The Stigma of Mental Illness 1

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        <p>Â On a daily basis the media bombard us with news of tragic
deaths of home invasions, murders, kidnapping and other atrocities. Many
of these crimes are committed by a disturbed, mentally ill person. The
failure of government and public policy to protect all our citizens from
those who have mental disabilities is wrong. They are ignored, denied.
blurred, blamed and are invisible.</p> <p>Â The Federal Government should
lead in establishing an environment of reality and acceptance of
treatment without the ignorant stigma of shame. Mental problems are just
as legitimate as a cut needing stitches or a heart attack. Yet people who
seek help for a psychological problem are still looked upon as flawed and
blamed for not being able to handle their own problems.</p> <p>Â Mental
health is a legitimate health problem. As we go forward to reform our
national health care, let us not forget the mentally ill.</p> <p>Â We
need public education to encourage individuals to go for help when they
recognize feeling out-of-control or in a situation where they need
counseling, support and advice. Some problems are chemical imbalances and
often medications can reduce symptoms or stabilize the individual, if the
person takes the medication. They don't always take them because the
medications have such uncomfortable side effects. Many patients believe
the disease is easier to cope with than the drugs.</p> <p>Â Other
problems are situational and don't need to be medicated but brought to
the surface, worked out and resolved. The best way to do this is through
"talk therapy." There are many modalities that effectively work to
educate and empower people to stop repeated patterns of destructive and
self-deprecating behaviors. Being molested as a child is one example.
There is no drug to resolve the damage done and continuing negative
effects on adult relationships like trust issues, guilt, shame and sexual
confusion and dysfunction. These issues need to be resolved by other
means.</p> <p>Â Medicating such a wound just exacerbates the dilemma and
doesn't resolve or heal the wound.</p> <p>Â Grief is similar issue.
Typically it isn't pathological, yet it hurts like hell for a long time.
Medication isn't recommended. Talking about the pain and expressing the
hurt is a healthier way to deal with grief. Knowing what to expect, the
hot spots and the time frame is empowering. Just knowing that the
immediate pain will heal itself is part of the grieving process.</p>
<p>Â Historically, we as a nation have attached a stigma of shame on the
individual suffering from a mental problem and on the family. I know
because in 1956 my father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and rather
than go to a hospital and inflict shame on his family and himself he
killed himself at 45 years old.</p> <p>Â In the 1960's we began
systematically to empty out all our mental hospital. Often they were less
than ideal, but rather than reform them we dumped the patients onto the
street. Most homeless people have serious mental health problems and so
do most inmates in jail. Today when a person is identified with serious
mental problems there is no place to put him or her, few long-term are
available for the mentally ill. Half way houses substitute as a safe
place to be housed, but they are rarely safe. And inmates in jail don't
get adequate mental health help to prevent recidivism, returning to jail
after they are released.</p> <p>Â Then in the 1990's the Insurance
companies under the umbrella of Health Maintaince Organizations (HMO's)
appeared on the reimbursement stage and embraced short-term therapy with
an emphasis on behavioral modification and limited psychotherapy to six
or on occasion twelve sessions. Any additional sessions need to be
approved by the HMO before they would be paid. This was the death knoll
to effective therapy for the severely mentally ill.</p> <p>Â Private
insurance limits the number of visits they will pay for through
reimbursement and co-payments. With the number of visits regulated by
HMO staff a mental health professional literally has to beg for
additional visits for deserving clients. Additionally the HMO tells the
practitioner what they will pay and it is rarely his or her regular fees,
always less. It is a nightmare of getting approved to provide services,
with co-pays and reimbursement different for each provider. Mental health
practioners are overloaded, overwhelmed and underpaid. It is a job with
high burn out and high turn over.</p> <p>Â Now in 2009 access is limited
even non-existent in many states in the the US. Most don't have enough
money to adequately fund Community Mental Health Programs. Tragically of
the places states cut funds in budget crunches is Mental Health. Sick
people fall between the cracks even when identified and mandated to get
out patient therapy.</p> <p>Â Mental health must become a higher priority
in this country to prevent innocent people from becoming victims. All of
society is responsible for this tragedy. We must demand more education,
better treatment and prevention strategies to avoid tragic senseless
incidents in the future.</p> <p>Â This is a broken system and needs to be
fixed. Now!</p>        <!--INFOLINKS_OFF-->

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