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Prejudice In The Mental Health Profession

Recovery rates for people who have experienced a serious mental illness, according to the findings of a series of World Health Organization studies, are nearly twice as high in developing countries as they are in the developed world.

Psychiatrists and mental health workers in industrialized countries have tended to be very cynical about prospects for recovery for people labeled with severe mental illnesses given recovery and recidivism rates in the developed world. This cynicism in focus amounts to favoring a focus on the percentage of mental patients who don’t recover over a focus on the number who do recover.

Drug maintenance, the predominate means of managing mental illness in the developed world, has become an impediment to complete recovery from serious mental illness. How, after all, can a person be considered fully recovered when he or she has to take a drug to stay out of the hospital?

There are many other complications that come with the use of these drugs as well. The more deeply one looks into their usage, the less they seem the panacea that they have been cracked up and packaged to be. A number of authorities have pointed out that the reason some people appear to be emotionally disturbed can be due to the prescription chemicals they have ingested.

I gave a seminar at a church recently, and rather than registering surprise at the disparity in recovery rates between rich and poor countries, this mental health professional presents me with the conundrum of the paranoiac with a gun. Here’s another side of the problem, panic over the media created myth of the dangerous mad person.

You have to go to other statistics to establish that we are dealing with an exceptional instance, and not the run of the mill. Her case was a real case, but out of the ordinary, hardly typical.

I point this out because it underlies a deeper issue. Mental health professionals can be among the most prejudiced people in the world when it comes to the treatment of people labeled mentally ill. Professional cynicism is one of the most glaring examples of this prejudice.

Rather than improving recovery rates, much that is going on today in the mental health field concerns reacting to the relatively rare cases of violence involving people with psychiatric diagnoses that make the press. Looking for more people to treat, on the basis of the fear that somebody is going to commit a future act of violence, is not going to improve overall recovery rates.

You don’t fix a broken system by making it worse! Unfortunately, many of the efforts being made to repair what is seen as a faulty mental health system do just that.