The Stigma of Mental Illness

The Stigma of Mental Illness


THE MAJOR STRUGGLE THAT
WE FACE IN PSYCHIATRY IS, I SUPPOSE, OVERCOMING THE STIGMA
ASSOCIATED WITH MENTAL ILLNESS. AND THIS MANIFESTS ITSELF IN
SEVERAL WAYS SOME OF WHICH ARE VERY BLATANT, SOME OF
WHICH ARE QUITE INSIDIOUS. ONE IS THAT PATIENTS DON’T
WANT TO COME IN FOR TREATMENT. THEY FEEL THAT THEY’RE BEING
LABELED. THEY FEEL THAT THEIR CO-WORKERS,
THEIR FRIENDS, THEIR FAMILY, WILL THINK
LESS OF THEM IF THEY SAY, YOU KNOW, I HAVE A
PROBLEM FOR WHICH I NEED HELP. BUT AGAIN, ALL OF THESE
ILLNESSES ARE NOT WEAKNESSES; THEY ARE, IN FACT, ILLNESSES
THAT NEED SPECIFIC TREATMENT. THE MORE INSIDIOUS WAY THAT THE
STIGMA AGAINST MENTAL ILLNESS REALLY AFFECTS OUR ABILITY TO
TREAT PATIENTS IS THE ABYSMAL COVERAGE THAT IS PROVIDED
FOR THE TREATMENT OF MENTAL ILLNESSES BY PRIVATE INSURERS,
BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE MEDICAID PROGRAM
IN CALIFORNIA MEDICAL OR THE MEDICARE PROGRAMS, THAT
THE ABILITY TO GET SOMEBODY INTO TREATMENT, TO PROVIDE
ADEQUATE PSYCHOTHERAPY, IS GREATLY HAMPERED BY THE FACT
THAT THERE IS COMMONLY VERY, VERY LITTLE COVERAGE FOR
ANYTHING MORE THAN AN INITIAL CONSULTATION OR MAYBE
A MEDICATION VISIT OR TWO. PSYCHOTHERAPY BENEFITS,
EVEN WHEN THEY EXIST, ARE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT
FOR PATIENTS TO ACCESS BECAUSE UNLESS SOMETIMES IT
IS A LIFE THREATENING SITUATION WHERE THE PATIENT IS
THREATENING SUICIDE, IT CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT TO
GET AUTHORIZATION FROM A PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANY TO PROVIDE
TREATMENT FOR PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESS.

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