A blogging colleague of mine have been talking a little bit about stigma reduction associated with keeping mental illness symptoms associated with the illness itself rather than with the person. For example, the anxiety that I experience is a feature of my bipolar illness rather than some character defect or short-coming of my person. What if we were to try to represent and talk about mental illness symptoms as being features of the illness or diagnosis itself rather than characteristics of the person or the patient? By way of example, we do not think a breast cancer survivor is cancerous. Instead we say she has had cancer and fought it and is still fighting it and/or is in remission. The disease and its symptoms are not synonymous with the patient. In fact with cancer it is the other way around. People always talk about those people who are able to beat the illness cancer — it it not a part of who that person is but rather a fight to fight and to win and to overcome.
So why do we think of mental health symptoms as somehow the failure of the person experiencing the symptoms such as anxiety, depression, PTSD or some form of psychosis? When it’s mental we tend to assign the symptoms to the patient rather than to the illness. This person is anxious. This person is depressed. This person is psychotic. This makes overcoming the stigma of mental illness even tougher.
So what would it look like if we started talking about mental illness symptoms as part of the illness rather than part of the person experiencing them? It might make us more inclined to believe that getting over anxiety or depression or PTSD or psychosis is a matter of the treatment of the illness rather than the integrity of the patient or the person experiencing the symptoms.
What do you think? Do you think mental health patients are asked “to own” their symptoms in a way that cancer patients are not? Do you feel mental health stigma could be reduced if we were to more often disassociate mental health symptoms from the person experiencing them? Could mental illness be considered a challenge to fight and/or to get through like a cancer but not the result of some character defect on the part of the patient? Do we need ways of talking about mental health that include giving credit for actively working to keep symptoms under control and/or having them be in remission for a time? Do we need ways of talking about successes we have had in combatting our mental illness diagnoses even if those troubles still exist for us on some level? What of all this might help to address the stigma of mental illness?
My last blog post referenced those with mental illness and addiction issues under the same umbrella of “behavioral health.” A fellow blogger had the insight to question use of the term “behavioral health” which is used widely in the US but perhaps not elsewhere. She is at: https://mentalhealthathome.org.
The challenge for me is finding a term that includes mental illness and addiction in the same breath. At first glance “behavioral health” does that – include mental health and addiction diagnoses. But as my fellow blogger and friend pointed out “behavioral health” is a weird way of describing mental illness and addiction. The use of the term “behavioral health” seems to imply that all that us mental illness or substance abuse sufferers need to do is change our behavior and all will be well.
Further, the term “behavioral health” does not include the more common understanding that both mental illness and addiction are associated with or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemical imbalance is clearly an illness.
While there is room for behavioral change in any illness diagnosis including cancer and heart disease, the idea that a diagnosis can be reversed through behavioral change is missing the point. If I have heart disease, I can change my diet and exercise regime. If I have cancer, I can also adopt a healthier diet and exercise. However, my diagnosis of heart disease or cancer is not defined by my behavior. It is defined by the diagnosis and prognosis of the illness itself. If you are dying of heart disease or cancer, no one says “change your behavior and all will be well.”
So why should we term mental illness and addiction as “behavioral” issues? The key to understanding mental illness and addiction is in understanding there is a chemical malfunction in the brain. Sure, you can mitigate this some with behavioral changes, but that does not mean that mental illness and addiction are explained best by our behaviors or changes to our behaviors.
What are your thoughts on using the term “behavioral health?” Is there another term you choose to use to describe mental illness and addiction?
I am not yet in the habit of giving thanks every day for my blessings. So here goes a try…..
I have a beautiful (inside and out) daughter. She is healthy, funny, smart, caring and resilient. I have a loving husband and understanding in-laws. He is non-judgmental and generally puts up with my anxiety that surfaces almost every day on some level. My in-laws also are not judgmental. I have a very good relationship with my Mom who is 83 though this has not always been the case. Now, she and I can talk pretty openly about events of the day including things that are hard emotionally or difficult because of my diagnosis. I have a solid rapport with my older sister who lives up North but continues to be a support for me every time I ask which is fairly often. I have a therapist I can trust and a doctor/ psycho-pharmacologist who I can talk to about raising or lowering meds depending on what’s going on with me. I have seen my therapist and my meds doctor since 2008 — there is little they don’t know about me and that is a blessing. I take meds that are largely therapeutic for me. I recently had a scare (this summer) with breast cancer but thankfully the mammogram, ultrasound and MRI were all benign / negative. I have strong bonds with my best friend from 1985 forward. She and I can talk to each other about everything and anything pretty much.
