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Mental Health : Still in the dark ages?

There are approximately 450 million people globally effected by mental health issues. There are many great ideas from inspiring people in regards to the care of these people on a global scale ,but is the stigma with regards to mental health so great that these ideas are unable to take form in our society? A lack of knowledge and education greatly impacts on the worlds view of mental health ,often societal views on mental health are conjured up by the media with the majority of headlines depicting the mentally ill murderer or local suicide. In an age where we have the world at our finger tips and an array of information at hand ,why is it that mental health is still a subject hidden in the dark? a taboo subject that a minority really cares to know about? How can we help people feel comfortable speaking about their problems? and how to approach people when they require help? I am very interested in peoples views on this topic and having a debate on the pro's and con's of mental health services worldwide.

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    Gail .

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    Mar 15 2013: I have a brother and sister with schizophrenia. I also have a brother and a sister with bi-polar. My mother has been clinically depressed for as long as I have known her and meds don't' help. My husband was recently diagnosed with dementia. I know about mental illness. I know about the stigma that prevents some who need it from seeking help. I also know about the dangers to society that SOME of these people present - even if the media does exaggerate the numbers. But I also know that the stigma is lessened considerably - probably thanks to better drugs and even some movies that show mental illnesses more fairly.

    I happen to be of the opinion that most mental illness is caused by our insane cultural norms. I was clinically depressed for years. But one day, my worldview crashed (the one defined by cultural norms). I saw how damaging it was and how error-ridden it was. I was forced to create a new worldview. It has been so many years since I was depressed that I can't even remember when I stopped taking anti-depressants.

    Now, when I listen to my brother (with extreme and debilitating schizophrenia) during those times when I am trying to convince him to go back on his meds, he speaks of things that scare him terribly. Some of those things are part of my worldview and I embrace them with joy and appreciation. When he is ill, he also clings to the old christian religion that he was raised in - that says that what he hears is evil, which scares him even more because he is convinced that hell awaits him, which makes it more difficult to get him to take his meds.

    Studies done on identical twins - one of whom develops schizophrenia and the other who does not are telling to me.

    I support fixing the culture (curing the underlying illness) rather than treating the symptoms in a culturally acceptable way.
    • Mar 15 2013: I fully agree.

      I do not understand how an educated "professional" can take an objective look at our culture and not consider it insane. And yet, so much of what is considered insane is based on cultural norms.

      Physicians prescribe anti-depressants when there is no knowledge of how the medications work within the body and brain. Apparently, absurdity is the cure for insanity.
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      Mar 16 2013: Mental health is very much like the obesity problem in America.

      There are two interesting points here that are worth comparing. First you write, "I happen to be of the opinion that most mental illness is caused by our insane cultural norms." Perhaps not by the norms themselves but by our perception of these norms, meaning we tend to see the world as being "out there" when to a large degree it is inside us, it is our view of the world ("my worldview crashed") These are not "the one defined by cultural norms" they are two very different things.
      How we learn to frame the word is essential. Your first statement might read, "I happen to be of the opinion that most mental illness is caused by my understanding, my reaction, of the insane cultural norms." We cannot change the world, we can change how we view the world and how we act in relationship to the world.
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        Gail .

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        Mar 16 2013: If I am born and raised in a culture, my worldview necessarily includes certain cultural assumptions until I choose to challenge those assumptions - IF I know enough to choose to challenge them. Cultural assumptions define cultures just as a family's common assumptions define differences among families.

        If my culture's commonly accepted assumptions are insane, and I don't choose to challenge those cultural assumptions that I learn from parents, teachers, and peers, or I cannot see that they are irrational (insane) because my culture "assumes" (and I have been carefully taught) that its definition of logic is logical when it isn't, AND if I have been even more carefully taught how to not-think (in those state-sponsored indoctrination centers we call public schools), then (I believe) those destructive cultural assumptions that are my worldview cause me to become insane - just as the culture is insane. Culture=macro view.

        As schizophrenia usually appears in the late teens to early 20s, it is unreasonable to think that someone this young is yet able to understand why the world is so crazy - when he is still being taught that crazy is sane.

        If no permanent brain damage is done to me (as is with some mental illnesses), I can cure my insanity by creating a new and sane worldview. If enough of us do that all-important work, we CAN change the world because we will have exchanged an insane common worldview for a sane one - forcing shifts in family worldviews and individual worldviews of the malingerers. Think about how our cultural assumptions have changed in the last 50 years. The world evolves.

        So, unless I misunderstand you, I stand by my words: "I happen to be of the opinion that most mental illness is caused by our insane cultural norms".

        I agree with Barry's sentiments: "I do not understand how an educated "professional" can take an objective look at our culture and not consider it insane." I will add to it to include any educated person.
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          Mar 16 2013: Give a listen to the TEDTalk by Eddie Obeng and try to apply his thinking to mental illness.

          http://www.ted.com/talks/eddie_obeng_smart_failure_for_a_fast_changing_world.html

          "My simple idea is that what's happened is, the real 21st century around us isn't so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding rationally to a world which we understand and recognize, but which no longer exists."
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          Mar 17 2013: When you write, "If no permanent brain damage is done to me" you are sharing an anecdotal understanding of your situation. "Damage" would apply to physical injury, but "illness" implies a remedy to reestablish a wellness condition. The physical manifestation of mental illness are epigenetic changes or chemical imbalances that can be reset.
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        Gail .

