Mental Illness is a Medical Problem, by Patricia Neal, Mental Health Advocate, Lincoln County Oregon…Newport News-Times, Viewpoint, Wednesday, March 9, 2016
We have heard a great deal about people with mental illness in connection with mass shootings and sometimes when police are trying to deal with the mentally ill. Many people know very little about mental illness and because of the stigma associated with mental illness there may be a reluctance to learn about it or discuss it. There was a time when parents were blamed for raising their kids wrong and causing mental illness. In the 1970’s a few of the medications used for mental illness were in use and we knew mental illness was a medical problem. The early medications did not work for everyone and although many more medications have been developed there still are people who are not well served by the existing medications. Medications sometimes seem to be more effective if given as a shot rather than a pill. More research is being done to develop medications and to better understand how the brain works and what affects the development of the brain.
Emphasis is now beginning to integrate treatment for mental illness with primary care. Physicians are not normally trained to work with mental illness and efforts are now being made to provide them with training on the subject.
We hear of schizophrenia frequently in connection with police involvement. It affects people differently. Some can’t sleep, get agitated and angry, may hear things that are not real and others may go into a catatonic state. My nephew stood in front of the refrigerator and did not move for three hours. He said his mind was going so fast that he could not make a decision to move. Paranoia may be part of schizophrenia and they think everyone is watching them, threatening them, or trying to do things to them.
Many of the medications have undesirable side effects. Weight gain and type two diabetes are two “side effects”. The medications also may leave them perpetually ’tired’ and slow to wake up in the morning. .
There is a program now being taught here and elsewhere in the country called Mental Health First Aid. It is used with first responders, physicians and other medical providers, and parents. There is a version for students and that is very important because mental illness frequently strikes during the high school years. (It can be found online—use a well-known website like Mayo Clinic or some universities for medical information. Wikipedia is not necessarily reliable.)
Mental illness—depression, bipolar (once called manic depressive because of the mood swings) and schizophrenia frequently start in the high school or puberty years. As young people begin to have symptoms they may not understand what is happening and self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Then when they are diagnosed with mental illness they have two problems.
Recent research seems to indicate that Gluten (associated with Celiac Disease) may attack the brain rather than the digestive system and cause schizophrenia and perhaps other mental problems. Both Celiac Disease and Schizophrenia are inherited diseases. Type 1 diabetes is also frequently found with Celiac Disease.
Mental illness has a physical medical association or medications would not help deal with the illness. We need to recognize it as a medical problem, remove the stigma associated with it and begin to learn about it and deal with it.
I’m so pleased and honored to have Pat Neal as a guest blogger, especially on the topic of mental health. She has been making a huge difference in Lincoln County for over 20 years since her retirement. Pat’s life experience and family circumstances fuels a passion to make a difference. Pat and I are now teaming up serving on the Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC). Pat Neal really cares! I can only hope that my work in post trauma growth can help carry her significant contributions and passion forward. She intends to stay engaged and active in the community for as long as possible. I feel lucky to know her as a friend and neighbor. Thank you, Pat Neal, for all you do!
Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Please Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books.
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