort. It seems my brain has been reprogrammed to respond to danger or the thrill that goes along with danger. That doesn’t really give me a good feeling since I don’t really like the idea of my life revolving around my work or mental health. I have a hard time separating work and my personal life. I’m on vacation now and I find it hard to relax, to just be, to have fun. Maybe this is all just grief or anxiety and maybe I’m forcing it too much. I feel like I need to always be in motion to help the “cause”. It’s what I think about a lot of the time I feel I need to do something for mental health or visit my dad. It’s hard to take a vacation from a parent and even harder to take a vacation from yourself. Have I become a workaholic? I think I need to find a better work/ play balance. Burn out happens in this field and that’s something I need to try and avoid. When your life revolves around one thing no matter how well meaning it can stop you from doing other things you enjoy. It’s not like I stopped doing things I enjoyed but…. they just feel different than before. I’m looking for that zest for life again. Time will tell… always


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Never really one of them…..

I never really felt like I was in sync with the rest of the world. I always felt a bit out of step, a little over here and never really with the flow of other people. Even my own family seemed very far away from me. I never really seemed “one” of them. For the longest time in my life I always wanted to be “one” of them. I thought if I could fit in something would happen, I don’t know I thought I would be happier or something. I listened to advice of others and I never really got it. Since my mom has died a lot of people have given my advice and honestly most of it I found to not be that useful. Maybe I’m just being stubborn or sensitive which I admit I am from time to time. I have also realized that a lot of people say one thing and do another. It’s not really important who these people are or what they said. What is important is that I’m a unique person with my own wants and goals in life. I don’t want what others have and I’m not really a fan of competing with others. I thank my mom for this since she never told me how to live (she did marry my dad, haha) She lived her own unique life doing the things that she thought was right. I also thank my dad too. Without him I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be different and to be not accepted. This may sound negative but I don’t mean it that way. It takes great strength to endure everything he has been through.
I’m a nomad. I embrace that now. I feel close to the sons and daughters, people I have never met. I try to share my story with as many people as possible because I know there are many children and adults that like me had no one to share their story with. At the root of it we are all humans with problems that need someone to talk too. We have the ability with our words and actions to change the world. If someone understands mental illness better because they know me, I will be glad about that.  I try to have a safe/ non-judgmental environment where others won’t be looked down upon. We all have our problems. George Carlin said, “When you are born you get a ticket to the freak show.” We are all freaks in some way or another. I don’t mean that in a mean spirited way. I mean we all have odd things about us; the mentally ill have sick brains. Is that really odd?  I think I’m fine with being a freak now.