By David Joel Miller
Mental health – Mental illness – the field is changing.
Mental illness has been in the news a lot this past year. Some of that coverage has been a good thing, some not so much.
The mentally ill and violence.
There has been more media coverage of the problems of mental illness and how this is affecting society. Unfortunately, the trend has been to portray everyone who commits a crime as somehow mentally ill and as different from the rest of us.
The truth of the matter is that those with a diagnosed mental illness are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. The labeling of those who have harmed others is all too often a label added on to them after the crime was committed. Saying that the person who became violent was mentality ill and this makes others feel safer. It can’t happen to me if I avoid “those people.”
What has been left out of this conversation is the role that stress in triggering violent behavior. Much more needs to be done to identify those under extreme stress and prevent that stress from developing into a diagnosable mental illness. Prevention in the mental health field pays big dividends for the person under stress and for society.
Unfortunately, the trend has been to deny that average people can become overwhelmed by life’s challenges and then develop a mental illness. Our systems continue to try to restrict help to those who are “broken” rather than seeing people with mental health issues as capable of healing and change.
Mental illness or mental health?
In the upcoming year, I want to write more on the conflict currently going on in our delivery systems between the concept of the mentally ill with its implication that those who have a mental illness never get better, and the belief that there are such things as mental health, recovery, and wellness. Stay tuned for some posts on how I and others think mental illnesses develop and how people recover from them.
There has been a lot of news this year about the advances science is making in the area of research on the brain. We continue to learn more as time goes on. The more we learn the more complicated the whole topic of mental health and recovery becomes.
New drugs have been developed, more are on their way. When a medication works it can be miraculous, opening possibilities for life that would not have otherwise been possible. Sometimes meds work and sometimes they don’t. They work for one person and not another. We continue to wonder why.
Genetic studies are unlocking secrets of the brain and nervous system that could not even be imagined a few short years ago. Scientists have discovered risk factors for many of the things we call mental illness, but risk factors do not tell us who with that risk factor will develop a condition and who will not.
New therapies and medications have allowed those with the most serious of mental illnesses to hold jobs that would have been thought impossible for them to achieve a few years ago. They lead productive lives. While many are rebuilding their lives despite a mental illness diagnosis the ranks of these receiving disability payments is at an all-time high. We continue to debate whether those with a diagnosis can be trusted in responsible positions. We talk about recovery being possible but design our treatment systems as if no one ever gets better and their lives need to be managed for them not by them.
The challenge of mental health and encouraging mental wellness continues to grow.
As another year draws to a close we need to look at where we have been and where we are going. Personally, I do not make resolutions but I do use this opportunity to take an inventory of how the past year went and I draw up some general plans for the year ahead.
The next year on counselorssoapbox.com.
Counselorssoapbox.com started out as a place for me to express my opinions on issues related to mental health, mental illness, substance abuse disorders and the concept of wellness and recovery. Posts on self-care, thinking, memory and feelings as well as becoming the best person possible continue to be included.
This might be a good place to mention again that nothing you read on a blog should take the place of seeing a profession for your health issues, mental or physical. I am not able to do therapy with readers and these are strictly my opinions. I try to respond to comments and contact me questions but can’t always get to them as quickly as I would like. If you or someone close to you is in a crisis get local emergency help.
I hope that some of what I write prompts people to take a look at themselves and their life and see what they may wish to work on.
Thanks to all of you who have been long-time readers. I had not expected counselorssoapbox to grow as much as it has. To date, at the end of 2014, counselorssoapbox has 850 posts on topics involving mental health hand illness, substance abuse, and self-improvement skills.
Most of these posts were written in my days off, evenings and occasionally on lunch hours. Many of the ideas for posts were responses to questions that readers, clients and other counselors and therapists have asked me. The idea file continues to grow. If only there was time to write all the posts that need writing. There is no staff at counselorssoapbox, just a progressively older me.
Most flattering has been the number of readers who access this blog from countries outside the United States. While there are legal and cultural differences from place to place, the reader comments tell me that the challenges of coping with a mental illness and staying mentally well are universal.
We will have one more counselorssoapbox post this year. Generally this time of year I look back and publish a list of the top or most read posts on counselorssoapbox. Some of these top posts have been about very current issues. A few posts have been perennial favorites. The topics of those posts will be the subject of several books I am working on. Eventually, those books will get published and I will let you all know when that happens.
Thanks to all of you who read my blog and for your comments, likes, reblogs, shares and all that tech stuff. Here is hoping that the New Year will be even better for all of you than the last one was.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
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