Hey y’all, it’s Medicated Normalcy here, and I have a very analytical post about mental illnesses today! Bear with me here, it is a bit longer post than usual, but I believe you will find some really good information in here, as well as some very informative links!
Two posts ago, I defined what exactly constituted mental illnesses, but I will gladly give a brief overview again to those who have not yet read that post. Mental illnesses are “health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior (or a combination of these three). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities”.
Today, I plan to discuss some of the arguments that regard mental illnesses; mainly medication and hospitalization. Regarding medicine, I will touch on: what it does, how many people take medication, who should be medicated, and why some people do not take it. I will also be discussing mental hospitals/institutions—its (questionable) past, who is admitted to them, what goes on inside, and the types of admittance. Mental hospitalization and medication often go hand-in-hand, which is why I am explaining both of them.
This post is to explain the arguments for/against medication, as well as the hospitalization of those with mental illnesses. It is important to understand how much choice an individual has regarding their illness, and at what point higher authorities such as doctors and law-enforcement officers decide to involuntarily medicate/hospitalize someone.
I believe that medication and hospitalization is the center of my topic regarding mental illnesses and their stigmas, because when asked to think about someone with mental illnesses, some people think that we are dangerous because of our diagnoses, and that we should be locked up and medicated. I want to break that stigma, and many more by thoroughly explaining what exactly medication and hospitalization does, and why they are not always necessary for those with mental illnesses.
Medication: a magical pill that makes everything okay, or a villainous pill that makes one dependent on drugs? Luckily, it is neither. Medication is used to help treat chemical imbalances in the brain which is what is believed to cause mental illnesses in most people. Mental Health America lists different types of medications that are used for mental illnesses and gives a bit of background information, including anti-psychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, sleeping pills, and stimulants.
According to Time, about 1/5 American adults take medication for mental illnesses. If you remember from my first blog post, about 1/4 Americans have mental illness(es), which means that there are around 16 million, or 1/20, Americans with mental illnesses that do not take medications. The Citizen Commission for Human Rights has a breakdown of how many of each types of medications are used and by which age-groups.
Not everyone needs to be medicated to perform “normally” in society . Medication is typically used because it helps stabilize the highs and the lows experienced, and make the difficult days more bearable. Those who feel they will benefit from the steadier emotions and wish to minimize the effects of their illness(es) take medication. But some believe that they can do just fine without medication, and that is a personal choice—no one can be forced to take medication if they do not want it. That is, unless there is an emergency. An emergency situation is defined as a situation in which you may cause harm to yourself or to others, in which case you will be medicated involuntarily. Rep. Tim Murphey (Pennsylvania) was trying to decrease the amount of say mentally ill people have on involuntary medication. He believes anyone with a severe mental illness should be medicated, regardless of how “dangerous” they may or may not be; but he was met with heavy resistance. There is a stigma that mentally ill people are prone to violence, when in fact, they are more often the victim of crimes. Those with mental illnesses are no more likely to provoke violence than any other person.
There are those (generally neutral or liberal-leaning) that believe that mental illness medication is over-prescribed. Instead of getting psychotherapy, primary practitioners give out prescriptions for medication, which usually contain side-effects. Some side-effects are the typical nausea and headaches, but others are more severe, like muscle spasms, metabolism changes, and risk of cardiac disorders. The over-prescription of medication may also be to benefit the pharmaceutical industry. In 2010, United States citizens spent over $16 billion on anti-psychotic medication, and more than $11 billion on antidepressants.
So, a question to take away is: why do some take medication while others do not? From personal experience, I take medication to make myself seem more normal to others (hence my screen name, Medicated Normalcy), because I do not want to appear to be abnormal. Here I am, bringing up normalcy again. If you can recall to my first blog post, I discussed what normalcy means to me, and how it is totally okay not to be normal. Yeah… sometimes, it is hard to follow your own advice. Regardless, wanting to be “normal” is one reason why some people do take medication. Other good reasons include wanting to feel more consistent with ones’ emotions, and the feeling of control over oneself.
If an individual wishes to receive treatment for their mental illness(es), they may go to a psychiatric hospital voluntarily. There are instances where an individual may be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, and those cases include: if there is a serious likelihood that you will hurt yourself or someone else, or if your judgement is severely impaired and could worsen your condition and are in need of hospital care.
Mental/psychiatric hospitals have not always had the best treatments for mentally ill patients. Common practice then could be defined as torture nowadays. For example, hydrotherapy could mean anything from being strapped inside of a tub for hours to even days; getting pressurized water being shot at the patient; and even being wrapped up in ice-cold towels like a mummy. Other “treatments” include the tranquilizing chair, insulin-coma therapy, and lobotomies.
Today, you will not see such “treatments” being utilized at psychiatric hospitals. Instead, there are therapies that one can attend, such as group therapy or one-on-one therapy with a psychiatrist. There are times where one’s experience within a mental hospital is positive, and there are times where it is negative. Granted, the mental hospital system is not perfect, but it does have better conditions/treatments than they used to. It is unfortunate that the stigma that follows mental health can lead certain nurses to treat patients differently, like they (the patients) are not human enough. Luckily, that does not happen in all mental institutions, but it does happen enough to be an issue.
I know this was a long read, and if you made it this far, I thoroughly congratulate you! The length of this post makes up for the fact that my next blog post will not be until Tuesday, March 21st. I hope y’all can wait that long!
Until the 21st, my warriors—