Is there cause for celebration this May: National Mental Health Awareness Month 2014?
I've written resoundingly hopeful SharePosts in the 8 years I've been employed as the Health Guide for HealthCentral This news article is going to take a detour to highlight the ongoing discrepancy in outcomes for a significant number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.
I've been in remission over 20 years. I wear the different hats of librarian, writer and mental health activist. I'm not shy about stating I'm a mental health activist because I'm willing to use my voice to lobby for the right of everyone who needs treatment to get it.
That treatment shouldn't be denied, causing us to become irreversibly disabled.
It's 2014 and mental health is in the news because of the on-the-rise mass shootings that individuals commit in movie theaters, schools and shopping malls every year.
For Mental Health Awareness Month:
I'm going to focus here on the reality that people living with schizophrenia are denied treatment, winding up in jails for crimes committed while symptomatic, living homeless out on the streets, or ending up dead from suicide.
In reality the anti-treatment crowd isn't only against forced treatment: they're against any kind of treatment for people with chronic schizophrenia.
Not only is "forced" treatment hard to obtain it's true that there is no treatment of any kind when a person first gets sick and needs help.
There's no such thing as "forced" treatment when a person is sick. The correct term for what happens is "forced illness" because the illness is forced upon sick individuals by staff at hospitals that refuse to treat them under any circumstance, involuntary or voluntary.
Try checking yourself into a hospital on your own will when you recognize you need to be there. Hospitals every day turn away people who realize they are sick and seek help. You can be suicidal and show up at a hospital begging to be admitted. You'll be turned away just like those of us who aren't aware we're ill.
No treatment under any circumstance is the reality.
In 1987, I was admitted to the hospital and got the right treatment within 24 hours. I'm confident that if I got sick today or 5 years ago or even 10 years ago: there would be no treatment; I would be left to get sicker and sicker on my own.
Every day in my Google Alerts e-mail for schizophrenia I see at least one Internet news article about individuals with schizophrenia who kill a family member or kill others because they're not in treatment. Psychosis is the leading cause of violence along with other factors. See the schizophrenia and violence information here.
The anti-treatment crowd is curiously silent about how to treat these people whose severe illnesses cause them to commit crimes. It astounds me that a significant number of people see absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that too many people have dead-end disabilities because they don't get treatment.
This cadre of disability "rights" advocates and so-called "experts" rationalize their arguments by stating that individuals with anosognosia, who lack the insight that they're sick, have the same right to deny treatment for themselves that other people do who refuse life-saving treatment.
Individuals with chronic schizophrenia die every day with their "rights" on. Those that are lucky die. The others live wasted lives for the rest of their lives, at the mercy of their sick brains.
In January 2013 I wrote about Fixing the Mental Health System. My number-one claim was that there aren't enough beds in hospitals for individuals with severe illnesses. That we might need better institutional care for people with schizophrenia who have fallen through the cracks out in the community.
As a mental health activist, I stand on the side of Science and Kindness. My family has lived in America since the 1890s and as far back as then a number of us have had schizophrenia. Thus my belief in a genetic link not the counter-notion that psychosis is caused by having a really bad day or other stress or societal pressures or bad parenting. I do not share those ideas for what causes psychosis nor do I share in the idea that no medication at any time is the solution for treating psychosis or other symptoms.
As a mental health activist, I champion that all patients have the right and more than that the duty for themselves to dialogue with members of their treatment team to decide on the best kind of treatment for their needs. This might involve medication and it might not depending on the type of illness and the symptoms involved.
As a mental health activist, I lobby for the rights of all family members to step in to get help for loved ones who have severe schizophrenia and are denied treatment. I side with these family members because their loved ones wind up severely ill for the rest of their lives, imprisoned, homeless or more likely dead from suicide or dead from being killed by police officers.
See my SharePost on Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis to read about a bill in congress that if voted into law would help family members help their loved ones get treatment.
These family members have the right to get their loved ones the best possible treatment for their needs. Instead, an outright war has been waged against family members. My mother was lucky the staff admitted me when I showed up at the hospital. This luck is all too rare today. And yes, sometimes it comes down to good luck that you get treatment.
That's the reality in America today that I want to bring awareness to for National Mental Health Awareness Month. I bring this awareness to the public because Mental Health is the goal: yet for too long individuals have been denied the right to obtain optimal mental health.
Mental health is still an elusive goal for too many people with severe schizophrenia. This must change, and I will continue to report on breaking news in the field to address this failure.
Published On: May 04, 2014