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It is still clear as ever in this contemporary day and age that a great stigma remains attached to the subject of mental illness. Even in recent scientific surveys conducted, results demonstrated that “increased awareness” of the neurobiological cause of mental illness still has not tempered the general negative perception of the disorder.
The stigmatization surrounding the mentally ill community persists no matter how educated the public becomes on the specifics of how the brain works in those with mental illness; just the diagnostic labels alone are enough to raise all-too familiar prejudices. Interestingly though, one factor that can be helpful in dispelling one’s prejudices is to have actual contact with someone mentally ill. Apparently in some past scientific trials, participants were shown slides of individuals along with written profiles that detailed the specific mental disorders they had. As part of the study, these participants were also asked to imagine themselves having physical contact with these persons. Yet, the inclusion of this particular step has had widely mixed results as some participants seemed to display clear nonverbal signs of distress in envisioning themselves in the company of such individuals.
It is a fact that not all individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders are receiving the treatment that they need. Consequently, far too many sufferers of mental illness will languish in denial for years, or consistently downplay the seriousness of their psychological state. Some sufferers may try to manage the disorder without treatment for as long as they can delay seeking help or will engage in dangerous “self-medication.” Prospective patients can opt for outpatient treatment or, in more intensive cases, hospitalization and inpatient treatment. Treatment can come in the form of medications designed to adequately control the symptoms of even the more severe psychological disorders. There is also psychotherapy and talk therapy, which can be conducted in either group settings or individual sessions.
Personally, I have observed as an African American female that most “minority groups” are particularly resistant to the notion of acknowledging that they are mentally ill or suffering from any variety of anxiety or personality disorders. African Americans are even less likely to submit themselves to an approved treatment plan or seek counseling. This is especially disheartening when I ponder the large numbers of minorities who suffer from bipolar disorder, but may never be properly diagnosed as having it. Again, there is the factor that admitting to having a mental disorder often comes with peer criticism, social judgement, and the stereotypical negative labeling.
In respect to inpatient treatment, there is a rather central group of mental health professionals who all collaborate to serve key roles in the fostering of behavioral and psychological changes in the patient. There is the psychiatrist tasked with prescribing the patient the proper and necessary regiment of medications whether they be anti-anxiety meds, antipsychotics, or the antidepressants. A clinical psychologist may tend to the patient’s individual needs for resolution by holding personal one-on-one sessions with them.
A clinical social worker may encourage the patient to address family issues and will guide them in making peace with family members or in reconnecting with estranged relatives. For individuals in inpatient care, a psychiatric nurse may provide support by routinely checking in on them to ensure they taking their medications and are feeling the most at ease in the hospital setting. No single mental professional takes precedence in their role in the patient’s treatment and subsequent recovery.
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