Wednesday, January 20, 2016

6 Signs You Are Living in a Mental Health Fantasy Bubble

You believe…

1) Calling 911 for a mental health emergency means trained “help” will arrive soon.
Reality? It is more likely the local untrained (lethally armed) police will be dispatched and potentially make the situation more volatile and deadly.

2) There are medical professionals that understand mental health issues waiting nearby to help in a crisis
when needed.

Reality? They are very few mental health or medical professionals available for crisis intervention. Most rural areas do not have crisis teams and defer to the 911 dispatch for a mental health crisis.

3) There are medications that actually work and with few side effects.
Reality? Few medications work all the time and often only provide some relief. Many if not all of them have undesirable side effects – some of which cannot be tolerated and can even be fatal.

4) Public spaces are safe spaces.
Reality? When one has to worry about their behavior being reported to authorities as odd or deviant, one is never safe in public spaces. See #1 above.

5) There are a variety of options for treating and living with mental health issues that are not restrictive and readily available.
Reality? Treatment today consists of medication (see #3 above) and for those who can afford it, psychological/behavioral interventions. There is a shortage in most areas for these services as well as a lack of consistency for providing evidence based programs and having the funds to pay for them. Most people do not receive the treatments or services they need. For those experiencing severe crisis, inpatient treatment consists of an extremely restrictive placement where patients are treated much like criminals. There are few supports available if any, for those living in their own homes. Worse, there is no tolerance by society for minor behavioral differences and so those who present with such differences are forced to either fit in or avoid public spaces (see #4 above).

5) Seeing a host of mental health and medical professionals guarantees one is receiving a high level of care.
Reality? The quality of care a patient gets is often left up to a combination of how diligent and educated about their diagnosis the patient is, luck – falling in with some good doctors and providers, and how close to metropolitan areas one lives – the closer to a city, the better the selection of services and providers. Even so, most medical doctors do not inquire about a patient's mental health. Most mental health providers do not communicate with the medical providers due to privacy law inconveniences.

6) Suicide prevention hotlines consist of help on the other end.
Reality? Sometimes they give little advice such as “go take more meds” or even attempt to involve authorities (see calling 911 above).

It is noble to spread Internet memes telling folks to reach out for help. But we need to put our money where our mouths are. The mental health help of television and movies is pure fantasy. It would be so easy if only the care was actually there.

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