Reforming The Mental Health System Part 2

Because the problem of over-diagnosis and mis-diagnosis is so prevalent, making it mandatory for more than one doctor to assess and determine whether a person has a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or clinical depression would reduce the chances of human error or bias. As well, if both doctors didn’t come to the same diagnosis, then a third doctor could be asked to asses the patient and the predominant diagnosis would stand. Furthermore, Canada is a diverse country and with a large immigrant population, in which English is their second language. For English as a second language speakers, it can be difficult and intimidating for them to try and articulate mental health problems they may be facing. One solution would be to allow patients to request a translator be present for their doctor’s appointment. A translator could help them articulate to the doctor what their problems and symptoms are, in order to eliminate mis-diagnosis because of language barriers.

It is also important to deal with contributing factors to the a patient’s illness and not simply look at their illness in isolation. “Most mental illnesses can be treated. Treatment must reflect the complex origins of mental illnesses” (“A Report on Mental Illness in Canada”, 2002). Having patients go through therapy, before starting any medication, in order to deal with any life factors which may be causing them to experience illness symptoms is also important. By having patients visit a therapist before being medicated, patients are given the chance to deal with their problems in a natural non-medicated way. As well, this will allow for the origin of a patients mental illness to be addressed, which will allow for a treatment program to be created which is tailored individually to the patient. As well, mental illness can’t be successfully treated, and can only be masked, if the root cause of the illness isn’t addressed and dealt with. Patients who are successfully treated through therapy alone will also have avoided the unnecessary drugs.

Once a person is diagnosed and is being treated, it is important that an emphasis be placed on the well-being and progress of the patient, and not simply on getting patients out the door and forgetting about them. Many mental illnesses do not require hospitalization and the best programs to help these patients are community programs. Dr Pat Deegan, Ph.D., emphasizes “the importance of maintaining relationships with people whom the patient cares for and whom care for the patient” (Recovery: The Experience and the Evidence, 2003). Bonding with other people, either family members and friends or other mental illness patients is the best way to produce a sense of normalcy in a patients life, as well as help them feel as though they belong somewhere.

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