According to an article written by Danny Matteson in the International Business Times, mental illness can take more years off your life expectancy than smoking. Patients with bipolar or schizophrenia disorder may lose seven to 24 years of their life according to research done at the University of Oxford. Helga Weber, who looked at 20 studies done to better understand the relationship of mental illness to mortality, found that recurrent depression can shave seven to 11 yeas and alcohol and drug abuse nine to 24 years. This is considerably more than the eight to ten years an average heavy smoker would lose.
She noted that the risky behavior associated with having a mental illness like abusing substances and the proclivity to commit suicide were the main reasons given for the increase in early death in those with mental illness.
My question as a person who has a history of mental illness and one who has worked in this field for over 20 years now is this: Why is mental illness still seen as something that someone else is dealing with? This with the reality of over a quarter of the population experiencing some form of it over a life time here in the United States.
When we think of mental illness we think of it being something that is hard to understand because we don’t understand the thoughts and behaviors that go with it. If we can understand that a physiological issue such as cancer in all its permutations, diabetes or even a broken leg for the malfunctioning of the physical body, why is it so hard to understand that the brain can also malfunction and therefore requires the same respect and understanding afforded any other sort of illness? After all it is the brain that allows the body to function appropriately, being the control center of the body, isn’t it?
I would also like to point out that many times what looks like a mental illness has much more to do with medication interactions and side-effects than one would like to imagine. Between a client of mine who thought she had demons (negative entities in her creating very hostile and angry personality as opposed to her very calm and loving one), another who suffered from a neurological impairment so bad she couldn’t even stand to wash her own dishes the pain being unbearable to another who suffered antidepressant discontinuation syndrome causing the same sorts of effects as one withdrawing from a opiate but lasting much longer, and with more long lasting impairments. These were all side-effects from psychiatric medications, that my own clients underwent from their doctors confusing a mental health issue with medication interactions. Unfortunately in two of the three cases the doctors were unwilling to take responsibility for, and help to remediate the medication problem with their patient (my client).
In a recent article written by James C. Salwitz, MD, May 22, 2014 called It’s Time For Doctors to Say No to Drugs, the point is made that it is the doctors who write the prescriptions for the new pain pills the pharmaceutical companies come out with. Many of these medications are without appropriate long term studies to prove they are more effective then the old proven medications they already use. He is holding the doctors responsible for not being able to say, “no” to their patients who come in with requests for the medications being pushed on them by the commercials they see on television and elsewhere. He states that the misuse of narcotics threatens not only those addicted and overdosed, but the rebound effects, deprives suffering patients from desperately needed help. This is something he knows a bit about being an oncologist for the past 30 years and dealing with cancer patients in horrific pain who deserve the pain medications that will help them, without hurting them further by creating addicts of them among other side-effects.
Also, understand that people in great pain are going to most likely become depressed as a result of feeling lousy and unable to participate fully in life, which may mean that they will be put on antidepressants as well.
I would say that there are many much better ways for one to handle both mental illness and pain control then pushing pills. That is by getting to the root cause of whatever the problem is that is creating the presenting problem, including cancer.
Once that is done, new choices can be created to form a healthier mentality bringing health and healing to many who otherwise would feel they have no other choice but to live with whatever the diagnosed illness is said to be. This s particularly sad when the research shows the misdiagnosis is more common than ever.
I created the choice of being medication and psychiatrist free by finding a better way to deal with my mental health issue of bipolar and I also created a better way of dealing with my bronchial asthma when it was obvious my primary care doctor had no idea in how to clear it over several years of every six month appointments. You too, can reclaim your life should you decide to take control of you life and your health by truly understanding what is causing the problems that are taking away your happiness and fulfillment in life and then taking the appropriate actions to remediate them.
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