Posts Tagged 'mental illness'

Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t (take pills)

Over at feministing drahill writes about choosing to stop pharmaceutical treatment of her manic disorder.

drahill describes some criticism she receives about this choice:

to hear some describe it, I am deeply irresponsible, because I do not take pills. I am placing myself, my family, my schoolmates, my community (ect.) (sic) at risk because I could snap and do something terrible one day. I have been told I set a poor example. That I am stupid to disregard medical science. That I have a RESPONSIBILITY to take the drugs.

A lot of discussion in the media and, as drahill sees, in social circles, revolves around making judgments on what is the ‘right’ way to cope with mental illness. Some may assume that it is easily dealt with using medication, and that to avoid pharmaceutical treatment is perverse. Others criticize a perceived ‘over-diagnosing’ of various conditions, and complain about the medical field turning everything into a symptom or a disease that must be treated; such people are the sort who claim all but the suicidally depressed should just get a bit of exercise and snap out of it.

The frustrating thing is that people are passing judgment at all. Most medical professionals would assert that treatments, pharmaceutical or in the form of lifestyle changes, must be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the most current research available and the patient’s own history. When everyone else starts chiming in because they saw a segment on the local news about Ritalin abuse, it shifts the focus from patient coping with a condition to some overarching state of society, for which the individual is now responsible.

There is no way to win – if one accepts a prescription, one is then open to criticism for being too weak to control themselves (a criticism arising from the school of people who don’t fully understand the nature and influence of brain and body chemistry on feeling and behaviour, and those who assume that an increase in a certain diagnoses must indicate error), and if one decides, like drahill, that the side effects are worse than that which it purports to treat, then one is berated for being a Luddite, or irrational and unscientific and, especially if the mental illness sounds scary – like ‘schizophrenia’ – they are a potential danger to society.

Both of these tendencies require one to ignore the basic humanity and self-determination of the person coping with the illness. The only people qualified to have an opinion are those who have experienced something similar themselves, or medically trained professionals. Everyone else is just assuming that reading an article in Newsweek makes them an expert.

image from discovery.com


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