What’s Needed To Improve Mental Health Recovery Rates?

Psychiatrists have long emphasized low recovery rates for serious mental health issues resulting in a great number of what are called long-term or chronic cases. My feeling is that this low recovery rate has 2 major causes. The first is due to the fact that the primary form of treatment, drug treatment, is crippling in its own right, and it doesn’t really address the underlying circumstances behind whatever dilemma a person may be facing. The second is that we’ve got an expansive self-perpetuating mental health system that isn’t really interested in seeing people released from that system. If the rhetoric says one thing, the facts suggest another.

Biological psychiatry, which would blame these bad outcomes on heredity, is blinded by its own prejudices and presumptions. All research in this area of expertise can only be approximate, by no means is psychiatry an exact science. If you are saying that these people have bad genes, you still have to demonstrate that all of them have bad genes, and not just a fraction. Biological psychiatry is trying to say that that fraction includes a greater rather than lesser number of people it has labeled. This theory has been disproved by World Health Organization (WHO) research into recovery rates in developing countries. If recovery rates in some countries in the developing world were twice those in the more industrial nations, obviously the fraction suffering from bad genes, in this instance, becomes smaller rather than greater. Under the skin, people in the developing world are the same as the people in the developing world.

The real and only difference between a mental patient, and much of the rest of the world, is meaningful and paid employment. The mental health system, as it is now set up, being based upon insurance disability claims, can’t co-exist with meaningful employment. People receive disability when they are deemed unfit to work. There is no graduated system within the mental health system of getting people back into the working world. Loss of disability serves as a disincentive to working, especially when job insecurity and relapse fears abound. The idea of doing something innovative, like incorporating a small labor force, flounders when you reach the bureaucratic insurance company and governmental red tape involved.

Work has been described as conducive to recovery when it comes to mental upsets and life crises. The mental health system is hiring Peer Support Specialists at this time because it just doesn’t make sense to tend so many under and unemployed people when you can put a few to work. People in the mental health system often want to work. Simply sending them to college for more training is not always the best policy for them. It would help if the mental health system made finding people suitable employment outside of the mental health system a part of its business. I’m not saying work solves everything. I am saying that work can be fun, and that it doesn’t have to be conceived of as nothing but tedium and drudgery.

Both of these causes will have to be addressed if recovery rates are to be substantially improved. Non-drug alternative approaches to disabling and damaging chemical treatments need to be studied and applied. The question and nature of the worth of people in the job market will need to be reintroduced and explored. Special and novel ways of achieving that worth need to be looked at as well. This is a social matter, and as such, it involves groups of people seeking solutions to the problems that people have in common. In order to come up with these solutions, something of the insular and segregating nature of the mental health system will have to give way before the need to engage more people in the active life of their communities.

5 Responses

  1. […] What’s Needed To Improve Mental Health Recovery Rates […]

  2. Well put, MFV. It is a vicious circle and the patients caught up in it do become apathetic. It does strike me that a hefty intervention is the only way it is going to change and I am not sure where all that is going to come from. The Peer Support Specialists you mention show that there is some movement from within, which is a good thing, but there needs to be more of a driving force.

    Implementing a system whereby employers are given tax incentives to bring ex-patients on board is a possibility. I think with high unemployment it would be a struggle otherwise.

    • You don’t really even need to use tax incentives, GM. When there are no lines of communication open between the business community and the mental health community, you aren’t likely to achieve much. The same principle holds true when it comes to attaining affordable housing. Establish a relationship between the business community and the mental health community, and you’re on your way to arriving at innovative solutions.

      Covering the falsely manufactured economic crisis we are just pulling out of would take more time than I’ve got at my disposal at present. It is serving as an excuse in the USA for state governments to slash mental health care budgets. These budget cuts are going to come back and bite us in the butts. Much of that money goes towards community care, and the prevention of more costly detention in state hospitals. As for the reason de etre’ for such moves, when you’re bailing out bankers and corporate executives, poor people can eat dirt.

  3. I have been thinking about this. Much of what you say is sadly true. I think that beyond these things is a cultural intolerance that needs to be challenged as well. There are very few instances in US film or US television programming where one finds diversity in ability or appearance, without that being for derisive purposes; see Jerry Springer. Sure, you might see stars winning Oscars for acting like a disabled person (Dustin Hoffman in Rainman) or donning make-up to look less than aesthetically perfect (Charlize Theron in Monster) and you have Brad Pitt playing a psychotic hillbilly in Kalifornia, but people from different gene pools are grossly underrepresented. Oh, you do get that blonde lady they wheel out every time they need a deaf person.

    British programming looks like a veritable public relations drive for the ‘disadvantaged’ by comparison. Actors with Down’s Syndrome, presenters with disfiguring burns, broadcasting links with one-legged people dancing in wheelchairs, television characters of all shapes and sizes with every permutation of mental health or shade of tooth colour imaginable.

    Besides, it is not that long ago that Halle Berry won the first ever Oscar for a black woman – or “person of color” as she prefers. Latinos are only seeing themselves gain more representation – other than in Spaghetti Westerns and Zorro – because they have taken production into their own hands over the last decade. And you do not need me to tell you about Hollywood’s historic portrayal of Native American Indians.

    There is lot of prejudice in programming and filmmaking that feeds the American psyche. The impossibly handsome with well lit and perfectly made-up abdominal muscles, the half-starved and impossibly beautiful – all with gleaming smiles that cost more than most people will be able to save in a lifetime; these are the people we are trained to want to be like. Is it a surprise that we discard so many who do not fit the moulds of our golden idols?

    • Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Orion, Disney, etc., etc., all these celebrities are working for Hollywood, Inc., and that’s why you don’t see your neighbor on the silver screen. The entertainment industry is a part of this corporatocracy that includes bankers, oil company exes, drug company exes, and tech company exes. As an occupy protester might put it, they’re 1 percenters. The American Idol lottery is not the real world. Things can and will change, but only when people want them to do so. I’m personally offended by all these rich people getting chances that the vast majority of us couldn’t even dream about. I think it’s about time people took back the country, and part of taking back the country means wrenching control of the media from the filthy rich misers that currently run it.

      If we’re kind of off topic here, I think we’re not that far off topic. People with experience in the mental health system are devalued to the extend that they are devalued because people in the upper crust are over valued to the extent that they are over valued. Change this disparity of wealth and power, and you change the prospects for people who are struggling now. We don’t have to live vicariously through other people when we can do our own living. Lessen the disparity in wealth and power that you see in the world today, and you will see a whole lot of change for the better. I think it’s a very expensive lie that we’re supporting right now, and we’ve got oh so many better things that we could be doing rather than taking the fall for some robber baron or other.

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