Our voices are not heard. A system in need of an urgent overhaul. For the people now, and for those who will require services in the future. A system supposed to support, which instead turns its consumers to mutes. A system without unified structure. The very same system that passes judgement on an illness already stigmatised by society. How are we supposed to believe in ourselves when the system we have entered, creates non-beneficial views of its consumers? How can we be heard? Where do we turn when we need the extra support and assistance to either overcome or stabilise our illness? Since when did the brain become excluded from our physical being?
We are the people with mental illness. If our pharmaceutical treatment was referred to as chemotherapy, would society and the mental health system itself, view us differently? After all, we are taking medication which when broken down, are chemicals; we are indeed undergoing a form of chemotherapy. Just like cancer, mental illness has just as strong probability and potential to kill. I won’t dispute the fact that at times, mental illness is indeed self inflicted by means of drug and or alcohol, abuse. But again, how does this differ from any other illness? We can prevent a lot of cancers, but some of us still choose to smoke, to get sunburnt, and to live sedentary lifestyles.
Why is the system that is supposed to support us, lacking in so many ways? Why are the voices of the consumers not heard? Why does our opinion of personal experience within the system not get acknowledged? We are the mentally ill. We are human too, just like those initiating, implementing, and working within the system. Some of those working within the system themselves, do not have an adequate understanding of mental illness. Too many times to remember, I was asked why, when I have a job, a house, and children, am I unwell? And like I would always say – I would trade everything excluding my children to not be suffering within the realms of the illness itself. I, like many others I have met, did not in any way contribute to the “acquisition” of my mental illness. I did not choose to feel the way I felt, or to think the way I thought. Just as a cancer patient did not request a particular type of cancer, or request where and when it would show up next.
It is my belief, that the consumers of the public mental health system, do indeed, need to band together to try and initiate change. To be heard. To be allowed to be heard.
Is the private mental health sector any different? Well, yes. In some ways it is. For one, it is more aesthetically pleasing to a private inpatient, however, the internals of the system are much the same. Both systems rely heavily on medicating its consumers, which sometimes, I believe quite unnecessary. I ask you, as a fellow member of society – do you require medicating for every emotion, action, or thought that falls outside the realms of the “norm”? If the system cannot build trust within its consumers, then how are the consumers supposed to believe in themselves? Unless you are a person that likes to know the ins and outs and one’s rights within the system, or are actually well enough to do this, then the uppermost practitioners within the system will, and do, take advantage. It is certainly not looked upon favourably if you question the practitioners views or beliefs. Yet again, another example of how the consumers within the mental health system are not heard.
If you, a loved one, a friend, a neighbour, a work colleague have ever suffered from a mental illness at one time or another, then please, speak up WITH us. Not just for us. The system needs change to better benefit its consumers, and the more support we have, the greater chance we have of making it happen. Please, help us to be treated as equals.
That’s one helluva powerful post. Have you written and sent it to other places or is this its maiden voyage?
You’ve proposed quite a number of interesting questions. Along those lines, do you have any answers to some of the ones that you’ve listed?
For what it’s worth, I think things are in a process of change. Look at all the websites for support for people with depression … this one is the one I exclusively visit … while I know there’s a stack of other ones out there providing sensational support as well, but I’m more than happy with how Beyond Blue is travelling; especially now that they’ve upgraded (as of early 2012) – although for old farts like me, it took me ages to become tech savvy enough to use it.
I also believe that within the government public service there is a large push towards helping people with mental illness. Helping not only with how they are on a day to day basis, but also the fact that they are able to be employed in departments as well.
Those last two points were only items on a list many years ago … so there are changes happening.
I am naïve to loads of things in society and I’m never one to try and step on toes and make waves … as Michael Jackson once sung to Paul McCartney, “I’m a lover, not a fighter”, but I did just want to respond to you to say that your post is a well constructed piece and I agree with so much of what you have written.
It was just that I wanted to point out the websites and the changes afoot in the commonwealth public service as I believe positives that are happening.
I wonder what others think of this post and would love to hear back from you.