BY EVE MCPHEE JULY 3, 2015 MENTAL ILLNESSES,MHEALTH
In previous blog posts, we have discussed some of the more common mental disorders, their symptoms and treatments. Although this is relatively straightforward to understand, there are many individuals suffering from these conditions who do not receive the care and treatment they require.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted a study that revealed that between 30-80% of those suffering from a mental illness do not receive the treatment they need. So why are so many people not seeking the treatment they require?
Fear and Shame
One of the most common reasons that a person suffering from a mental health disorder does not receive the medical care they require is due to fear and shame. They are embarrassed by being affected by a mental disorder, and they make a conscious decision not to ask for help.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma, discrimination and a lack of acceptance of mental disorders which deters some people to seek the help they need. As an example, someone suffering from depression who is already in a downward spiral of negativity has feelings of worthlessness and helplessness. In their mind, they are putting themselves into the position of allowing others, including their GP, to see them with a stigma. Discrimination and non-acceptance of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder are sometimes a more fearful prospect than asking for help. To suffer in silence, ignore the symptoms and try to find self-help without anyone knowing they are ill, sometimes seems like a less stressful outcome.
Lack of Acceptance
This behavior is more prevalent with people suffering from severe mental health disorders since individuals do not believe they are ill. For example, people suffering from schizophrenia and acute anxiety or depression. If a person firmly believes themselves they are not ill, they will see no reason to seek medical help.
Many people suffering from disorders such as anxiety or depression will often disregard the warning signs of their symptoms. They tell themselves that “everyone gets stressed out” or “everyone goes through tough times.” They push others away who are close enough to see the signs and are trying to convince them to get the help they need. They say, for example, “you’re making too much of it” or “my problems are not that bad”.
There are many people who see mental illness as a personal failure. They often feel that they are weak for having to ask for help when they believe they should be able to handle their symptoms on their own.
It takes a lot of courage to go to a doctor and explain that you believe you are suffering from symptoms consistent with those of a mental disorder. To take a leap of faith to get help, people need to trust the person who they open up to. Often, for people suffering from disorders such as anxiety and depression, it is hard to trust anyone, even the closest friends and family. Trust in this context is also related to having confidence in public services and authorities with sensitive information about a person’s health. For some people, this can be a major issue, and they are not prepared to take any risks.
For many, mental illness can be demoralising. Over time, it can change a person’s confidence, attitude and personality. They can fall deeper into negativity with an ever-decreasing lack of self-confidence that results in them feeling worthless. When it comes to the point of asking for help, the feelings of worthlessness have become so overwhelming that they feel their whole situation is utterly hopeless and no one will be able to assist them. This can become a significant personal barrier to receiving the medical treatment they require.
Lack of services
Every region has its medical facilities and services for its public residents to use. However, in some rural or widespread areas, medical help may be difficult to obtain. This is due to lack of services in one particular area, or having to travel major distances to find suitable care. This issue can be quite important when sufferers are seeking medical treatment for some of the more complex mental health disorders.
Following the previous point of lack of services, many people have to travel far distances to find suitable care and treatment. This can be costly, and it can become a challenge if relying on public transportation. The cost of care and treatment can also be a major barrier when there is a lack of personal finances to fund it. In addition to cost and travel, there is also the barrier of childcare, which is a challenge for many. Appointments need to be made during work hours and time off work needs to be agreed or childcare is required, both of which prevent many from making appointments.
If you suffer from any mental illness, you must know that you are not alone and that your condition can be adequately treated. Statistics revealed that 38% of the population will suffer from a mental condition during their lifetime, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. According to an article published by the American Psychiatric Association, just as with other medical illnesses, early intervention can make a crucial difference in preventing what could become a lifelong and potentially disabling psychiatric disorder. The article discusses the Warning Signs of Mental Illness and the benefit of Early Intervention.
The Monsenso smartphone app can help identify at an early stage, students suffering from common behavioural disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and other more severe illnesses in schools. To learn more about this read Transforming the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eve McPhee is a qualified and experienced Psychotherapist and Counsellor dealing with life’s mental health issues. She advises, guides and supports individuals and groups through the emotional sphere of these issues through a psychotherapeutic approach. To learn more about Eve, visit http://www.evemcphee.com.