Mental Health “Task-shifting”

When posed this question in one of my class discussion boards,”reflect your thoughts on mental illness in society, the impact of mental illness on society and how the issues of the impact of mental illness can be addressed” My answer was as follows:

Let me start by saying that there couldn’t have been a topic closer to my heart. I have far more experience with mental illness than anything else, and hope to have more as I finish my education. My mother was a paranoid schizophrenic (I know our article says not to label them as such, but she was until she killed herself.) My father was a bipolar substance abuser. Me? I have carried almost every diagnosis that you can think of, and yet, here I sit, my version of normal. My nephew, whom I have been raising since he was 10 months old, has early onset bipolar disorder. I am in school to become a PTSD psychologist. (Not what this assignment really is, but I wanted to get that part of the way.)

Perhaps you don’t feel impacted by mental illness, as you don’t know anyone that you think of as being mentally ill. I know that it would be much easier if that were true, but the fact remains that mental illness affects every single person in a society, even those without it. The trickle down effect of people not receiving the treatment that they need or from those abusing that system and receiving far more than they need (Our reading didn’t touch on that part…). Our society is affected differently than those in developing countries, where our reading told of the ghastly shortage of psychiatrists across the world. I am baffled at the lack, or maybe I never gave it any consideration because in this country there seems to be a psychiatrist on every street. The fact that Zimbabwe has only a dozen psychiatrists for 3 million people, as Patel told us in his video, is heartbreaking to me. I know how this can affect not only the individual, but the entire society around that person.

I really think that Patel is on to something with his “Task Shifting”, article and video found here. In developing countries there are people that have the aptitude to provide the care needed, but not the education. Being that a psychologist/psychiatrist doesn’t have to physically dismantle your body and repair it, I can’t see a harm in a person with the aptitude for caring being allowed to provide that service. Education is costly, aptitude is free. I think that in some way, even in our society, there are a host of people in every community that provide psychology services, without even being aware. Here are a few, and think about it before you disagree:

1. Bartenders: They serve your drinks and listen to you vent.

2. Priests/Preachers/Church Parishioners: Listening to your religious confusion and listening to you vent.

3. Gas station workers/coffee house workers/waitresses: Listening to you vent. (don’t tell me there isn’t one someone that you speak with.)

4. Police officers: I spent an hour with one the other day who just joked and laughed with me.

5. Children sports community: Your kid’s football moms. You are all venting as you go.

6. Your friends: I don’t even have to tell you here.

There are more, but you get the point. All of these social supports provide you with a release of emotion, togetherness, connection, and friendship. Like the exercise that we read about, these social support can reduce stress, which reduces depression. (I can’t physically do much exercise due to RA, but I can dish with the girls. I know my post has been really long, but again, I am passionate. And mouthy. Most of all Mouthy. If you have made it this far, thank you!

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