Friday, December 14, 2012

you're crazy and we don't care

Why is mental illness treated so much differently than physical illness in our society?  Is it part of the individualism that this country so highly values?  Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and stop  complaining,whining.  Be strong. Get it together.

Mental illness is no different from physical illness. It is not something that an individual chooses.  It happens due to circumstances, stress, heredity.  It is a chemical imbalance that very often needs medication to manage.  Not always, but more time than not.

Mental illness is an epidemic in this country, but we don't treat it that way. The way we treat it reminds me of how those with AIDS were treated when it first started being recognized.  There was fear, blame, stigma. So many people never get treatment because they don't want to be labelled.  They believe what we are told that going for help means you are weak.  So their illness gets worse.

When it gets to the point of no return, they can't deal with it anymore, they present to ER.  They are feeling suicidal, have attempted suicide. They come into an ER that is not  prepared to deal with them.  Physical stuff can be dealt with, maybe fixed.  Mental illness? Not so much.  ER staffs don't    have time to spend listening.  Often patient sit waiting for hours.  Their admission, unlike physical illness problems, has to be pre-approved.  There is a shortage of psychiatrists.

Their are often few, if any, beds available.  Mental health beds are not a priority for hospitals. They're not money makers.  When their are no beds, people have to be transferred to another local hospital, and in some cases, to a hospital a couple hundred miles away.  Sometimes they spend 24 hours in the ER.

That's what happened to a lady I had last week.  They wanted to transfer her to a hospital about 150 miles away. She was not rational to begin with, this caused her to lose control.  Security was called.  She ended up not going to the other hospital, after a few hours she got a bed with us.

When I see these kinds of things happen, I think about how hard it must have been to come in the first place. Then you sit for hours.  Then you are told you will be going 150 miles away from your family to be hospitalized.  Its a crime how mental health is handled in this country.  


Anonymous said...

I am a frequent lurker but have never left a comment before. This post brought be out of my hiding! I am practically screaming "yes, yes, yes" when I read this. I married into a family full of attention deficit disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and hoarding. My husband has both ADD, GAD and left to his own devices would probably have issues with hoarding. We have always been childfree by choice, but now that we are in our 40's and we have a much better understanding of these illnesses, we are even more thrilled with our life choice to not procreate. These things are so obviously hereditary! And I struggle with my husband constantly because he has the shame and the guilt that society places on him and it's tragic. We are the most "normal" people you could imagine. We both have good full-time jobs (me a registered vascular tech hence my love of your blog) and we have a very comfortable and happy existence. I think it's horrible that my husband must feel like a lepper for something he cannot control!!! He is so embarassed about taking medications (which have been truly life altering in a good way for him) and I'm always telling him "if you had cancer you wouldn't be ashamed and this is no different". Thanks for your post and it just re-affirms a growing interest I've had recently in becoming more of a mental health advocate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you again for all that you do. I suffer from severe, recurrent depression and recently was sent to the ED by my doctor for worsening suicidal ideation; nothing seemed worth going through that much pain, and I was going back and forth on whether or not to kill myself. I stayed in the ED for 24 hours until I got a bed at a psych hospital. The nurses were very kind to me; even though psych patients aren't supposed to have much in the way of possessions left with them, they let me keep everything, including my computer, which allowed me to distract myself by staying in contact with friends. One of the nurses also convinced me to accept some Ativan at night since I was scared out of my wits and not sleeping. I am doing better now, and one of my projects for this week is to write thank-you letters for the nurses and doctors who took care of me.

I also had some great nurses when I went to the ED last summer with partial/incomplete cauda equina syndrome. I had already known that I had major back issues - I was waiting to see a neurosurgeon - but I was pretty scared by the rapid progression of pain and neuro symptoms. I have some twisted/gallows humor and I really appreciated the nurse who was able to banter with me and use laughter to make me feel a little less terrified. A lot of the nurses upstairs were great, too, but I have a special spot for ED nurses.