In writing this, I am noting that most of the things I am thankful for are relationships and health. Does any one else see a pattern in what you are thankful for?
Has behavioral health always been the red-headed step-child in terms of funding levels for medical research and treatment?
If the statistics on mental health and addiction were more widely publicized, would we begin to see more clearly the widening funding gap between dollars to treat and cure mental illness versus research and treatment dollars dedicated toward heart disease, diabetes or cancer? Currently, while mental health and behavioral health including the opioid epidemic and addiction pose tremendous challenges, the funds and expertise to tackle behavioral health and addiction just aren’t forthcoming at the same rate say for cancer research or funding. What would happen if we as a society could place as much money and effort into mental health and addiction research and treatment as we do into cancer? The projected impacts would likely be enormous.
- For one we would have adequate beds to treat people who need inpatient care for behavioral health or addiction.
- For another, we would have adequate funding to develop psychotropic drugs and other interventions without such severe side effects as weight gain and Type II Diabetes onset and memory loss.
- Additionally, we would be treating war veterans for mental health or behavioral impacts that often can go untreated or undiagnosed.
- Fourthly, we would have enough resources to fund a Cohort Model of support for those in a crisis or post-crisis state.
- Fifthly, with more co-mingling of people with and without a behavioral health or addiction diagnosis we might be able to reduce stigma substantially.
- Finally and most importantly, by being proactive in our behavioral health and addiction programs in the United States, we may be able to develop awareness of early warning signs among people struggling with mental health and addiction before their symptoms become dire.
It only follows that research for and treatment of mental illness and addiction is proportional to the level of medical challenge that is presented with these diagnoses.
I went for my breast MRI yesterday to see if I have breast cancer. I will know by late Friday or Monday the results. Praying a lot, trying affirmations, resting.
Just heard from my doctor yesterday late/Friday….. All is benign! Thanks for all your support!
When you have anxiety I am wondering what time of day that usually occurs or if there is a time of day that is most difficult with your anxiety? For me the most common time to experience anxiety is when I first wake up in the morning. I am always anxious about something as I awake. More recently it has been about will I have cancer. I am going through a series of tests right now for breast cancer and wake up worried about it.
Do you have a specific time of day when anxiety is most difficult?
I am letting go of any childhood abuse I sustained between six and ten years of age. I recently have had an abnormal mammogram, an abnormal ultrasound and a request for an MRI for both breasts.
I feel like I am being called to let go of the abuse I experienced as a young child so that I can continue to heal particularly with respect to any sort of breast abnormality or cancer I may currently have or any cancer that is soon to be discovered.
I won’t find out for at least two weeks if I have breast cancer. My MRI is on June 17th. Until then, I will be working on forgiving those who I believe participated in the sexual exploitation of me and my body and my mind when I was six, seven, eight, nine and ten.
I release any perpetrator and give the abuse over to God as to how to handle those individuals and how to judge those individuals. The judgment is not mine to make.
Again, I will also be working on forgiveness to those parties with the main desire to move forward in my life in a way that is free from anxiety and free from these deep pockets of pain. I feel that by letting go of this abuse, I may be more able to forgive and more able to have an illness-free life going forward.
Thanks in advance for any support you can muster for me as I release this abuse to God and to the void. I no longer want to possess this experience and the anxiety and depression that comes along with it.
During my work life and career, I have had to deal with being (or feeling) ahead of the curve by about ten to twenty years. The things I like to think about – circular time versus linear time, matter and anti-matter, quantum mechanics or quantum physics, an equation to designate the development of time, new treatment protocols for cancer or behavioral health or HIV/AIDS, development of biofuels as a substantial source of our energy supply – all tend to surface at least ten years before the topic reaches the mainstream. For example, I wrote three grants to the USDA to use farm and animal waste for energy back in 1999/2000. (I did not get the grants.) Biofuels did not hit it big until about 2010 (this is a guesstimate) and in 2020 are still not in widespread use as a way to process farm waste and generate energy.
