May is mental health month, a subject near and dear to my heart. I grew up in an abusive home which I’ve written about before. Living amid anger and tension as one of the younger children, and an observer, I grew up interested in why people acted the way they did and what could be done about it! Early on I decided to teach emotionally disturbed children, having a firm belief that behavior modification and a positive environment could/would turn them around and allow them to live a happier, more productive life. After seven years in the classroom however, I realized much more was needed and decided to become a family therapist, as I truly believed that was where the interventions would be most valuable in correcting unacceptable behavior.
I had the opportunity to work with adults and children in my role as psycholtherapist, for twenty years! What did I learn? I learned it takes a village! By that I mean that mental health issues can’t be solved, or even controlled, with only a one prong approach. Our brains and our social milieus are complex, and it takes a myriad of services to make a difference. This is one of the issues that frustrates me most in 2013, in North Carolina. Our State took a huge step backwards in its treatment of the mentally ill in the year 2000. I know, because I was working in a large public mental health center that closed its doors, moving to “privatization”. I’ve come to realize that I was somewhat fortunate to have become disabled and no longer able to work in 1999, because I would have been out of a job anyway!
Without access to a large public mental health center, treatment is mostly available to people with good insurance to help pay for services, or to the wealthy. Many middle class and lower middle class, forget those millions on medicaid, cannot afford the care of a private clinician! Not only that, the team approach that was used in a center–being able to use a psychiatrist, a therapist, a coach and a case manager offered a more complete care systerm to help an individual get back into the life they wanted to live. And that’s what mental health treatment is all about–getting back into your life.Being happy, having good relationships, productive work, not being paralyzed by depression, anxiety, or some other malady.
We call this “mental health” and of course, it is, and we know much of what goes wrong is centered in the brain. Schizophrenia and bipolar are proven to be chemical imbalances, as is depression. Medicine can make all the difference in a life well lived! Why then do we continue to distinguish these diseases from other physical illnesses? Why do we as a public and professionals not demand that they be categorized as such so that our insurance companies have to pay more than 50% for services?! Why do we make people suffer so, not with diabetes, they can get treatment, but with depression and anxiety? hmmm…maybe..hush, hush, don’t tell anyone still seems to apply! That is crazy! We have let the shame and stigma of mental health issues guide us for much too long! I love Mental Health Month and Mental Health Blog day, because it gives us a forum to stand up and say, “Be mentally healthy!” Talk about it. Get help. Demand our legislatures fund help for us and require insurance companites to help as well.
It takes a village, we must advocate for ourselves and our loved ones to get the help they need to be physically and mentally at their best!
Mental Health Month Blog Day – Links Round Up 2013 – http://www.yourmindyourbody.org/apamental-health-month-blog-day-links-round-up-2013/
Helen Y. Holshouser, M.A. Clinical Psychology