Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Pros And Cons Of The Mental Health Movement


Thanks to charities and the constant efforts of the health community, mental health awareness is at an all-time high. Issues such as depression were all but unheard of only a few years ago. Now, we all know someone who’s been diagnosed at some stage. No one can deny that these developments are for the better. After all, it’s past time we started treating mental illness the way we would any other health issue. We know enough about the science related to know it’s nothing to do with mindset or a defeatist attitude. While mental health problems are ‘in the mind’ in a broad sense, they have a physical cause. More of us are realizing this than ever before. As such, the face of mental health is changing in a major way.

But, this increase in awareness isn’t all sunshine and light. It’s brought some unexpected setbacks of its own. At the moment, having a mental illness is all the rage. Teens especially seem to fall into this trap. The teen years have always been tempestuous. In the past, teenagers were dubbed as moody because of hormones. Now, doctors diagnose depression, bipolar, and a wealth of other conditions which may be unhelpful. When a teen receives such a diagnosis, they may come to associate with the symptoms. As such, it becomes impossible to tell what’s mental illness, or normal teen stuff. These teens may then suffer further into their adulthood than they would’ve otherwise.

And, teenagers aren’t the only ones falling under the mental health spell. Adults are guilty of jumping on the bandwagon as well. Depression is an excellent example here. The issue is at an all-time high, with more than 15 million adults in the US alone now diagnosed. But, when dealing with a matter on that scale, diagnosis can become muddy. You could argue that people have lost sight of the difference between feeling low and being depressed. So, you could argue that our increased awareness is bringing issues along with it.

Of course, this is a tricky subject. We all want a better understanding of mental health problems. And, the steps taken in recent years are, for the most part, positive. But, to put things into perspective, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of this phenomenon.

Pro: More People Aware Of Issues

As mentioned above, the increased awareness is a huge step towards breaking mental health taboos. In the past, individuals with mental health concerns were shunned or misunderstood. Taking time off work for such problems was a taboo matter. Managers often failed to take the issue seriously, pressuring workers in a way they never would for physical illness. So much has been done to break these boundaries. There’s still some way to go before mental illness gains the recognition it deserves, but we’re closer than ever. Why? Because of an increase in awareness. People now know what causes mental issues, and so are more understanding. There’s also more awareness about individual symptoms involved. This is as important. Instead of assuming that someone with depression is ‘sad,' the majority now know the darker side of the condition.

Con: Matters are taken less seriously

This con may seem like a contradiction, but it’s worth mentioning. While mental health issues are taken more seriously, increased awareness has also had the opposite effect. This all goes back to the fact that being mentally ill is a ‘trendy’ thing at the moment. When people who may not be mentally ill gain diagnosis, it demeans the struggle. This isn’t the fault of anyone in particular. Individuals may well consider themselves unwell. And, doctors are only trying to do their best. It’s possible that more stringent guidelines would keep diagnosis for severe cases. This article considering the question ‘what will the future of PTSD look like?’ discusses this point with regards to post traumatic stress disorder. This is another condition which has seen an increase in diagnosis. As the article states, that increase may have taken the condition away from its original criteria. There's a possibility this will make a mockery of serious conditions, thus undoing the progress achieved so far.


Pro: People who need treatment are now getting it

This ties in directly with the increase in awareness. A major benefit is that those who need help are now getting it. It may be that they were struggling in silence, unaware of the issues. If you don’t know about a condition or its symptoms, you can’t understand when it happens to you. As such, people with mental conditions may have been unaware. In school, you’re taught to check for lumps and recognize rashes. But, there aren’t enough lessons about how to recognize mental illness in yourself. Luckily, the general conversation is now making sure such individuals are informed.

Sometimes, people may have recognized they needed help but felt embarrassed coming forward. When there’s a taboo around a subject like this, it can be hard to take your concerns seriously. Such people may have fallen prey to believing they could recover through positive thinking. They may have worried that, if they did reach out to a doctor, a diagnosis wouldn’t have been forthcoming. Now, more people are comfortable booking an appointment when they feel the need. This is a significant step and one which shouldn’t be taken lightly.

An increase in therapists in recent years also suggests that the nation as a whole is taking its mental health more seriously. Talking to therapists is akin to eating healthily. It’s prevention, rather than a cure. Again, it would’ve been unheard of a few years ago. But, awareness has taught us that our minds need caring for, too.

Con: Long waiting times and more dependence on medication

Again, there’s a disadvantage attached with the above point. While it’s fantastic that more are seeking help, this does mean increased waiting times. For people in dire need of aid, this is a problem for obvious reasons. As such, doctors seem more keen to prescribe medication as a go-between. But, this is an issue in itself. Medicine for mental health is a tricky subject. Some consider it a lifesaver, while others claim it covers, instead of cures. For the most part, a mixture of therapy and medication is the best route. But, with long therapy waiting lines, more people are going down the medication only path. In a country already overrun with drugs, this may not be the best way to go. Besides which, mental health medication has a variety of damaging side effects which could make matters worse in the wrong dosages.

Again, this is a tough one to tackle. Nobody wants to dissuade those individuals from coming forward. But, it may be that the health profession needs to adjust as awareness increases. Perhaps there should be more stringent guidelines to help urgent cases. That way, everyone can receive treatment while ensuring the people who need it most are front of the line.

Conclusion

As yet, there’s no clear answer for the issues mentioned above. In the grand scheme of things, mental illness is still a new development. As such, there’s a lot of room for improvement in every aspect. But, one thing we can all agree on is that the steps taken are good ones. And, we can only hope that we iron out the creases by taking more steps of this nature in the future. Only time will tell how things work out, but for now, the picture is a positive one!

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