Run For Your Life From The Mental Illness Ghetto


Run For Your Life From The Mental Illness Ghetto

Run For Your Life From the​ Mental Illness Ghetto
‘Who put the​ boys in​ the​ club house? you​ did,​ baby,​ you​ did. ’
The song ‘Keep a​ Lid on​ Things’ by the​ Crash Test Dummies sums it​ up. Psychiatric rehabilitation organisations are often there to​ simply keep a​ lid on​ things clients’ behaviour rather than to​ get them back in​ the​ mainstream of​ society. Their stated aims are often vastly different from the​ actual outcomes.
Does the​ ghetto keep you​ sick? So it​ seems. Last year an Australian research team interviewed people who had bipolar disorder,​ and one of​ the​ findings was stunning—people who did not use psychiatric rehabilitation services tended to​ stay well longer than those who did*.
If you’re coming out of​ a​ bipolar crisis,​ perhaps just out of​ hospital,​ it’s worth questioning the​ value of​ rehabilitation. if​ the​ only place you​ go is​ the​ mental health clinic,​ you​ surround yourself with others who are sick. it​ becomes comfortable,​ you​ make friends,​ there’s no challenge,​ and you​ will find over time that you​ become nervous about venturing into mainstream activities,​ like ringing up about a​ job,​ or​ going back to​ your sporting club. the​ longer you​ are inside the​ ghetto the​ harder it​ is​ to​ break out. Your confidence disappears. People share stories of​ being victimised and discriminated against and this shores up your growing sense that it’s too hard ‘out there’. you​ conclude you​ should stay in​ rehab.
The religion editor of​ my city’s broadsheet wrote this last month
‘Victimhood is​ a​ bad address. Its a​ dangerous and delusory place and definitely the​ wrong side of​ the​ tracks. Unfortunately,​ far too many people live there.
Even if​ you​ really are a​ victim,​ you​ have to​ move out. Victimhood offers an odd but counterfeit comfort,​ where nothing is​ your own responsibility,​ where life is​ something that is​ done to​ you​ by others,​ and is​ beyond your control,​ yet you​ can enjoy the​ moral high ground. . . Its a​ short step from victimhood to​ paranoia. ’**
Zwartz was writing about race riots in​ Sydney,​ but these words resonated with my experience of​ the​ mental health lobby. Victimhood leads to​ a​ sense of​ futility,​ a​ wariness that prevents fair assertion of​ our wishes. Countless socalled advocacy organizations work in​ the​ short term,​ never daring to​ jeopardize their funding by pursuing the​ big picture,​ the​ dream.
‘Consumer’ organizations fare no better. Consumer organizations are beset with ineptitude not because of​ illness,​ nor because of​ lack of​ skills and intelligence. the​ one thing that undoes the​ political work of​ consumer organizations is​ the​ prevalence of​ victimhood. These organizations include many people who have been actually victimized,​ but too many are stuck in​ the​ ghetto and exhibit ongoing ‘victim behavior’. if​ you​ cast yourself as​ a​ victim,​ your requests will never be taken seriously—you’re too easy to​ say ‘no’ to.
I believe this is​ a​ reason that mental health funding around the​ developed world is​ far lower than funding for the​ equivalent level of​ burden of​ disease in​ general health. For example,​ in​ Australia it​ is​ only 8% of​ the​ total health budget compared with the​ OCED average of​ 12%.
SANE Australia reported last year that stigma was the​ villain of​ the​ piece,​ and produced startling evidence to​ support the​ view.
In Australia there have been eight State or​ national inquiries in​ the​ last twelve years. Each time puny progress is​ made but the​ underlying flaw lack of​ funding is​ perpetuated. as​ Einstein supposedly said ‘Insanity is​ doing the​ same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ’ We need to​ do something different. Here is​ my suggestion
• Get out of​ the​ ghetto and into the​ mainstream.
• Do stuff that doesn’t involve mental health
• When you​ have gotten rid of​ your victim outlook,​ start demanding fair funding for mental health in​ your country. Follow up,​ don’t take no for an answer,​ and incite all your friends and relations to​ do the​ same.
• If your consumer organisation has a​ victim outlook,​ you​ could try to​ change it,​ but expect resistance. People can be codependent on​ their organizations.
*Russell,​ S J and Browne,​ J L Staying well with bipolar disorder Australian & New Zealand Journal of​ Psychiatry 2018; 39187193.
**Barney Zwartz,​ the​ Age,​ Melbourne Australia 15 December 2018






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