Thursday, February 21, 2008

Annual Checkup


The recent shootings at Northern Illinois University have raised questions once again as to why these events keep happening. While I can't say that this is my area of expertise, I do think that our failings in dealing with mental health issues is one of the roots of this problem. In this article (http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2005/04/17/colleges_target_mental_health/), the issue of both stigma of mental health issues is raised as well as how effective we are in dealing with them. It is a fact that many mental health disorders begin in late childhood and early adulthood. It is not uncommon for a mental health disorder to have rapid onset. Knowing the signs and symptoms of the most common disorders should be as widely spread knowledge as women knowing how to do a self breast exam. We know the signs of a heart attack. We know many of the warning signals of cancer. Why do we still as a society seem mystified by mental health disorders?

I believe part of the reason for our failing level of knowledge in this area of health is the stigma that mental health issues still carry. Just like many other illnesses they are often genetic in nature. Much like the rise in other illnesses due to the environmental pollutants we live with, mental health disorders often are triggered by many of these same elements. We fill our food with additives and preservatives. We drink water from lakes with barely acceptable mercury levels. Is it any surprise that there is an increase in mental health disorders? Yet, unlike their medical counterparts, mental health issues carry with them a stigma. Only with widespread knowledge will this stigma ever be lifted.

So, what should we do? My suggestion is to take mental health issues just as seriously as physical health. Know the signs and symptoms of some of the most common disorders. If you have concerns, take yourself or your child immediately to a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. You wouldn't attempt to treat yourself for cancer. Why would anyone think that they could attempt to treat a mental health disorder on their own?

4 comments:

Gifted Typist said...

THat was awful.
And yes, mental illness is invisible so public policy makers can pretend it's not there, but when something like this happens we all wring our hands and wonder why?
Why indeed.

lulu said...

Easy to say, but the said fact is, people are judged by their mental health issues, and if getting help means that your insurance company, and therefore your job, is going to know about them, some people are understandably worried about seeking help.

You and I both know a whole lot of people who self medicate with booze and pot because they can't admit to themselves that they have problems. And we enable them to some extent, because we like them better stoned.

Tenacious S said...

Lu-You know the system is broken when your counselor says to you that if you want true confidentiality, you shouldn't file for insurance coverage of your mental health treatment. I guess what I was trying to get at was that the family of the NIU shooter had noticed erratic behavior prior to the shooting. I have no idea if they urged him to be treated or not. If they did feel that he would harm himself or others, they could have forced treatment. Otherwise, even caring bystanders have little recourse other than to ask someone to get help for themselves.

Hot Lemon said...

I think it's a case of "10 people have to die at an intersection before someone puts up a red light."

This is one of those things that, in retrospect, we might have seen coming if we bothered to put some more time & effort into thinking about it. But with SO VERY MUCH going on with the election-- Obama is a Muslim!! can you believe THAT?!-- we've really got OTHER issues to focus on right now.