Our society has neglected mental health care for so long now, the symptoms are seeping out in strange arenas. The state of Illinois medicaid department has been battling obstetrician-gynecologists, oncologists and urologists who are submitting claims for psychotherapeutic sessions. These medical providers have no direct training in mental health care, but the demand is so high, they are forced to treat their patients on their own because they can’t find social workers or counselors to handle the work.
America, and other first world countries have a habit of “sidelining” people with mental health issues. There is a stigma about mental health that results in a poor understanding of underlying causes and treatment. The solution is very simple. We need more hands on one-to-one and group therapy with individuals who struggle with psychological disorders.
Our increasing isolation due to the internet, television and other forms of media have resulted in less social interaction between people. We humans are social creatures. We need interaction with other humans. That is why 12 step programs have become so popular. The people that utilize AA, NA, OA etc. realize they can’t figure it out on their own and that they need to talk and relate to others.
The same is true with serious psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc. The sufferers of these diseases need human contact and care. Many are neglected and often they deny their disorder which leads to further isolation. Old world societies used to keep these individuals within the family structure and care for them. We cast them out as problems because we are too busy with our own lives.
I implore more people to enter the social work, counseling and other psychotherapy fields to allow more humane treatment of our fellow mental health sufferers. We can’t afford not to. As we can see in Illinois, we will pay now, or pay later.
When human behavior alters, and it begins to affect their health, we respond right? Well, it is easier said than done. The state of Alaska has the right idea by funding a program that makes free pregnancy tests available to bar patrons. This is a response to the increase in newborns with fetal alcohol syndrome.
I think it sheds a positive light on humanity when we think outside the box and risk public scorn by getting to the root of the problem. We need to see these efforts on a grander scale in battling substance abuse in general. I believe a broader education effort is warranted by the federal government in addressing the dangers of alcohol abuse on every front: domestic violence, assault, drunk driving etc.
Even needle exchange programs should be expanded. Yes, everyone thought it would promote drug use, but it doesn’t. What it does do is prevent disease transmission from sharing needles. We need to have naloxone available along with these clean needles, without prescription. Naloxone has saved thousands of people who have overdosed on heroin and other opioids in the last year since it started to be accepted more broadly.
After all, we have modified our responses to other health crises: AED (automated external defibrillator) for heart attacks (that may be the result of poor diets); ubiquitous sanitary hand cleaner dispensers; warnings on cigarette packs etc. We tend to respond when the outcry reaches a certain crescendo. The problem now is that there are so many cries, that many health concerns- mainly those related to what most consider illegal or just aberrant behavior – get ignored.
Again, behavior changes and people will do what they are going to do. We need to respond appropriately by protecting the health of these people. They are sick people, they are not bad people. They are our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers etc. people. That’s all.
What are your feelings about addressing health concerns that fall out of the mainstream?