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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Isn't there an unspoken mental health treatment paradox?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21302 points ) June 22nd, 2010

Why would anyone get mental health treatment when more than likely they will get labeled as some “wackado”? You read pamphlets and see PSA that ask you to get help if you feel you have mental problems to not suffer in silence. But if one takes that advice the mere fact that they did can work against them, stop them from being foster parents, getting a job or a job promotion, from having a successful campaign for office, etc. With so many people associating mental illness with dangerous people how do they expect those who really need help to get it? And how many go untreated or end up committing crimes or suicide they rather not risk being labeld in a bad light?

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23 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The existence of prejudice against those with mental illness should not in any way stop someone from seeking help. I have a mental illness and use all the resources available in my small community to battle it.

I don’t believe that prejudices are as pronounced as they once were. In my experience, I am applauded for the many varied contributions I am able to make to my community. I have volunteered at a literacy center before it closed. I am active in community theater bringing the arts to my town. I am a father, a brother, and a son.

I have lived with and without treatment. I must say that life with treatment is infinitely better than without. I am a productive member of society under treatment. Without it, I’m a mess.

I also stand up for myself. Even though I have a mental illness, I am not a “wackado,” as you call it.

YARNLADY's avatar

I am surprised at your characterization of people who seek treatment for mental illness as wackado. It shows your prejudice more than that of other people.

First of all medical treatment is supposed to be confidential. Secondly, not everyone in the professional fields are prejudice against people who have treatment, in fact, many will see it as a positive trait.

I don’t know what sources you are using when you say With so many people associating mental illness with dangerous people. According to most of the articles I have seen, exactly the opposite is true. In fact, one article I saw said that the medical profession is considering extreme prejudice as a form of Mental Illness.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@YARNLADY I never said I would label then as a “wackado” and that is a nice word cinsidering some names I have heard people with mental illness called, others have heard or have spoken with have in so many words. Many people believe those with mental illness will end up hacking their way through wooden door with an ax or walking through campus with loaded 9mm blasting everyone in sight.

“According to most of the articles I have seen, exactly the opposite is true. In fact, one article I saw said that the medical profession is considering extreme prejudice as a form of Mental Illness.” Maybe most of those PhDs and MDs are more educated of mental illness than the average Joe at the pump, on the commute train, or at the deli, etc, many of those think different not that it is right.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central The Father that walked into the Del Taco on Saturday and Shot his stepdaughter, her husband, and their two children, before committing suicide had no record of mental illness. In my opinion, most such attacks involve angry family members.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Anyone who discriminates based on a mental illness can be taken to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and be challenged in court based on the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. There should be similar laws and judicial bodies for other countries.

If banning the person from certain activities is not unjust though, chances are they are unable to undertake the activity and would suffer severe difficulties if they attempted it. In such a case it is better for the person, diagnosed or undiagnosed, to avoid the activity.

Zaku's avatar

Yes. Fortunately, there seems to be a shift away from such prejudices, but certainly it’s awful the level of privacy abuse and profiteering in the health care industry in the USA.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In many csaes, seeking treatment is literally a matter of life and death. If I hadn’t gotten treatment for depression, I’d be a suicide statitic by now.

Part of the privacy issue is that most peoples health insurance is tied to their employment. This allows employers access to employees medical history, whether the law allows it or not. Also, drug testing mandated by employers is not limited to illegal recreational substances. Therapeutic medication can be detected by these screenings as well. Even if employers are forbidden to use such information in making hiring and dismissal decisions, they will anyway, just stating a different reason in official documents.

About the only thing an ordinary person can do is get the needed treatment and be prepared to aggressively fight any discrimination resulting from it. Continue to press for national health insurance that is not connected to employment.

partyparty's avatar

Mental illness is no different to a physical illness, and should be treated in the same way.
Medical records are confidential, so there shouldn’t be any problems with discrimination.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Or, if possible, pay for treatment out of your own pocket (in cash) and don’t involve the insurance companies at all. Not that many psychiatrists or psychologists even take insurance…

gemiwing's avatar

I think I see what you are saying. Let me know if this is right- you’re asking how people are supposed to feel comfortable getting help for mental illnesses/disorders when it could severely hurt them later- right?

Well, it comes down to life or death in most cases. People who are ill keep pushing forward in life- barely living; more like just breathing and sleeping with periods of food in between. Eventually, friends drift away, you’ve probably already lost your job and your family starts to leave you too. At that point the question becomes not ‘what bad will happen if I get help’; rather it becomes ‘what next horrible thing will happen if I don’t get help’.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land “Part of the privacy issue is that most peoples health insurance is tied to their employment.”
Are you serious? How are they even related? In my country everyone organises their own private health insurance, if they decide to have it, and the employer only needs to insure against workplace hazards.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Unfortunately, @stranger_in_a_strange_land is quite correct. In the U.S., health insurance is provided by one’s employer. It goes back to WWII, when the government froze wages. To get around that, companies tried to woo candidates by providing extra benefits such as health insurance.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central hey, those kind of things would never bother me! People can say what they wish, but if i needed help with something in my life, would go in a heart beat. Mental issues are a part of living. Everyone deals with stresses, emotional ups and downs due to divorce, death in the family, etc. If you can live a happier and more productive life by seeing a therapist, go for it!

