Thursday, August 26, 2010

21st Century Psychiatry

An article titled "Culture and Diagnosis:  A Set of Iron Laws?" was published in NAMI August 2010 ENewsletter "The Advocate", and it is most thought-provoking, and should raise a lot of awareness about how psychiatrists should and must diagnosis people with mental illness.  Written by Kim Puchir, Communications Coordinator at NAMI, [National Alliance on Mental Illness], this article stresses the importance of how psychiatry must change with the times.  She points out the way psychiatrists and others who treat people with mental illness often misunderstand or misconstrue cultural signals from those patients who were not born in the United States.  This leads to misdiagnosis and extends the suffering of those who already experience anguish and disenfranchisement.

Perhaps the most startling information revealed by Puchir are the "World Health Organization findings that people who are diagnosed with a mental illness in a developing nation like India tend to do better than those in some Western nations like the U.S..."   What!?

As Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded (except for the 50,000 peace-keeping troops), our military personnel are not coming home, but being sent on to Afghanistan.  Veterans are returning with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder), but there aren't enough resources to effectively counsel and treat these brave men and women.  The citizens of the Gulf now come upon the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the recent BP oil spill, and find very little in the way of mental health care.  Most U.S. citizens are on stress-overload with the economy, loss of employment.  The politically and socially charged issues of the day, i.e.  as our borders, rights of undocumented citizens, and the environment, have been polarizing and exhausting for the average American .  There are people all over this country who have depression and anxiety, as well as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and an array of other illnesses. "They" are us, and everyone knows and loves a person who lives with mental illness.

Twenty years after The Americans With Disabilities Act was passed, "mental illness" still is pushed into the closet in terms of our health care priorities.  Some people prefer the term "brain disease," but I wish we could take out the prefix "mental."   Now, more than ever, people in this country need to be helped by psychiatrists who have a modern, knowledgeable approach and understanding of the needs of their patients.

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