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        Mar 17 2013: You are referring to something entirely different (as is the video). Yes, future shock is real, but what I speak of is far more fundamental.

        EXAMPLE: We are educated in public education (indoctrination) facilities that tell us that we are a danger to ourselves and society unless we are homogenized and forced into a mold that actually makes us a danger to ourselves and society - as only ONE example. That's insane.
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          Mar 17 2013: My point was that we are "oriented" around a particular worldview from the moment we're born, not just by the educational system, but also by parents, friends, and the culture we are raised in. This orientation has an obvious slant toward past experiences and not future experiences, placing us on a faulty trajectory. Hence,"we spend our time responding rationally to a world(view) which we understand and recognize, but which no longer exists" in our present moment.
          These dysfunctional mental constrains contribute to what we call a mental disorder; Our "order" no longer works for us and we depress" and have a mental "breakdown." In addiction a breakdown is called "hitting bottom," and we admit the dysfunction we re-orient to a more functional model for ourselves. Mental health does not appear to share this model, there is no reorientation toward wellness. We are told to that we are broken, we need to medicate to address the issue, sometimes for a lifetime.

          At minute 10:04 of Eddie Obeng's talk he describes the problem, I'm just applying to mental illness.

          "Well, we could just call it turbulence, or we could try and learn. Yes, learn, but I know you guys grew up in the days when there were actually these things called correct answers, because of the answer you gave me to the horizontal line puzzle, and you believe it will last forever. So I'll put a little line up here which represents learning, and that's how we used to do it. We could see things, understand them, take the time to put them into practice. Out here is the world. Now, what's happened to our pace of learning as the world has accelerated?"

          Psychology is like the market model, " you have to wait all the way for the cycle to fail before you go, "There's something wrong."
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        Gail .

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        Mar 18 2013: We appear to be having two different conversations. Either that, or your still haven't made your point clearly enough. What you are describing is a very modern phenomenon. 200 years ago, a child could reasonably ascertain what his/her future would look like. That's no longer the case today, because things change so quickly. The insanity that I refer to isn't a recent phenomenon, in spite of the growth of Big Pharma and the loudness of its microphone.

        I'm saying that the INSANITY that holds our cutlture captive was alive and well 200-2000 years ago (and longer). It's just far more obvious now (thanks to technology) - and it's especially obvious to those who have examined their worldviews, resolved the conflicting beliefs, removed the erroneous beliefs, tested the untested assumptions, and put together a RATIONAL worldview to replace our culture's IRRATIONAL worldview, that I am suggesting is the cause of much mental illness that no symptom-treating drug will cure..

        But yes, it appears that the vast majority are waiting for the system to fail before they do something about their own unrecognized insanity that they are so comfortable with that it has become "normal".

        Older people seem to have the problem with "keeping up" with all the rapid change. Younger people thrive on it. Unfortunately, our young people are still being taught that a very insane cultural paradigm is rational, and that they must sacrifice themselves in order to save themselves. That's harmful.

        We live in a FEAR-BASED culture. We are "taught" to react in fear to our fears rather than walk toward them. It is not our smallnesss, our vulnerability, and our powerlessness that we fear most. It is our greatness, our invulnerability, our individuality, and our power that we fear - because we have been told to by those who want us to believe that slavery is freedom, ignorance is power, and war held in abeyance is peace (or that war can create peace).
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    Mar 24 2013: We live in a culture where we can plead insanity as a defence in a court of law, and be declared not responsible for our actions. However, we can't plead determinism for the same purpose. It's as if we have presupposed that mental illness robs us of our free will, which is a dangerous and terrifying idea.

    Who would want to seek help from a system that apparently doubts ones autonomy as a human being? Furthermore, people fear a loss of personal freedom. Popular culture portrays psych wards as worse than prisons. People can lose power of attorney. Also, when people start to see you as "crazy" they start to see your actions differently. What used to be justified frustration is now "agitation". Do you question authority or have unusual beliefs? Those might now be symptoms.

    Admitting to having mental illness can be a scary thing.

    Intervention can be difficult too. People who need help may not want it. At what point do you deny them their freedom? Most mental illness exists on a spectrum, with many people that have similar symptoms, but they can cope just fine. We don't want a system that scoops up people that have done nothing wrong and tries to "cure" them. Its hard to know when to draw the line and intervene. Often they have estranged relationships with their family, who are the people most needed to help them access the help they need.

    Some people who seek help are actually just trying to get access to drugs to use recreationally. There is a large black market for prescription drugs. How do you filter them out? Remember, often mentally ill people have drug addiction problems (many would argue that addiction is a mental illness). Sometimes people self medicate with the drugs they had access to, which may have been illicit stimulants or opiates, to help them cope with the symptoms of their mental illness. At that point, how do you make them see the prescribed drugs as a treatment, and not just another drug, to be bought, sold or shared?
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    Gail .