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Good point. When I was active duty, I had to do just that. A diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome would have meant instant discharge.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I feel like the stigma that has been associated with mental illness has improved, but obviously it’s still there. In general, I think we are in the process of trying to educate people to understand that getting help is not a bad thing. There will always be someone with something rude to say. Even the military is trying to get rid of the stigma associated to soldiers that need help (especially with PTSD after deployments). It’s something that unfortunately will take a lot of time and a lot of trust. Many people will need to see that others are able to get help without having it held against them before they will be willing to get help for themselves.

Flavio's avatar

I am a psychiatrist and I spend a lot of time trying to help people overcome the stigma of mental illness. As folks say above, often it’s a life and death issue. Overall, the more people who are open about getting treatment, the easier it will be to overcome the stigma. “Am I crazy, doc”, “do you think I’m crazy, doc”, “you don’t think I’m loosing my mind, do you doc?”
—“no, Mr./Ms. ____________, I just think you have _______________ disorder and you likely will benefit from medications and psychotherapy. I don’t think you are crazy”

In my experience, the people who are truly crazy are too sick to even notice the stigma. Maybe had they been able to get help sooner, they would be better off today.

partyparty's avatar

@Flavio Such a caring and sensible answer!

wundayatta's avatar

I think the most pervasive and damaging form of stigma is where people stigmatize themselves. One form of this came out in a question I asked a couple of days ago about why people refuse to get therapy. There were so many reasons, but some of them were people thinking they should be able to handle their problems on their own, fear of discussing personal issues with a stranger, a belief that therapy is mumbo-jumbo and won’t do any good, and more.

People believe that others will draw back from them if they divulge that they are depressed or a have some other disorder. I was talking to a lawyer a couple of days ago, and he said he couldn’t afford to do things to take care of his depression, such as having a regular sleep schedule or getting regular exercise and decent food because he had to pull all nighters all the time just to do his work and have an opportunity to make partner. Who knows how often he saw his kids?

I believe there is a pervasive belief in society that depression isn’t real. It’s attention seeking behavior. People could easily pull themselves out of it if they wanted to. I feel like I hear this idea all the time. People don’t understand and don’t believe that depression is a real illness, and they probably think that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are real craziness—talking to people who don’t exist and seeming to be very scary when you see them in public.

I’ve read that, by some estimates, one in five people in the United States is mentally ill. Take a look around you. Can you tell which ones are mentally ill? Do you know?

If all of them “came out,” then it would be much more difficult for people to stigmatize them. They would start to understand that disabilities rights affects many people. It is as significant as racial discrimination.

In a way, the self-stigmatization proves the critics right. People with mental health issues can take care of themselves. They don’t need attention from others. They can handle it on their own. No one particular cares or even thinks about quality of life issues or economic productivity issues. Let’s save money on health care by denying it. Never mind that the amount of productivity you lose is far greater than your savings. You can see the savings. The productivity loss—well, you can never prove it was lost in the first place. History follows only one course.

Stigmatizing the mentally ill is certainly another form of shooting ourselves in our collective feet. We should be dancing in the streets because of all the bullets flying at the ground. I am skeptical that the stigma against the mentally ill is lessening significantly. There’s a difference between intellectual understanding of mental health disorders and our gut feelings.

I’m lucky. Or unlucky, depending on how you look at it. I only tell my story under conditions of anonymity: to my mental health care providers; to my wife; to my support groups; online. My family doesn’t know. My work doesn’t know. I can’t see ever being willing to change that as long as I am healthy enough to pass for well.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Well-said, @wundayatta. When I see a person who is resistant to getting help for a mental health condition, I tell them that they should treat their condition like any other chronic illness such as diabetes. Would they feel ashamed to check their blood sugar or take insulin? If not, then they shouldn’t feel ashamed to see a mental health professional for treatment.

And if they are ashamed to have diabetes, I try to delve into that, too.

tadpole's avatar

@Flavio i personally have not yet met a psychiatrist who was happy to use the term “crazy” when talking about the mentally ill…

@partyparty

”“Mental illness is no different to a physical illness, and should be treated in the same way.
Medical records are confidential, so there shouldn’t be any problems with discrimination.””

this is true if the sufferer themself can “hide” the illness…most people with severe probems cannot do so, therefore the fact their actual records are naturally kept confidential does not in this sense count for much…

i think the OP was trying to initiate a discussion rather than start an argument…in my experience once you have been labelled mentally ill you have to work that much harder to deal with it…i learnt the hard way that the idea you will get help for nothing is balony…you can get help from those in the know, but mostly it is on the condition that you are somehow inferior…i am sorry it is this way, because trying to stand up by yourself can be so hard, but this is the experience i have had regarding traditional forms of medical care…still, if you are ill and need help this is not always so important…

BoBo1946's avatar

i’m mentally ill and everyone treats me differently!

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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@wundayatta
” People with mental health issues can take care of themselves. They don’t need attention from others. They can handle it on their own.” Exactly, if they thought it would be viewed by most the same as if they simply joined a bowling team they more than likely not try to go it alone. But because many people see those with metal illness not that it is correct as being defective and maybe dangerous. So many people who can be helped avoid the help; and you can thank the media for helping portraying people with mental illness as being loose cannons you want to avoid.

wundayatta's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I don’t think it is just the media. Sure, they have created a number of alarmist portrayals, but I think the media is more reflective of common attitudes. They help perpetuate them, but I don’t think they create these attitudes.

In other words, to change general attitudes, we need more education everywhere. The media can help, but they can’t change it without a lot of help.

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