Happy Sunday: Mental Illness Edition

Let us face it, we are facing a rise in mental illness for obvious reasons. It would be lovely to find one person who does not suffer from some form of mental illness that ranges from persistent anxiety to full blown and debilitating disorder.

We are calling more people “evil”, which is the only word for a human who does things that we cannot understand or process in our minds.

We are hearing more words and phrases like “coo coo”, “looney tunes”, “ditzy”, “not wrapped too tight”, “batshit” and so on.

We are using more of those words and phrases.

The only action that we can take right now is to get a better understanding of all of the forms of mental illness, whether we are suffering  and can still admit it, or whether we must deal with someone else who is suffering and cannot admit it.

With better understanding and knowledge, family and friends have better odds of getting help and of evaluating the quality of the help.

Even when the relationship or situation is a dangerous, abusive or harmful one, it is best to know more about any illness or behavioral problems that have the potential to put others in harms way.

THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTS TO KNOW ARE: That fear, ignorance, stigmatizing and social disapproval will drive people to lie, deny, withhold, enable and to block efforts to put a person into care. There are a lot of horror stories and myths about putting a person into “the system”.

THE TREATING PHYSICIANS ARE NOT THE MAD SCIENTISTS FROM THE MOVIES AND TELEVISION. These hard working folks need to know as much as possible in order to make a sound diagnosis. This is not an easy job, since flawed and limited anecdotal or statistical evidence may be all that they have to work with.

THE FAMILY, CLOSE FRIENDS AND OTHER CLOSE INDIVIDUALS NEED TO GIVE AS MUCH USEFUL AND TRUTHFUL INFORMATION ABOUT THE PATIENT AS POSSIBLE. In many cases, the most important witnesses will lie, do not know what information to give, lack trust, or will not want to get involved.

PEOPLE MUST GET OVER THEIR FEAR OF GETTING HELP, OR MORE TRAGEDY IS ON THE WAY. More knowledge will help that process.

AT THE VERY LEAST, MORE INFORMATION WILL HELP TO UNDERSTAND HOW AND WHY A PERSON IS BEHAVING AS THEY ARE, AND TO HELP THEM.

We are going to find out about a different kind of “bible” today. This bible is the guide for health professionals and for all of us when we are confronted by mental illness.

The best resource for all is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Volume IV. (DSM-IV-TR). AllPsych Online has made this all important resource available for free to anyone who needs it.

In May of 2013, the DSM V will be published. This greatly improved diagnostic and statistical manual has changed a lot about the way in which mental health problems are diagnosed. Inputs were taken from a much wider group of concerned individuals and organizations, including families and friends, a wider range of professionals, and the general public.

These manuals are published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all diagnosed psychiatric disorders for children and adults.  This manual will help to understand the self and will help to understand loved ones who are in distress.

There are four Axis of diagnosis that are important to know.

The general understanding is that there are diagnosed disorders, there are the psychosocial stressors  that affect or trigger the disorders, and there are levels of functioning that change from time to time when a person has a disorder. All three planes are used to identify the troubles and conditions.

Axis I disorder are the actual diagnoses, with schizophrenia, social phobia, or depression as examples.

Axis II disorders are the diagnosed developmental and personality disorders. Autism, retardation, social phobias, and  borderline personality disorders are examples of Axis II disorders.

Axis II covers the physical conditions that make disorders worse, or that involve impaired mental function on their own.

Axis IV describes the severity of psychosocial stressors. The thinking is that certain events in a person’s life will affect their mental health.  People do not just “get” certain disorders, so Axis IV describes events that are known to trigger or aggravate Axis I and II disorders. Key stressors, such as marriage, divorce, losing a job, death of a loved one, trauma and more have been identified and rated in terms of severity.

Axis V describes the person’s highest level of functioning. This axis compares the patient’s functioning from one year to the next, and helps to understand what kinds of changes to expect.

All of this is done with evidence gathering through personal observation, interview, theraputic sessions, physical medical examinations, testing, research and statistical analysis.

This can be a long, painstaking and arduous process, especially when the patient cannot speak for him or her self. In those cases, the only information comes from witnesses and others who may or may not be reliable.

So take a few steps on this journey of understanding today. Take a few more tomorrow. Then take a few more into the future of  understanding more about mental illness. This will help to end the reluctance to tell the truth and will help to stand up to  shaming and stigmatizing. We can all become more observant and proactive, rather than having to react blindly in the heat of a crisis.

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