Health Innovations in Psychology Part One

The mental health patient is the forgotten patient…Let’s talk mental illness, does it make you feel uncomfortable? Does it worry you that speaking about it may lead people to believe you suffer from it and if so why?  After posting a tweet on Schizophrenia I noted a distinct lack of retweeting on what was a touching and well needed piece by the NYT on breaking the stigma attached to this condition.   I of course, as is my way, decided to investigate this further by interviewing a clinical psychologist working in specialist services.

The first thing a psychologist will investigate is the person, this immediately differentiates their illness from the being as you would with someone with a cold or say cancer.  I was also informed that the word illness is not appropriate to describe a persons difficulties in the world of psychology.  The word difficulties is used in preference to labels in what tend to be extremely complex deficits or difficulties in life.

Our role, stated the psychologist, is to approach the patient as the expert.  They are experts in their own life and we want to learn from them about their life and situation.  Our role is to share knowledge in an attempt to help the patient, to normalise any difficulties being experienced and to of course improve their quality of life.  When asked how they felt their patients were viewed by society the timbre of conversation changes to a more exasperated stance.  ‘People are scared, it’s as simple as that’  ‘People want to keep it as us and them’, ‘the people that can handle life and the people who are weak, this is base prejudice and not acceptable’  And from experience prejudice always stems from fear.

The psychologist also went onto the recent findings of ADHD being linked to genes, ‘society wants a biological basis to mental deficits, the ADHD gene was also found in 8% of children without the condition and the number of children with ADHD found with the gene was so small as to be discounted’  This fact has also been commented on by Ben Goldacre in The Guardian.  My interviewee also went onto say that this need for a biological basis was society’s way of ensuring that it will never happen to them, as people view mental deficit as a weakness, ‘people don’t want therapy or to be depressed, they see it as a slight on their character.  It’s like saying you are lesser than other people and you can’t cope’

They then went onto say that any one of us can have a developmental illness in their lifetime, these mental episodes or deficits are just exaggerations of emotion and cognition i.e. paranoia, everyone get’s paranoid at some point in their life, everyone has been suspicious of others.  Everyone has someone in their family with a mental health issue from depression to psychosis so isn’t time to demystify mental health.  Psychologists as a whole cannot understand why people are happy to spend money on their physical health but when it comes to their emotional well-being are unlikely to go to GP’s for feeling anxious or say anti social.  Why is that when some mental health issues if left can affect everyday life and lead to long spells off work just as if you have a serious muscular or physical condition.  Very interesting questions that if not dispelled will lead to lack of understanding and mis prescribing for overlooked mental deficits.

I asked what happens when someone goes to a GP with an emotional problem and in the next post we will discuss what psychologists feel should be done at the first phase of mental care in the community.  The suggestions may not be what you think……


5 thoughts on “Health Innovations in Psychology Part One

  1. Not sure that there is necessary a simple answer to the question that you are asking? I think perhaps people who have not experienced mental illness (whether it be their own or someone close to them) Find it harder to relate to people who have those psychological problems and recognise those ‘symptoms’ in themselves? Whether thats a lack of awareness or generally an unwillingness for people to admit it to themselves when inevitably people ‘dip into’ mental problems, as undoubtedly a large number of people do at some time in their lives.

    Look forward to the follow up on this one!

  2. Lets be very careful here when differentiating between people who are deemed medically diagnosed and who are not a likely candidate for a particular illness! Keep in mind genetic predisposition has to be an overwhelming deciding factor moving forward.

  3. Firstly many thanks for commenting this all works towards innovation and a resolution to any situation. Of course I am all for targetted and personalised medicine Joseph. I write what I am told by specialists and this psychologist works in specialist services meaning they deal with the more serious mental health problems in the ever growing mental health spectrum.

    They feel that mental health is a systemic issue not just physiological. For instance certain life factors affect people and this must be taken into account. For instance the man that has been made redundant and is losing his house, genes have nothing to do with it, he at that time feels his life is worthless and becomes depressed feeling the walls and creditors closing in on him.

    Just because someone has a mental health issue does not mean they are genetically inferior, so this is therefore not the way forward for psychology in fact it compounds stereotypes and prejudices. Also having a mental deficit does not necessarily mean a psychotic episode where you go rampaging around town with a weapon, it could simply mean a bad period in your life where certain cognitive processes and emotions are exaggerated, something we have all experienced at one time or another.

    It only becomes a problem as in a serious physical illness when it is either not treated and ignored or misdiagnosed, either way these emotional or physical problems do not go away, they just get worse, it is just how much people are prepared to put themselves and their loved ones through before they get help or no help at all.

  4. Hi Dan, thanks for the comment, yes I totally agree with the recognition of the symptoms within themselves. It makes us feel uncomfortable doesn’t it, these exaggerations of our own emotions and cognition, perhaps showing us it would be all to easy to suffer the same fate. But would I feel the same when comparing myself to someone with an unstigmatised physical illness, absolutely not…so why with mental deficits, I feel this is something we all need to look at so people can start to get treatment without the stigma attached. Rather than leaving it to get worse or be misdiagnosed. Unstigmatisation will always lead to better treatment options and quality of life but not just for the patients but also for the people affected by mental health issues i.e. all of us…

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