Sunday, 9 August 2009

Great comment from Ysabeth Wordsmith on mental illness

Ysabeth writes in a comment to my last post:
"We have some drugs that work great for some people, sort-of for most people, and not at all for many. Mental health care just lags way behind physical care. People are trying, but they don't really have the equipment to do a great job yet, and the social background doesn't help.
I agree with a lot of what is contained in this statement from Ysabeth. I believe there is no "one size fits all" cure for individuals and that the danger with psychiatry is that it tends to generalise and put lots of us under the same diagnosis.
And yes, I agree that mental health is lagging behind physical care why? Less than 50 years ago psychiatry was still sending electric shocks through people's heads to cure there depression. 100 years ago we were being put in baths full of freezing water to stop our seizures. Why does mental care lag so far behind physical care? How does this relate to the whole stigma of mental illness?


  1. There are many reason, but I think many of them are out of frustration and the lack of knowledge to move forward as well as no crusader to champion the cause.
    Beth Gray

  2. Thanks for the shout-out here!

    >>Why does mental care lag so far behind physical care? <<

    I think it's because the body's signs of illness and injury are more visible, and what to do about many of them is more obvious. A cut pours blood; you try to stop the blood from pouring. A badly broken bone makes an extra joint in a limb; you try to straighten it again. A fever makes someone hot; you try to cool them off. It's not far from that to wondering if you could plug the leak from inside, or find a plant that would make the fever just go away.

    With mental illness and injury, however, the symptoms are often obscure (though some are vivid) and what to do is not necessarily clear. People try things, but they can't really SEE what's going wrong or what needs to be done to fix it. We don't have a good way to reach in and mend what's broken. About all we can do is the equivalent of applying pressure and hoping the blood clots. This is why some people can die of a broken heart, and others don't: a crack can heal if it's not stressed further and has some support, but a compound fracture just won't. And we don't have a way to pin the shattered fragments of a heart back in place so they can heal.

    >>How does this relate to the whole stigma of mental illness?<<

    I think it ties in because the symptoms of mental illness can be less visible than physical illness or injury. If someone pukes on your desk, you know they're really sick. If they just don't have the energy to get out of bed (a common symptom of depression), you might mistake that for laziness (when a person has the energy, but chooses not to use it).

    Plus, everyone has the experience of physical complaints; not everyone has the experience of mental complaints. That makes it harder to understand and sympathize what someone else is going through. It is *easier and simpler* to assume the person is just undisciplined and should pull themselves together. They don't recognize the severity of the problem.

    Because ... when your mind is bleeding to death, most people can't see that kind of blood.