Mental illness is one of the most stigmatised illnesses in the whole world. Going through several cultural templates and their views about mental illness, one will discover that there are several damaging cultural perspectives and sanctions attached to mental illness.
One wonders about the source of the premise for these sanctions and the good they intend to serve. I want to believe that they arise from certain frustrations concerning the actual understanding of the illness and how it can be effectively treated.
Mental illness manifests with a very profound social coloration which cannot be hidden, hence the diagnosis and subsequently the treatment of mental illness carries with it a very strong social undertone viewed as any behavioural attitude that causes distress to the individual, the significant others and the society .
This is the basis of Parson’s concept of the sick role which I believe feeds the stigmatisation of persons living with mental challenges.
The society defines the criteria for identifying mental illness, also stipulates where and how interventions could be secured and ultimately determines the number of weeks healing should take place and as such any deviation from these stipulated parameters qualifies the particular illness and patient to be stigmatised.
This has always been the basis of my argument for effective advocacy against the stigmatisation of mental illness. It is amazing to note that even educated folks and medical workers also stigmatise the mentally ill.
These factors must be examined in an effective advocacy programme against the stigmatisation of mental illness and cultural influence on treatment modalities should be sanctioned.
This strategy by inference will promote patronage of orthodox medical treatment of mental illness since the society discredits the value of orthodox medical intervention for the mentally ill.
The cultural templates of the society has thus succeeded in coming up with several discrediting notions even among the educated against the benefits inherent in the orthodox medical intervention for the mentally ill.
The society formulates and uses its primitive sanctions and treatment approaches on persons with mental illnesses even though they are not effective. The cultural templates achieve this through the use of myths, superstitions and taboos with no empirical evidence.
One of the greatest inventions of the 20th century was the discovery of the antipsychotic drug-chlorpromazine which was found to be effective in the management of mental illness. Let us get a little practical here by imagining that folks who have a type of mental illness called schizophrenia often characterised by hearing voices of unseen individuals in clear consciousness, do not have an intervention that could drive away the voices and what would have become of such individuals and the society at large.
We would have had a large population of persons living under the torment of those voices with the attendant social problems.
Let us also consider those with severe mood disorders especially depressive illness where the individual is unduly sad without any cogent reason and may even feel that he/she is worthless, takes responsibility for any past deeds and looks at the future with hopelessness with attendant suicidal ideations that may culminate in suicide if effective intervention is not sought.
The availability of effective antidepressants has saved a lot of lives and improved their overall quality of life as they fulfill their basic social responsibilities.
Mental illness agreeably is not just about drug intervention alone as there are professionals in the mental health team who are trained to use psychological and social techniques to consolidate the gains of medical interventions or alone so that the patient enjoys wholesome and full recovery.
The orthodox mental health team recognises this and builds on the recovery achieved by the medications that have driven away the voices, eliminated negative thoughts, calmed down restlessness while guarantying restorative sound sleep.
.The facilities that the mental health team brings to the table is too profound to be casually dismissed since no other form of intervention is as wholesome and effective as the orthodox medical model for the treatment of mental illness.
There is no intervention without side-effects. Some of our drugs have treatable side effects which are not life-threatening and are reversible. Depending on the constitution, the patient may roll his/her eyeballs unconsciously for several minutes while the speech at that moment may be incoherent.
All of these side effects are recognisable and can be effectively handled by other drugs. When antipsychotic drugs are prescribed by those who are not properly trained, their victims may appear very dull due to poor handling of the adjustment of medications.
There is a popular claim that those drugs only suppress the symptoms and I query where the symptoms are suppressed to? There are several capable individuals in all walks of life who may be seeing mental health practitioners, and taking their medications as prescribed on a regular basis and fulfilling their social roles effectively in several ways.
The orthodox medical mental health intervention is effective and has a tested history. Its approach should be encouraged at all times.