I recently had surgery, which I’ve never gone through before. It was a positive experience with the medical staff doing what they do best and taking care of me. I recall over the years with grandparents in the hospital and other situations that medical people are trained to look for life-threatening situations and get people to a stable position. They may not be 100%, and they may have permanent issues but they are alive and able to sustain self-care and that seems to be the goal for those caring for others.
That isn’t a bad goal for people who are having heart attacks or those in car accidents. Even those with cancer are happy that their medical crew are doing their best to get them to go home and keep living. However, when someone has an issue that is not life or (even sustainable day-to-day living) threatening medical staff seem less than sympathetic. For example, I have a friend whose child is suffering from severe anxiety. She has attempted suicide on a couple occasions and the medical staff are on the ready to assist on those occasions. However, when the family attempted to get a battery of tests on hormones and other blood readings to see what the root cause of the depression and anxiety was they were met with a great deal of resistance. Once a person is “out of the red” it appears that the motivation to keep looking for the reason they aren’t at their best abates. Why is it that the bare minimum for living is all that is necessary?
That leads me to think about mental health in our society. I don’t agree with locking people up for mental health issues but our society seems to turn a blind eye to those with mental health issues and make the assumption that it is normal to be a little bit crazy. Yes, we can pay a lot of money to therapists who are happy to listen to our woes day after day if we so choose to keep paying. However, it seems that as long as a person is getting by and not on the brink of harming themselves or others it is not considered something to be concerned about. When my son was around 14 he was having a lot of issues just understanding his place in the world. He had plenty of stressful situations between moving a couple times and a bad relationship with his dad. I hired a teen specialist, who was a nice guy, to come to our home and talk to him to be that guidance counselor that my son was not getting from any other man in his life. He came and he did help, but he had a personal issue come up that prevented him from continuing to meet with my son. When I asked him who he would refer to replace him and he brushed me off saying that my son would be fine. He eluded to the very troubled teens he worked with in his day job who had substance abuse and legal issues. He very vocally indicated I didn’t need to pursue additional counseling. Why does it not make more sense to assist my son before he turns to drugs or stealing (or suicide)?
I don’t know much about the mental health scales that are used to determine if a person needs treatment. However, it seems to me that it is inadequate. Our brains are very complex and self-sustaining. I have known people who had serious personality issues that could not be classified on the scale of disorders because they were highly functional. So, if a person cannot sustain personal relationships but can go out and buy food and hold down a job we call them normal. As I had a glimpse into Ken Wilber’s levels of development it is easy to see how a child should behave and when they get to a certain age they start to question things and expand their mind. He does a good job explaining how each stage looks. However, so many full-grown adults are stuck at lower-level stages that they should have grown out of in their late teens. I won’t get into the details of his stages, but suffice it to say that we have all the tools necessary to help people through their negative patterns of living and we don’t take the necessary resources to develop people’s minds to mature and think critically.
Perhaps if we started really understanding people and how their minds work and started classifying them into categories of health it would cause more harm than good with us vs. them and other people knowing their issues preventing them from getting jobs or relationships due to a label. I realize that parents don’t want their kids getting labeled in schools because of bullying and hindering them from being treated normally.
I don’t have an answer. I know I could use just as much help as the next guy in figuring out why I have the tendencies I have that are not benefiting me. I also know we don’t want to have any ONE way of thinking or operating to be pushed any more than we want one religion or one type of government. There are so many people with so many beautiful expressions of life that we don’t want to damper them in any way. My concern is for the millions of people that are stuck in negative thought patterns to the extent that they don’t even want to do anything differently. Is there an answer? Can we help them without hurting them more?