illness - Treating the causes?
by Matloub Husayn Ali Khan
Husayn Ali Khan argues that the views of some psychiatrists
lead to a cycle of dependency and re-admission.
Psychiatry as a profession deals with people
who are ‘ill’ and many psychiatrists argue that
we can identify a certain type of mental illness and hence
attach a diagnosis to it. They argue that this specific (physical)
illness is the basis for an individual’s mental distress
and as it is biological should be treated in biological manner.
My experience as a mental health service user, survivor and
provider leads me to question this view.
Mental ‘illness’ can strike at
any time but there some differences between men, women, and
people from different classes and ethnicity. Many people who
are diagnosed with a mental illness have had some sort of
high stress trigger like bereavement, divorce, or redundancy.
My own experience is that in the initial stages of the ‘illness’
the medication may exacerbate another aspect of the ‘illness’
and the side-effects of tablets can even lead to self-harm.
Unfortunately, for those clients who have
little support from family or friends it is almost impossible
to get help outside the psychiatric institutions. Many clients
are then trapped in the system by continually taking medication
which have serious and dangerous side-effects for many years
after the initial problem. Many of the service users I have
met tell the same familiar story: taking tablets for depression
but they stay depressed. Many feel that they will never recover
from their ‘illness’.
If people do survive / recover or ‘feel
better’ what help they have may be stopped. After long
drawn-out checks on their health and suitability to carry
out work, benefits may be stopped while they are still not
ready to go back to their old job. They may be forced to take
on a less stressful job, this often means unsuitable work.
These financial and work stresses can cause relapses and return
to the hospital, getting further trapped in the system.
If the illness is a physical one then why
don’t the psychiatric profession treat the CAUSES of
the illness, rather the symptom? The physical causes of mental
illness are unproven. The emotional causes, in the form of
stress factors, are clear. Many psychiatrists have become
experts in treating the symptoms but not on the real state
of the mind.
In today’s world we all want to have
emotional stability and security; to be valued; respected;
de-stigmatised and recognised by society and to feel positive
about life. An admission to hospital makes many client’s
feelings and esteem more negative rather than positive unless
they get good support right at the outset of their stay.
There are alternatives to medication and admission
and recent approaches of liaison and trans-cultural psychiatry
have helped to empower individuals to be free of illness without
tablets but the type of help and support that service users
and workers in the Voluntary Sector can provide is very difficult
to obtain and demand has out-stripped supply.