Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Top 10 Awful Things About Mental Illness

One of the techniques I use to manage my illness is to reframe negative things in a positive way. But I can't do that for everything, and nothing frustrates me more than other people reframing my situation in a positive light for me. There are many parts of mental illness that are particularly awful, and these are my top ten:

1. The stigma. The secrecy when people are hospitalized; the general assumption that the illness is a result of weakness; the inability to be honest in the workplace about sick days, and on and on.

2. The lack of access to care. The average wait time for an appointment with a psychiatrist in British Columbia is well over a year. Most people are diagnosed in the emergency room, because when you start hearing voices you can't wait a year.

3. The high rate of improper diagnoses. Bipolar patients generally see a family doctor only when they feel depressed, so are diagnosed with depression. On average, it takes 15 years after first seeing a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

4. The reduced income of the mentally ill. I have had to take two voluntary demotions in my career because of my illness. At this moment I am living on Employment Insurance while on medical leave until I stabilize. Many people I know from support groups cannot work at all, and live on small disability payments, so I consider myself lucky.

5. The expense of counselling. Talk therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) , and Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT), can often work as effectively as medication, but are difficult to access unless you can afford to pay - and it costs a lot. (See item 4). So people who might not need to be on medication must stay on it, because the government will cover medicine but not therapy.

6. Calling deaths by mental illness "suicides." This demeans the victim, and their struggle with their illness. They died from mental illness.

7. Treating people who are using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate as criminals rather than ill people who won't, or more likely cannot, access proper health care.

8. Because of the lack of psychiatrists in our province, family doctors are forced to prescribe psychotropic medications. This is like a GP having to perform heart surgery because of a shortage of surgeons.

9. The stigma around medication. Right now, lithium is one of the medications that is helping to keep me alive, but people often cringe when they hear that I'm taking it.

10. The side effects of medication. The meds I'm taking now are really great because they have few side effects for me, but one woman I know from a support group has to choose between staying alive or losing her marriage because of the impacts of side effects.( She cannot afford item 5).

I hope has been coherent. I've taken my bedtime medications (including lithium), and am sleepy, so if this is poorly edited - my apologies.

Thanks for reading. :) If you can think of any more, please add them as comments.


Unknown said...

One awful thing my mum had to deal with I know was doctors and even nurses deciding they knew better than her what her treatment plan should be due to her mental illness.

This from people with no mental health background in their training.

I'm not sure if you've had to endure that. I hope the intervening 20 years have improved things.

D'Arcy said...

I think it's improved, although I've run into a couple of nurses and doctors that have really irked me. The worst was a doctor who sent me for a psych evaluation, got the report back from the psychiatrist, and said "I think he's wrong." This from a clinic doctor who had seen me for maybe ten minutes total in my life. :P

Psychiatrists, though, seem to now really value their patients' opinions. That's a big change in the last 15 years.

Unknown said...

Psychiatrist's listening is really good to know, and makes me glad to read.

I've been blogging here: since 2003 by the way. A lot of the posts are locked to "friends" only, mostly due to a while when random russians were reading it. If you want to create a free ID & post a comment, I'll give you access to what you can't see now, if you wish.

D'Arcy said...

That sounds great, Jenn! I will do that right away.:)