Willingness to feel compassion, empathy for other human beings is indeed necessary for me to engage in illuminated living. Choosing to allow vulnerability and the chance of feeling someone else’s discomfort is awkward at best, often painful and socially uncomfortable. The greatest talent of actor/advocate Robin Williams, the lesson I have learned is that humor, valor, boldness and selflessness go a long way to soothe the pains of social discomfort, a great yet under-recognized malady of the first world. Whether self-medicating to the point of overdose, asphyxiation, anorexia, machine gun, psychic pain is a killer.
Our mental health professionals and service providers can, could and should do so much more to help people heal from the human condition. Everyone, whether we are attuned to it or not, experiences to some degree trauma. Losses, isolations, rejections, major relocations, national disasters, post-war injuries, divorces, crime victimizations, foreclosures, economic challenges actually buffet our population daily, sometimes chronically. Mental and physical illnesses easily erupt as we have become so conditioned to stuff the feelings surrounding these experiences. We develop aberrant behaviors, destructive habits, somatic expressions of distress in such a way that symptoms seem to pop up when we weren’t looking!
If left unattended, our very brain structure and function can change drastically. Anyone is vulnerable. Everyone is at risk. Causes of mental illness and its somatic sister are manifold: From childhood abuse, to domestic violence, maladies of the unseen are hidden in plain sight.
There is growing, however, a major movement to address these issues. There are genuine people and effective treatments to alleviate or remove the sting and effects of early childhood traumas, intimate partner violence, eating disorders, characterological disorders, effects of trauma for crime victims, our military and enforcement personnel. There is also methods of healing outside our narrow western school of medicine to be explored; although this is the topic of another post. So, why don’t suffering people ask and receive the help, treatment and aftercare they desperately need?
THERE is no excuse for individuals and families having to suffer so in this day and age. As a first world power, a culture of advancement known throughout the world, we should be setting a far better example than we currently do. Instead of making leaps and bounds in areas of raising awareness, tolerance, support, research, funding, access…to a great extent, the US mental health care system IS corrupt, avaricious, political, prone to exploitation, blame-shifting and profiteering. THIS surely should not be.
Attitudes and behaviours of the general public toward the mentally ill affects every area of the mental health care field. Capitalizing, profiteering on social ignorance and pervasive ancient prejudices, patients, victims, and, even perpetrators in many instances, are marginalized, ratcheted down to second-class citizens. In some cases, people with mental disorders are highly vulnerable targets for the criminal. This, too, must be investigated, arrested and prosecuted.
Mainstream America has for generations been socialized to fear individuals with mental health issue. That this continues is barbaric, ignorant and inappropriate for the 21st century. Technology has advanced in so many areas of civilization, we must start to inquire WHY the mental health care field has been left so far behind, abandoned in comparison to wallow in the mire of the dark ages! Clearly, reasons for this are complex, but NOT unknowable. We ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the REAL ‘why’:
- Is it too profitable for some to KEEP the huge portion of the population locked into thinking mentally ill people are inferior or defective?
- A danger to society?
- Not credible?
Or, are they in truth more valuable in their ‘sick’ condition, deep in symptoms in order to retain them as repeat consumers of mental health services, pharmaceuticals, alcohol, illicit substances, and nicotine?
In middle class communities, a common area of discrimination, criminalization, marginalization and derision (informed, sadly, more often by fear of depreciating property values, as well as chosen ignorance) is against those suffering from addiction. Good, upstanding families suffer from the effects of a loved one’s abuse and addiction to substances of all kinds. There IS a direct relationship between mental health disorders and substance abuse, and, whether it is politically correct or not, research is pointing to early use extrapolates to later abuse, addiction AND the development of major mental illnesses.
“Heroin dependent individuals have high rates of co-occuring disorders (COD), which makes them more prone to die from suicide than the general population (Kane-Willis, 2011).”
From 2004 to 2011 Mexican export of heroin alone into the US increased 700%. How could THAT have happened? Isn’t addiction now identified as an acute stage of Substance Use Disorder in the DSM-5? Is it not time to dry up the demand for criminal influx of narcotics
It is time to pull our ostrich heads out of the sand and face reality. Mental health care systems are in need of the same overhaul, if not with more urgency and effort, as has been poured into cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and every other disease. The days of ignoring invisible disabilities is long over.
This is a systemic, pandemic, endemic, economic, criminal justice and societal problem. Every one of us feeds into the pathology of the system today. It is time to take a look at each and every one of our OWN areas of participation in this problem, and to make a decision to become a part of solutions.
It is time for a change alright. But this change starts within every individual.