…. and why we must END STIGMA and MAKE CHANGE.
by Marisa Bordowitz
- Social workers are in HIGH demand in the mental health practice. Many people with ailments of the mind believe they are alone which couldn’t be farther from the truth. If your mental health suffers or has suffered, you are in very good company. 46 % (that’s just about half) of all Americans endure some form of mental illness over the course of their lifetime. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 145)
- The DSM (or the diagnostic reference for mental disorders used by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers) suggests that a mental illness constitute of “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” I find this definition somewhat vague and impersonal. To provide an example, someone with social anxiety (or even generalized anxiety) could feel very encumbered by a daily activity as simple as class participation, a class presentation or even interacting with peers at a party. Depression can keep a student from handing in work on time (or altogether) or from seeking an occupation (as sometimes it is difficult to motivate a victim of depression from doing well…anything at all!) (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 145) Here is an account on what it’s like to live with depression: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html
- NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH! It’s such a sensitive subject that it’s brought up most, unfortunately, after shootings. That is arguably the worst time to address mental health as it’s possible that adds to the stigma around mentally ill persons (perpetuating the erroneous notion that violence and mental illness are inextricably linked) Most sufferers are NOT perpetrators of violence but rather victims. (Oliver J. 2015)
- Some mental disorders are occur together like mental disorders and substance use disorders. In certain circumstances, it’s difficult to determine whether substance abuse caused mental illness or mental illness caused substance abuse (it’s the whole which came first – the chicken or the egg spiel). Regardless, some theorize that using alcohol and other drugs is a coping mechanism for the mentally ill (a way of self-medicating) (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, pg. 147)
- Over the years, there have been very poor methods to treating the mentally ill. There have been asylums or “snake pits” which often worsened conditions. Greyhound therapy has been implemented which essentially takes severely mentally ill inpatients and gives them a one-way ticket out of town and into another city. Additionally, 2 million sufferers of mental illness end up in local jails. Using the criminal justice system as a means of treating the mentally ill has obviously proven ineffective and detrimental. Here is one big wake up call that says “Bring in the social workers!” (Oliver J. 2015)
- Many social workers, rather than meeting with a person and merely asking them how they feel, they are agents of CHANGE… doing everything it takes for them to live individually. There are programs designed for their needs. (Oliver J. 2015)
Here is a powerful video told from the perspective of a woman with mental illness:
DiNitto, D., & McNeece, Carl Aaron. (2008). Social work : Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Lyceum Books.
Oliver, J. (Writer), & Hosickson, J. (Director). (2015). Mental Health [Television series episode] In T. Carvell (Executive Producer), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. New York City, NY: HBO.