Relief Strategies – The Failings Of Our Mental Health Industry
As a mental health professional, I’m extremely concerned about the state of our mental health industry.
Being on the receiving end of a phone call when a stranger shares with me…
- “my son just committed suicide” is heart wrenching;
- a wife sharing that her husband was found with a gun in his hand … he had not pulled the trigger but was sobbing uncontrollably;
- a mother entering the office to get support with her child’s behaviour, yet she feels so sad and resigned to ‘this is my lot in life’ and misses having joy in her everyday living.
- Partners (males and females) entering with obvious bruises and war wounds from the domestic violence coming from a person they love most in this world.
- teenagers seeking support for panic attacks as they lead into their exams.
In addition, obsessions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and addictions are all patterns of behaviour to which we have become so desensitised that we, as society, now accept them as normal.
Many of these people have previously sought professional support, but the common response I hear is “it didn’t work”.
The mental health industry is wide and diverse and we have more qualified professionals than ever before. In fact, we have more money going into research, a wider range of pharmacological treatments, greater specialisation and increased accreditation standards of mental health professionals, than at any time in history. Yet when you observe the statistics, an obvious increase in mental health issues is being recorded in comparison to the decline that one would expect with all these increased resources. The World Health Organisation reports that mental disorders are amongst the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide, with one in four people being affected by poor mental health or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. At the time of the report, WHO shared that 450 million people suffer such disorders.
We must consider that these statistics relate only to those who have sought support and do not include all the unreported cases in the world who are struggling to live their true potential, living with untreated and deteriorating symptoms.
So what is going on?
I have been working in this field since 2002, examining, in varying ways, what is occurring in our mental health industry. My conclusion is that it is common practice to offer ‘relief and solution based’ treatment.
We are relieving people from the symptoms they are experiencing in their body rather than addressing the root cause of why those symptoms are being experienced in the first place.
Relief is short-term whereas self-mastery is life long – relief strategies will only ever offer relief
Relief strategies are simply forms of treatment that offer a person a relief from feeling the symptoms in their body they would prefer not to be feeling. They are strategies that disconnect us from our body and do not connect or re-connect a person to their body. Relief strategies come in many forms and will be discussed further in coming articles, but typically speaking they are commonly accepted and at times considered evidence-based and best practice in our mental health profession. This is my concern.
Relief strategies serve a purpose, absolutely, but we must remember that at best these strategies only offer short-term results for any person. The harm comes when the short-term results are clocked as success and treatment is ended there: this is where we, as part of the mental health industry, are failing.
True and lasting healing will only begin when we are connected to all that is within and around us and we are ready to fully experience the unwanted symptoms.
Self-mastery is life long…
We could consider that there are always root causes behind mental health symptoms, stemming from negative experiences that we do not wish to feel. Avoiding these feelings creates blockages that require healing. The negative experiences may simply be aspects of life that are seen as challenging, uncomfortable or unwanted in some way. Self-mastery involves taking self-responsibility to feel the negative feelings, and then any person is capable of healing the original root cause and clearing their blockages. Our work as mental health professionals is therefore to support people to take responsibility for clearing the blockages, and NOT to relieve their symptoms.
It is through self-responsibility that self-mastery of life will occur – this means life-long change for us all.
I look forward to the day that our mental health industry embraces life-long healing as our primary source of treatment. I predict that it will only be then that we will reverse the current rising trends!
 The World Health Report 2001 – Mental Health: New Understanding. New Hope http://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/
The original of this article with links to other material here By Tanya Curtis, Author, Behavioural Specialist, Assoc Dip Ed. (Child Care), BHlthSci. (BehMgt), MBehMgt, MCoun