Reforming The Mental Health System Part 4

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The national Institute of Mental Health found that of the fifty-two million adults who suffer from a mental disorder each year, about 28 percent (three out of ten) seek help: 18 percent turn to non-mental health professions, such as friends, family, or self-help groups; 20 percent turn to the clergy (Sherrow, 1996, p.101).

The fact that mentally ill patients often seek help from non-professionals clear indicates the importance of educating the general public on mental illness.

As well, having individual treatment available in the community is also important. There are many individual activities such as prayer, meditation and learning to cope with symptoms which can help patients deal with their illness.

Self-help (mutual aid) organizations and programs connect individuals to others facing similar challenges and provide support to both individuals and family members. Mutual aid groups have been found to empower individuals, in particular by providing information, reducing isolation and teaching coping skills (“A Report on Mental Illness in Canada”, 2002).

This is important because not all mental illness patients can be fully treated and so patients need to be able to cope with symptoms in order to be able to move forward and live life as normally as possible. Dr Deegan, Ph.D., (2003) who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was younger, knows firsthand the benefit of learning to deal with symptoms, such as humming, wearing earplugs or talking to someone when a patient begins to hear voices. Creating workshops which teach patients to deal with the symptoms of their specific mental illness is a great way for patients to learn how to deal with their symptoms pro-actively. As well, creating prayer and meditation groups with sessions throughout the week are helpful ways to allow patients to feel calmer and more at ease with themselves. Not all patients respond to the same therapies or activities, which makes it important for a variety of programs for the mentally ill to exist, to ensure that there is something for everyone, and to ensure that patients are not dismissed or discriminated against because of their lack of interest in a particular therapy or activity.

Group treatment is also important for mental illness patients in order for them to realize that they aren’t alone and that there are others in the same situation as they are. “A variety of other programs and services – such as community rehabilitation, and community crisis centres – can contribute to the diagnosis, treatment and integration of individuals into the community” (“A Report on Mental Illness in Canada”, 2002). Having weekly group therapy is a great way to have patients bond with others and acknowledge their illness in a more public environment, which can help them feel less stigmatized and ashamed.

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