(This article is also published as a Series on Medium.com)
I seek to inform the unacquainted with some key facts that face those who have been determined within a “mental” category.
The goal is to show that no matter the label given, no one’s experience is the same, nor are the causes nor the solutions. Speaking as a layman in the field, I will discuss how society can too easily discredit, misjudge, mistreat, and miscategorize people. And why I hid my labels for most of my life. And why I felt the need to speak about it, now.
Five immediate suggestions for the mental health field when encountering a person in distress.
Technically speaking, any vulnerable person can be driven insane or be insinuated insane.
Is it fair to allow a person’s mental state to be used as a weapon against them?Anyone is suspectible of falling under the curse of a diagnosed mental condition. If there’s no escape for me, then there’s no escape for you either.At least in America, this is the land of the free. As an American, I claim that!
Some considerations that might help offer better treatment:
Respect always to those working in the mental health / healing / medical professions. When things work, people get better.
I know because I have recovered from crisis situations. I did that with help from the above mentioned.
I hope to add insight so that others will find success with their healing too.
And I want to bring attention to the fact that people do get better. When they do, they are no longer a threat, a burden, an annoyance, or an object deserving of abuse.
There is no need to permanently label anyone, or to brand them for life.
If a person is responsible with their health, in their mind or otherwise, then why treat them as if they are still sick?
A watched pot doesn’t boil, and neither does a person thrive while living under a microscope of scrutiny.
And it’s ignorant to treat someone in a condescending way just because society has made it okay to do so.
We get one life (or so I believe), so how can you deny a person an equal chance at a normal life. Normalcy doesn’t resume if stigma continues. If people are allowed to live normal lives, then a healthier society will follow. Self-care will be more strived for, as well as self-sufficiency and totally responsible behavior. Anxiety will diminish. Happiness will ensue for all.
There’s no such thing as being out of your mind. Speaking for myself, when in distress, I am still very aware of what is happening around me and how people are treating me, or mistreating me.
Kindness when people are in a weakened state is the best approach. Don’t incite heightened reactions that aren’t already there. And don’t overreact to make things worse.
Not everyone is an expert, nor can adequately access a person’s mental state. Even trained staff make mistakes. So rule of thumb: just be considerate if you don’t know what else to do.
When you are in the midst of a crisis, it can be challenging, just deciding where to go for help. You are extra fearful as your thinking is clouded with distress. To the point that even asking for help becomes a cautious act.
Suicide hotlines are often available but not everyone in crisis is suicidal. And there’s a fear that you could accidentally “turn yourself in” by calling one of those hotlines. Someone might turn up at your door and cart you away. A straitjacket isn’t a longed for fashion item.
Sometimes just talking to a kind, listening ear to work through your thoughts is all that is needed. Simple.
There doesn’t always need to be a crisis intervention. The moment of distress can pass or the intensity lowered if just talked through. You don’t always want to make a big deal out of your problems.
That’s why when someone in distress seeks help it should always be welcomed. It means they want to be fixed and prevent something worse from happening. A cry for help is often just that. It’s not a big cry for attention, a stunt or a drama.
We need a world with less skepticism and more compassion and empathy. In a society that jumps to judge, it’s very humbling to have a mental health crisis.
In an ideal world, those suffering won’t need to go very far for help and will be greeted with a smile and an open hand offering reassurance. They just want to hear that everything is going to be okay.
A few suggestions for mental health clinics.
I know that mental health clinics depend on funding to keep their facilities functioning. However, there should be some changes to how they report to their funders.
In some cases, patients are expected to sign paperwork that shows they received treatment, that includes information about their conditions past and present.
That might help the clinic show their worth but it’s not fair to the patient. Where’s the patient’s privacy? It’s not fair to use the patient’s private information for the clinic’s gain even if the clinic needs to pay the bills.
Reporting of clinic activity with patient information doesn’t need to disclose the patient’s name nor require their signature.
Even if they are receiving free treatment, it’s not necessary to expose the mental/emotional background of the patient.
Just as in research, a number or other designation can be given to the patient’s information so their identity can be kept anonymous. It’s just a matter of reflecting what type of people visit the clinic and for what services. Do the funders need to know who exactly is visiting the clinic in order to keep the money flowing? If so, why?
Patients shouldn’t be forced to sign paperwork during vulnerable times. It’s exploitive. And is it even legal?
And if a person enters a clinic in obvious distress, don’t put them through bureaucratic hoops to get care. You’re dealing with a person in a fragile state. Their life might depend on your help.
Use your better judgement to take care of them.
It might just be their mind that’s not functioning but the emergency could be just as dire as if they were having a heart attack. And I wonder if the stress of the situation couldn’t actually cause a coronary problem.
It should be people first and then paperwork or protocols later.
Save lives even if you are dealing with what some might consider “imaginary” problems.
The Positive Side of Mental Health Clinics
• are often referred by a patient’s insurance or doctor
• are close by when a person is having a mental/emotional crisis
• are a resource for a person having a momentary crisis
• can refer a person in need to other reasonable immediate resources
• have staff that are equipped to access a crisis situation
• are a legitimate place to go to for help
If a person walks into a mental health clinic, consider it a compliment. They are taking a reasonable step in taking care of themselves. They enter trusting that they will receive care. They trust you. Their insurance or their doctor gave your clinic their endorsement.
