Outlining some the difficulties of mental illness

Nov 14, 2016

The article below is part of an educational series to help the community better understand Behavioral Health Services (BHS) available to them in Gillette, Wyoming.

Whenever someone in your house hold gets ill or injured, what do you do? Do you tell them to get over it and get to school, work, or do you get them to a professional?

Broken leg: no problem! Wrap it up and get back on the horse! I doubt that is what you would say or do.

Mental Illness is not all in your head, so to speak. It too is a medical condition. Depression, Bi-polar disorder, Schizophrenia, are medical conditions, to name three.

Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants (PA-C) are medical professionals who work in mental health facilities and are trained to deal with these diseases, which, if left untreated, can and will make your life miserable—or even kill you.

Not unlike Cancer, these diseases progress and get worse with time untreated. The earlier you get to a provider, the better off you will be. I am not saying you will be cured, though that is possible in some cases. I am saying that, like some decease processes, one can manage the illness and function throughout life. Here is the problem, and there are several aspects:

  1. It is very difficult to pre-determine a mental health issue. For example, all of us have suffered from mild depression from time to time. Kids, struggling with growing up, often feel its affects. So, early onset is hidden in what we would consider “normal growing up”. Now, there are some things that do present themselves early and are problematic from the onset but this is not always the case. The message here is to get to someone as soon as is possible.
  2. Most people start their respective quest for mental health issues with their primary care physician. This is fact. It is not something I’ve made up. In most cases this is a mistake. It probably stems from a misunderstanding as to what a psychiatrist is and what mental illness is. I will not bore you details but psychiatrists are medical doctors that have completed medical school and specialize in Mental Health. Mental Illness is a medical condition and can be managed. You would not go to an Oncologist for the broken leg mentioned above, would you?
  3. Psychiatrists often prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms and to assist the brain in processes that it is having difficulty accomplishing. Some psychiatrists also do therapy, but in this day and age few do. They, instead, rely on therapists to get the therapy done. The combination of medications and therapy often has good results. The problem is that we, as a society, want the magic pill that helps us feel better almost instantly. We take our anti-biotics until we feel better and then we stop, much to the consternation of our physician. This is also the case with mental health patients; they take their meds until they feel better and stop, causing themselves to backpedal. Then it starts over again. They feel worse, go to the doctor, get their meds, take them, feel better. You get the picture.
  4. All of the meds psychiatrists use are powerful. Some are addicting. Any reasonable psychiatrist will not prescribe medications that are not useful for your situation. They are going to use meds that will help your condition, otherwise “evidence based”. So, if one doctor prescribes something for you that you like, but is not indicated for your condition, chances are a psychiatrist is going to change it. Not all doctors are created/trained equal for all illnesses and age groups.
  5. Just about all mental health systems across the country are over loaded and it does not help that the systems are dealing with both people who want certain meds without due cause and others who do not adhere to their respective medication regimen. The thinking that one can go to a professional person, get what they want when they want it is false, frustrating, and would not be professionally responsible. So is the person that continually stops using meds that are helping them and end up back in the facility because they stopped their meds and are now suffering again.

Jeff Rice is the Director of Behavioral Health Services at Campbell County Memorial Hospital. BHS provides professional mental health and substance abuse services to the community through prevention, education, advocacy and treatment for all ages in the community. Appointments are available Monday–Friday from 8 am–5 pm. Call 307.688.5000. Learn more at www.cchwyo.org/BHS.