The Mentally Ill versus Society: A Cry for Help
“Man! The renal stones really hurt!”; “Ow.This pain will take away my life!” are some of the expressions that we often hear about the physical pain and suffering one goes through. Just like every exoteric concept has to have an esoteric background, no different is it with the physical and mental health. Both are as related as can be and deterioration of one eventually leads to the destruction of the other.
We pay much attention to our physique; but what about the other area that is equally important? Why is mental health neglected and if illness is diagnosed, the victim stigmatized as well as discriminated not only by the common person but also by the health care team? It is important now, that all of us recognize our misgivings and the importance is reinforced, along with the discussion of some of the interventions that could be done for the sufferers.
Mental health disorders are quite prevalent globally. The News (2012) mentions that “25-35 % of the total population of Pakistan is suffering from various mental disorders”. Canadian Mental Health Association (2012) states that “In any given year, one in five Canadians under age 65 will have a mental health problem, and 20% of the people in our communities experience mental illness at some time.” This is a significant number; however, the challenge faced here is that many victims do not want to seek help since they do not have the insight of their illness. Also, they either hide away their illness resulting in late diagnosis and treatment thus adding to the burden of disease.
It is worth mentioning here that the mental health illness does not only include diseases like mental retardation, schizophrenia or bipolar disorders etc, but also anxiety, depression and panic disorders etc. Around the world, many people with mental disorders are maltreated for their illness and are targets of inequity. Due to this fact, they are unable to perform well, as all aspects of their lives are affected: from work to education and friendships to community participation, and its causes can be many. The foremost is the different myths associated with mental disorders.
It is said that people with mental illness are crazy, cannot be treated and will live their whole life this way. They are violent and dangerous and cannot hold up a job. This is not true. Through proper psychotherapy and compliance to drugs, their condition can be made better or reversed.
Society needs to understand and we have to remember that they do not have a physical ailment that could be easily seen or treated, but an illness that has been caused due to the chemical imbalance in their brains, which needs our acceptance and patience to resolve completely. Moreover, they are considered as “money-suckers” rather than money-generators. The family considers them an “attack upon their dignity” rather than someone to be cared for. They are a burden, unfit to survive so throwing them in the streets, disregarding in the mental institute or keeping them sedated is the easiest, and the most “humane “option.
Finally, unawareness in the general public is the major reason of social stigma about mental illness. They are less aware of the disease process, treatment regimen and effective interventions to deal with the stigma. Yesterday only, I heard one of my highly educated friends telling his ill brother that he was sick and dangerous. “I don’t want you…Of course you can’t be hurt since you are crazy!” were his ignorant words.
Dear friend, learning simple things about the disease and ways to overcome them would do no harm! Consequently, the mentally ill patients become socially isolated, unemployed and non-compliant due to the consistent taunts they receive from the society. They feel safe indoors, as a step outside their door will be welcomed by pun and mockery. The society thinks that their words would not hurt the ill since he is “mad”, but it should be kept in mind that they do listen and feel everything.
They react to the way they are treated. Support by family and care by society will resolve at least quarter of their illness. Two parts are the medical treatment; and one part is the patients’ own willpower. Hence, stigma and discrimination leaves them vulnerable to crime and violence. Moreover, 56% of the UK public would not like to offer a person the job, even if they were the best candidate, if it was revealed that they had a history of depression.
Such incidences further demoralize the patient, ultimately deteriorating his overall mental health and eventually hindering the holistic care that he desires and deserves. To overcome all the above hurdles, a great deal of work needs to be done. Public awareness campaigns needs to be run so that the people can know that mental health can be restored if proper treatment is taken and such people should not be discriminated. The health care professionals are recommended to take history of the mental health of patients along with the physical health on their every visit.
Furthermore, pharmacological support is necessary, as the patient needs to be stabilized mentally. The patients who are following the treatment regime need to be rehabilitated side by side through psychotherapy. At a government level, NGOs should be encouraged to work for the rehabilitation for mentally ill. Support groups can be formed and promoted so that the ill can come together, share their concerns, learn and recover faster.
As nurses, working with individuals, their families and communities, assessing their mental health, as well as supporting them psychologically can be helpful. Developing nursing diagnosis, planning and implementing care accordingly is effective. Using therapeutic skills with the patients and awaking communities about the importance of mental health is a responsibility of every individual. Nurses can work in collaboration with communities, groups and legislators so that patients can be well cared, intervened and advocated.
In conclusion, mental health is an area that needs more concern. It is more of the health care providers’ responsibility to restore and promote it. Suffering would continue as long as there is stigma and discrimination, therefore, steps need to be taken and communities need to be educated and encouraged, so that they take in the mentally ill as a part of them. J.K Rowling, Linda Hamilton, Abraham Linclon, John Nash and Virginia Woolf are some of the hundreds of people who overcame their illness with their determination and support and became the uplifters of society.
Candian Mental Health Association (2012).
Myths About Mental Illness. Retrieved from http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/myths-about-mental-illness/#.UaO-wEAyaHk Rutgers,
The State University of New Jersey (2011). Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Retrieved September 9, 2013, from http://gsappweb.rutgers.edu/centers/stigma/people.php
Statewide Instructional Resources Development Centre (2012). Retrieved September 9, 2013, from http://cte.sfasu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/03
The News (2012, October 10). Pakistani suffering from mental disorders. Retrieved May 26, 2013, from http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-136712-25pc-Pakistani-suffering-from-mental-disorders
About the Author: Rabia Khowaja is a final year Nursing Student at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. She would like to pursue a career in the field of Mental Health. Rabia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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