Some people do jobs just to make money. Social work, medical providers, and other clinic staff can just be day jobs for some people. That’s fine. But when someone’s mental or emotional stability are at stake, that’s when your day job gets elevated to
Not everyone has family or friends that can swoop in and provide support in that time of need. Your clinic might be IT. Some people might not already have a psychiatrist or a counselor/therapist. This might the first time in their life that they are experiencing a crisis.
Sometimes it’s a matter of talking down a person from an agitated state. Just a few face-to-face moments spent to access what’s happening can eliminate something a whole lot worse.
If a distressed person is left to their own devices, they might turn to illegal drugs (medicate themselves), seek a friend in a stranger and get taken advantage of instead, or begin a downward spiral that has a bad final ending.
It’s understood that there are limitations with staffing and scheduling. It’s up to the higher structures to make sure you are able to support the community in a safe way. If you have limitations that you are aware of, then let your higher-ups know. Funding can be found. It sure is for other things.
Going to the ER shouldn’t be a go-to in every situation.
A clinic can prevent a tragedy by being a safe haven that restores a person to a balanced state and gets them out of that moment of crisis. Even if the only service it provides is to make sure that person is referred to another safe haven (a hospital, a doctor, a therapist) and that they actually make it there.
Don’t let people fall through the cracks of a system that is meant to help people. Imagine the people that don’t even make it to your clinic. But that’s out of your hands. And that’s a problem that needs to be addressed way in advanced by educating patients or soon-to-be patients and their family, friends and community supporters.
In other words, everyone needs a wake-up call.
There are many stories of people falling through the cracks of the mental health system.
Example of one woman’s story that led to a mental and health crisis. These are her words:
All I was asking for is what I now have. A doctor tending to my medical care and a doctor and a therapist tending to mental health care. Simple!
What happened when all of those things were denied me for different reasons in different ways? I fell apart. And was thus shamed and discredited for the behavior I exhibited as a result.
If a person is asking for help and you don’t give it to them, then don’t punish them for the bad result. Don’t disgrace them. Don’t ever look down on them! Because that person knew exactly what they needed and that’s why they were asking for specific help. If you didn’t listen to their pleas for help, then don’t dare punish them for falling apart! Human beings aren’t made of stone.
In fact, a person with bad health asking for help from doctors and clinics is a sign of self-responsibility. It’s also a sign of sanity. That’s where you go when you need medical attention.
The body and mind are all connected within a single person. They interconnect and therefore can also disrupt together. A deficiency in the body can lead to a disruption in the mind. And visa versa.
A person can thus feel the warning signs within their body’s system. All they need is for medical providers to listen and give the needed treatment or suggestions.
I’m sure there are some people who abuse the system. Some who might expect a lot from doctors, such as those listed as hypochondriacs. And with the limited time per visit per patient, it’s understandable that doctors would be wary of wasting time.
However, overly cynical speculation when a patient visits a hospital or clinic is not helpful. Not everyone is just seeking attention nor trying to make a splash.
Most people make the hard trek to a hospital or clinic because they require the help of a trained medical clinician. And if skeptical conclusions lead to dismissing patients in need, then let’s fix that.
No one wants to feel like an annoyance or a nuisance. People that have been labeled or categorized within the mental health system tend to get treated differently. They are often scrutinized in a way that a non-labeled person wouldn’t be.
If you can have sympathy for someone with a heart condition, then how could you condescend to a person with a mental condition?
A mental health issue doesn’t automatically make a person less than anyone else.
Don’t selectively treat people badly, especially not based on a brain label they have been stamped with. Diagnoses can sometimes be wrong. And never permanently categorize anyone. The human mind and body can always heal.
Naming people as mental health patients is not helpful. Especially if you then treat them as one unit, all the same. Putting people into categories is okay if you want to herd them like cattle. FYI, no two patients are alike, just like fingerprints. Family members can be quite different from each other. People within different races and ethnicities all vary as well. In fact, if commonality occurs between people it isn’t solely based on their mental state.
If you treat a mental health patient in a certain stereotypical way, then you might get those traits reflected back. Let patients out of the stigmatized box!
And another distinction should be made for the unawares.
The outside world can witness a person’s mental health crisis, but they can’t know how it feels. Whether it be anxiety or depression or an emotional episode, the human mind in distress can amplify the reality of a situation. That’s a given. Someone in crisis can be in fight or flight mode for a long time before they get the correct medication or other relief. That intensity on the body can do a lot. The body will feel the seriousness of the situation as if it were as real as the mind painted it. The person’s heart might pound faster, their blood pressure hit new heights, and any other reaction the body sees fit to do to accommodate the agitated mental state.
Therefore, the longer the person doesn’t get treatment or find a solution, then the more damage that is done to the body and mind. The person experiences it all even if others think they are just imagining it all. That’s why it’s so important to help people right away, as soon as possible so the lingering after effects are less.
Relief from a mental breakdown can take a long time. The person has to undo all of the frenetic emotional baggage that was accumulated during the episode.
Another thing to note is that whatever someone experiences in their mind doesn’t necessarily originate there. Outside forces can affect the stability of a person’s brain function. For instance, veterans of war who return home with PTSD.
So be careful about faulting anyone for being weak or defective. No one knows the true origins of brain malfunctions, even doctors aren’t always sure.
Be kind because the mind is fragile and anyone’s can crack.
There are fun things to do in life. No one wants to spend their days in and out of hospitals nor homebound and sick. There’s a life to be lived and enjoyed.
How about those with mental health issues also get to enjoy their lives!
The world in general will be a healthier and happier place to live.
Personal experience and knowledge of what happens to others