The stigma theory of mental health treatment has me a little worried. How does this theory work? The stigma theory holds that there are more people in need of mental health treatment than there are people who are receiving mental health treatment. All we have to do is change the way people look at people who have crack ups, and more of these untreated unidentified crazies will come forward to receive their mental health treatment, too.
The problem with this outlook is that there are more people in mental health treatment than ever before. This is particularly true in the United States. When people leave mental health treatment, they could be said to have recovered from a mental illness. When people don’t leave treatment, they are said to be chronic or long term cases. Chronic or long term nut jobs survive by taking disability checks and medical care from the federal government. Joe Taxpayer pays for the disability benefits and the public insurance policies these chronic or long term cases receive just as surely as he pays the salaries of his state and national representatives.
When people in mental health treatment are not recovering their mental health, the mental health system is not working as it should work. The mental health system could therefore be said to be broken. Well, according to a report of a meta-analysis I read about recently, the prospects for anybodies recovery, as regards serious mental illness, in the mental health system are not good. Okay, given this fact, why should we get more people into this system, and expand this systemic failure even farther? When recovery is a matter of removing bodies from this mental health system, working to add more bodies to this system is not making doing so any easier.
Psychiatrists and mental health workers absolutely don’t want to concede that their actions have anything to do with this state of affairs. It’s not a broken system, its broken people with broken brains, irreparably broken. This conveniently lets the repairman off the hook. The repairman is no longer a repairman, no; he’s the keeper of a junkyard, or a landfill. We’ve got this big trash space, if you have any human garbage you want to get rid of, just send it to us. What is a broken man or woman but human refuse? Taking care of human garbage, that’s our business.
The anti-stigma campaign is about making this situation acceptable. It’s about selling and popularizing the notion of people being labeled mentally ill, chronically mentally ill. It’s about hiring bums as psychiatrists and mental health workers, and praising them for putting up with the pathetic situation. When people don’t get out of treatment, when Samhsa has redefined recovery as non-recovery, when more and more people are seeking treatment, etc., business is booming and, therefore, all’s right with the world.
Excuse me, let’s slow down a little bit. The mental health of the nation is improving when the business of treating the mentally ill is not booming so much. When the problem is less big rather than even bigger the situation could be said to have gotten better. What do you think? If it were profitable to get people out of mental health treatment, do you think we’d see more people had recovered from a serious mental illness in a relatively short period of time? I think so. It’s a business, and what we are paying for is more so called “mental illness”, and not more mental health. There are solutions, but not when people are encouraged to tow the line, not when it’s a bad line in the first place.