On Mental Health

Standard

A couple days ago someone I greatly admire in the psychology community posted a blurb on Facebook stating that some “schizophrenics” have auditory hallucinations that are quite positive, in fact giving them compliments and making them feel good about themselves. It started off a bit of a debate as to how you’d approach treatment when someone’s symptoms had an overall positive impact on their quality of life.
I was irritated, as I usually am when people who work strictly in academia or from behind a doctor’s desk come across such conundrums. The approach to treatment is always the same: it’s what the person WANTS from their treatment. If they want to take meds or go to groups or see a 1:1 counselor, great! If they want to do none of these things, more power to ’em. Just because a person is mentally ill, even if they’re symptomatic, doesn’t mean that anyone has the right to force treatment on them. Perhaps they will have a more fulfilling quality of life if they engaged in treatment, perhaps not, and that’s their decision to make. Just because a person is mentally ill doesn’t mean they automatically forfeit their rights.
The only time we should ever think of forcing treatment on a person is if they or someone else is in imminent danger of harm. Other than that, our only options are the same options we have if we want to get someone to stop smoking or to exercise more. We can talk to them, try to help them see that their lives might be better or more comfortable if they followed a treatment regimen of some sort, we can be there to assist them when they’re ready to make that lifestyle change and support them throughout.
It doesn’t matter how afraid people are of those with mental illnesses. It is not against the law to be mentally ill. Calling people by their diagnosis dehumanizes them. They are not schizophrenics or bipolars any more than a person is a cancer, or that I am an MS. They are people with an illness. Instead of being met with fear, skepticism and hatred, maybe people should try harder to give them support and understanding. They didn’t ask to be stricken with these disorders, and many of them have been met with such heinous treatment throughout their lifetimes, they have every right to be wary of assistance that is offered to them now. Try thinking about what they’ve been through, practice your best empathy, educate yourselves, imagine that’s your sister, mother, son or significant other being treated that way. They deserve better.

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