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    Mar 17 2013: You are referring to something entirely different (as is the video). Yes, future shock is real, but what I speak of is far more fundamental.

    We are educated in public education (indoctrination) facilities that tell us that we are a danger to ourselves and society unless we are homogenized and forced into a mold that actually makes us a danger to ourselves and society - as only ONE example. That's insane.
  • Mar 17 2013: Medical services for those suffering from mental illness is still sadly lacking. In my opinion we as a society have a difficult time understanding mental illness because support services for those that have mental health issues do not always do enough to include family caregivers their care process. Family is often given the responsibility to be the caregiver for their family member, but they are not always given the ongoing input from doctors on how they cope and assist with their care.
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    Mar 16 2013: Stimuli from our environment substantially effects our mental health. We translate sounds into words, and words into images in our minds. We associate visual stimuli with visual memories. Our sense of smell associates odors with emotions and visual images faster than our other senses. Our taste buds can detect potency and associate flavors with micro-nutrients requirements in our bodies. Sensations of pressure and heat are felt through our skin to relay impulses to our brains with lightning speed. All this information is compounded by every experience we relate and associate visually in our minds.

    If more people were aware of how much their emotions were triggered by their physical senses and visual associations we would be more connected with ourselves and in tune with our mind, body, and environment.
  • Mar 15 2013: Some very interesting replies so far.

    I currently work in a mental health service in the u.k and see on a regular basis ,people who are so scared or ashamed of asking for help before their crisis ,due to the stigma associated with mental health. As somebody mentioned ,there seems to be a definate difference in the way cultures see mental health and the ways they treat the people suffering with this illness ,will this always be the case or could it be possible to get a multi cultural approach to our services?

    The treatment of mental health is a very difficult and broad spectrum of trials and luck ,with a mixture of medication ,psychosocial and psychological interventions. Again ,this makes mental health seem inferior to general physical health in interventions offered ,such is the ease to 'fix' a broken leg and the overall difficulty in 'fixing' schizophrenia.

    Within society today ,the media seem to focus the majority of their time on the negative impacts people suffering with mental health disorders have. It seems to be a very rare occurence where we read stories of hope and strength regarding the path to recovery and that it is in fact a show of true strength to admit that somebody may need help instead of shunning them away.
  • Mar 15 2013: well yes we are in the dark ages of almost Everything! we are a very primitive species and no doubt with the progression of time mental health will progress just as everything does
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    Mar 15 2013: I had not realized until a thread within the last couple of months how culture bound the stigma is with respect to mental illness.

    A half century ago I know people in my community would have been extremely reticent about admitting to or seeking help for a mood disorder. Recently, though, it has become much more common to hear people discussing their bipolar disorder or OCD or siblings with schizophrenia, and so forth. In some communities, taking medications to help with mood has become common even among those with subclinical symptoms, which confuses, perhaps, the distinction between truly impairing mood disorder and inconvenient temporary situations.

    But in a thread recently one TED member shared her informal research to the effect that this stigma is extreme in the African-american community- that those with mood disorders are shunned or scorned within her community.
  • Mar 15 2013: The cure for mental illness is to restructure societal systems to accomodate mental health. Most of societies' systems are based upon negative assumptions, manipulation of human behavior by provoking fear (e.g., medical system, religions, legal system, insurance industry). The work place is structured for master/slave relationships. We have to re-design the systems within which human beings are raised. Stop brainwashing children into paranoia and hatred. The individual approach to mental health is not cost/effective. Perhaps it is not even effective at any cost.
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    Gail .

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    Mar 15 2013: I have a brother and sister with schizophrenia. I also have a brother and a sister with bi-polar. My mother has been clinically depressed for as long as I have known her and meds don't' help. My husband was recently diagnosed with dementia. I know about mental illness. I know about the stigma that prevents some who need it from seeking help. I also know about the dangers to society that SOME of these people present - even if the media does exaggerate the numbers. But I also know that the stigma is lessened considerably - probably thanks to better drugs and even some movies that show mental illnesses more fairly.

    I happen to be of the opinion that most mental illness is caused by our insane cultural norms. I was clinically depressed for years. But one day, my worldview crashed (the one defined by cultural norms). I saw how damaging it was and how error-ridden it was. I was forced to create a new worldview. It has been so many years since I was depressed that I can't even remember when I stopped taking anti-depressants.

    Now, when I listen to my brother (with extreme and debilitating schizophrenia) during those times when I am trying to convince him to go back on his meds, he speaks of things that scare him terribly. Some of those things are part of my worldview and I embrace them with joy and appreciation. When he is ill, he also clings to the old christian religion that he was raised in - that says that what he hears is evil, which scares him even more because he is convinced that hell awaits him, which makes it more difficult to get him to take his meds.

    Studies done on identical twins - one of whom develops schizophrenia and the other who does not are telling to me.

    I support fixing the culture (curing the underlying illness) rather than treating the symptoms in a culturally acceptable way.
  • Mar 15 2013: Definitely. Brain scans are just beginning to illuminate the extent of our ignorance of animal behavior.
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    Mar 15 2013: I think it is.

    It appears to be more about prescriptions and the ensuing residuals.