In some respects I have gotten used to the ten year gap and do not have expectations that my thoughts and insights will be useful to society. I also have recognized that throughout the course of history many people with certain thoughts are often not recognized during their lifetimes. Knowing this helps me not to get too frustrated when my inroads go nowhere. And then again, perhaps nowhere is where these thoughts are intended to go.
This sense of “being ahead of the curve” may relate back to the imaginary thoughts of that six-year-old child within. Just as with any young child, my younger child within believes that all things are possible including things that logic and reason cannot readily address. That younger child within for example believes she may have developed an equation to characterize the passage of time. As I have no training in that area of science or even remotely connected to that area of science, any work I might have achieved in this regard must be due to the imagination projected forward onto the page by that younger child within. Regardless, science is needed to fact check any or all of these musings.
This sense of “being ahead of the curve” most likely requires a scientific approach to validate whether any of my early perceptions are valuable or truthful. As mentioned before, I consider this younger child within to be almost autistic. (My therapist has asked me to consider whether I feel I am on the spectrum.) Therefore is it possible that certain impressions of that child within may lead to the ability to work out complex problems without prior training just as an autistic person can perform complex mathematic calculations without any training in higher math?
Also, I do not have much perceived anxiety in regard to these perceptions. They are what they are and nothing further. I consider them to be perhaps inspired by the Divine but in need of fact-checking by good science in order to move forward. Until then they are just thoughts.
I am curious, do other people ever feel like they are ahead of the curve?
At first a caveat – this is not medical advice. It is merely a question about how alternative treatments for cancer might be explored further and/or might come into being. This does not substitute for care from oncologists or other MDs or other medical professionals who may be treating someone for cancer.
If you believe that humans are truly vibrational beings then it follows that sounds or vibrations may have more impact on us and on our well-being than we know. I have come to believe after about 20 years of soul-searching and study that cancer may be able to be treated by vibrations or sounds as applied to the brain via electrodes. This includes studying the work of Royal Raymond Rife (see bibliography / sources below) who was an MD who died in the 70s and promoted sound frequencies for a variety of illnesses. I have come to believe that each type of cancer has its own frequency that when applied to the body can transform cell structures that are mangled from cancerous contamination to cell structures that are free from cancer and healthy. I believe that the cell structure itself is modified through sound to return to its original, cancer-free structure after a certain period of introducing the said frequency to the body. I believe this turnaround may occur over the course of several days rather than months. Continued periodic exposure to the frequency may be recommended for health maintenance.
Does this sound like the insane ramblings of a person with bipolar disorder or does this warrant testing in the medical community in the form of a clinical trial? I am all for scientific validation of this hypothesis and have welcomed it for years. Does anybody know how such a clinical trial could come about?
http://www.healingfrequenciesmusic.com/royal-raymond-rife – Royal Raymond Rife Royal Raymond Rife had a lab where he worked on fighting cancer with frequencies. He is also the inventor of the “universal microscope.” After discovering which frequencies worked, he used them in clinical trials that were documented by the University of Southern California.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Rife – Royal Raymond Rife (May 16, 1888 – August 5, 1971) was an American inventor and early exponent of high-magnification time-lapse cine-micrography. He is best known for a claimed ‘beam ray’ invention during the 1930s, which he thought could treat some diseases through vibration.
Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. By Caroline Myss (copyright 1996 by Caroline Myss|Crown Publishers, Three Rivers Press, New York).
My Dad died in late May of 1989 of prostate cancer. He was 54. Each year at the time of his death, I feel a deep sense of loss. It has been over 30 years but I still am impacted by his death each May. Thankfully after 30 years of acknowledging his loss I have transitioned to being thankful that I have passed this 54 year old mark. I am 56. Each day, I realize I am so many years past having died at 54. I realize that each day with my husband and daughter and all my family is a gift.