The Biggest Problem in Mental Health Treatment
May 2, 2014
Living an unexamined life in a generation infiltrated with new health policies and technologies enables the unjust to progress without scrutiny. Thus, to refine the status quo of psychiatric treatment necessitates a dialogue which encourages criticism leading to change. It is not only our duty to highlight the deficient methods of caring for the mentally ill, but our obligation must inculcate suggestions for tangible improvements in how we view and treat individuals suffering from a mental health disorder. A holistic understanding of the root of a problem is an imperative element in forming a productive solution. Thus, a basic explanation of the biggest problem in mental health care is necessary.
Viktor Frankl, Logotherapy Inventor
You know someone suffering from a brain disorder. Yes, you. Every person has a family member or friend struggling with a disease rooted in the chemistry of the brain. Whether you know someone with schizophrenia or depression, the prevalence of mental illness in our communities is palpable. And yet, our willingness to treat these patients with the same empathy as someone with a cardiovascular disease is limited. That our communities are guilty of misunderstanding individuals with a mental health disorder is not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is not how the community views these individuals, but how medical society interacts with these needy patients.
The trap of psychiatry rests in the inability of the diseased to fully grasp the depths of their abnormal state of health. The trap of the mind comes forth when a clear paralysis of cognition is demonstrated. The trap of medicine exists at the intersection of these two mysteries, thereby producing our biggest problem.
The common denominator between every disease and disorder is consciousness. Whether it be a heart attack or a broken bone, the patient is conscious that they have currently entered an ill-state ; a person is cognizant of their illness, and this awareness prompts them to seek medical attention. The equation is quite simple: the brain is informed of internal damage that requires medical assistance. Subsequently, your brain informs your mind that you are currently sick, and hence need to obtain a particular type of intervention to reprogram your body to a healthy state of being.
Yet, can one become aware of their sickness if the diseased organ is the very place which produces conscious thought?
A sane person retains their cognitive abilities throughout a medical illness; however, a psychiatric patient is robbed of the ability to fully grasp that they are in need of help. Medicine has produced a fact in the last 10 years: the neuronal circuitry in psychiatric patients is abnormal. The brain simply does not work. And yet, we not only expect for these unfortunate patients to seek proper medical care, but we make it a perquisite for psychiatric patients to initiate their treatment.
The unifying commonality of awareness between all disease states excludes psychiatric illness. Nevertheless, we illogically obligate them to produce the same qualifications as any other sick person : they must willingly request treatment. Simultaneously, though, we are the ones who have professed that the mentally ill harbor within their skulls a dysfunctioning brain. The same white coats who have revealed the abnormality of psychiatric brains will refuse to treat these brains without their consent. This is the biggest problem the mental health community faces.
As we develop new technologies and better pharmaceuticals to treat mentally ill patients, it is our responsibility to concurrently push for an evolution in how these interventions are administered. The community of patients that refuses to get help may very well be the exact population we need to be targeting. Health advocates, friends and family members are incapable of providing solutions to these patients, for the patient does not consciously recognize his illness. Certainly, the ethics of consent proves to be the grand obstacle in our journey towards implementing a new set of laws governing mental healthcare policy. A physician swears to actively do no harm unto a patient, and yet we live in a time when doing nothing is the greatest medical harm of all. Shall we remain idle and silent, perhaps even indifferent, as persons with tremendous needs become sicker? Is it ethical for us to remain content with the current state of affairs? Ask yourself: perhaps withholding treatment that would most likely improve the brains of these patients is the greatest harm we may be inflicting. The time has come for us to change these laws, offering a better chance of treating the most complex organ in the universe.
These mental wounds inflict perpetual damage which continuously steals the ability of the brain
to realize it is wounded evermore.
How will someone suffering from a disease they are unable to recognize ever heal?