It is interesting how events coincide. Some say there is no such thing as coincidence. Last week a review of mental health services in WA was handed down. In the same week a Royal Commission was called into Pedophilia in Australia.
And we are not alone.
Until recently I had never heard of Jimmy Saville. I gather he was a household name in The UK. He is now (in) famous worldwide for his alleged pedophilia. Investigations are underway in Britain and who knows how far and wide that will go.
Mental health issues are set to overtake physical health issues in terms of disease burden in the Western World in the next decade. It is fair to say we do not have all the answers. And how many we find will be a function of whether or not we ask the right questions and go looking in the right place.
Generally all the attention goes at the “pointy end”. Suicides, in particular can be measured so there is a toll much like the road toll. The focus goes onto what can be done to prevent suicide once people have already attempted it or are contemplating it. Hence one of the recommendations of the review was for each patient to have a discharge plan. The assumption being that having a piece of paper will somehow make all the difference.
Certainly services in mental health can be improved but what gets forgotten is that there are a multitude of issues which sit behind and in the lead up to acute episodes. In the weekend paper was an article about how both a victim AND the perpetrator in a pedophilia case had committed suicide. No tick box plan would have made any difference.
And there are other life problems that affect people. These cannot always be fully dealt with by just administering tablets, or by a hospital stay.
Examples can include relationship breakdowns, issues with ones children, financial problems, or work pressures. In just one day in practice I can see a collection of problems, which cause stress but do not have a medical cause or solution.
These people have problems and they are real. They may manifest symptoms of depression or anxiety but they do NOT have these conditions, as one would define them medically. Yet they often get drawn into the medical model because there is nowhere else to go. A pill can be seen as a remedy and whilst it may numb some of the symptoms it does not solve the problems.
This “temptation” to treat medically with a pill is compounded by the fact that governments subsidize pills but generally do not subsidize other forms of assistance such as life coaching.
And in a strange twist people are almost encouraged to see themselves as having a “mental health illness” rather than having life problems. If we do not correctly define the problem we will not have the right solution.
If we are to bring about improvement in mental health we need to understand what the drivers to mental health problems are. The solutions will not all be found in a medical model.
The single biggest factor to improving mental health is developing resilience in people. That is the capacity to continue despite difficulty. It is the capacity to move on in life from hurt or abuse. It is about resolving emotions without “forgetting’ what happened. It is not about promoting victimhood.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how there is a whole industry, which promotes and indeed profits from encouraging people to be victims.
Reinforcing victimhood does not help resolution. It is the exact opposite mindset to resilience. It encourages a belief that I am powerless and a victim rather than a mindset of I am strong I will survive. There was an interesting piece on Spiked by abuse survivor Victoria Scott who wrote that she is getting on with life and does not want to be perpetually labeled a victim.
To quote Victoria Scott “It is for me to decide whether I want forever to be a victim. I don’t actually”.
Survivors of the Holocaust were told by wise old Jewish heads ;”So you suffered ,it was terrible, it was evil Now get over it.” This may be the other extreme but wallowing in the past does not make a better future.
People who need help and support should get it! Some do not want or need it and it should not be forced upon them.
Systematized covering up of pedophilia in institutions need to be uncovered and dealt with. So the Royal Commission will hopefully fulfill this. Equally a witch-hunt will not help and already in the UK we have seen a man falsely accused!
Our mental and emotional wellbeing is complex. It cannot be reduced to a series of tick boxes. A persons life experiences are central to their mental health. If we genuinely want improvements in this area we need to look broadly at societal issues that affect this. And also accept that not all can be made right for everyone.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.