Much to gain from psychiatry

Noe mye mer annet/Something much more else
Arnhild Lauveng
335 pages

I’m reading about mental health at the moment as a part of the NLD and autism research I’m doing. All I can say at the moment is that I’m working on a text that I am going to send to a publisher later this year. I hope I’m working on a book, but I don’t know whether it will be published because even in a small country like Norway the publishers get 6000 scripts a year from hopeful writers. I hope I’ll be among the select few that succeed.

My script is about living with NLD and Asberger, and mental health is very relevant because many struggle with so-called “additional problems.” This book about mental health and youth was very interesting, and I highly recommend it to everybody. This is a Norwegian book, so it won’t be available in English, but I encourage people to read a similar book. It is especially important that parents are vigilant, but friends should also know what to do.

The book has two parts and the first one is a presentation of teens with different challenges and how they were helped. It’s about ADHD, anxiety, eating disorder, depression and thoughts of suicide, personality disorder, psychosis, OCD, and grief. There are also some chapters about kids that were not ill, but still needed help. A girl went through a difficult time after her best friend died, and another girl was her mother’s mother when her mother suffered from severe depression. That is a problem many kids with alcohol or drug addicted parents struggle with as well. They do their best to cover for the parents. The book also described a boy who felt like he didn’t fit in anywhere, which made him ruminate, and a girl who didn’t understand what was happening to her brother, who would probably get a diagnosis of schizophrenia. It is also important to consider the family, and kids that are not ill may need help from the health service too.

There are unfortunately still many delusions about mental illness. It is sad because this might be one of the biggest threats to our health. Certainly we have chronic disease like heart disease, kidney failure and diabetes. These can be prevented, but so can mental disorders. According to the WHO half of mental health disorders in adulthood appear to start by age 14, but most cases are undetected and untreated. There is a reason many don’t seek treatment. Many don’t expect family, friends or colleagues to understand, and unfortunately that fear isn’t entirely unjustified. So many suffer needlessly while they keep getting worse.

I am concerned about this because NLD’ers could develop additional challenges such as depression and anxiety. According to an article in the Journal of the Norwegian Psychological Association, the prevalence of depression among children aged 7-12 years is at 1-2 %. This increases to 1-7 % for children aged 13-18 years. I suppose it’s hard to be more accurate precisely because many don’t ask for help. It seems clear that the number of depressed people increase with age, and this development probably continue into adulthood.

The same article referred to two major Norwegian surveys. “Children in Bergen” found that 13,3 % of children between the age of 8 and 10 years who had emotional disorders (sadness, anxiety, social isolation, depression, substance abuse and suicide) received treatment from the specialist services. A major survey in central Norway, “Youth and mental health”, found that depressed youths rarely received help from the municipalities that were aimed specifically towards depression, and less than 20 % had been in contact with the specialist services.

There is clearly things we could criticize about the psychiatry. This book doesn’t go into that at all, but it is also aimed at the youth. It wants to break down the walls of lies and myths that are discouraging many from asking for help. I personally think it would be a good thing if more young people asked for help, and if all of us learned more about mental health, but I also believe that a certain skepticism towards psychiatrists and the institutions they work for is healthy.

The book also makes it clear that many people go through difficult things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them ill. Grief can be devastating, but it is a perfectly healthy response. There are still many that do get sick,  and as many as a third of Norwegians will experience some sort of mental illness during their life. It can happen to anyone and mental illness does not discriminate. I like the message of the book, it encourages youth to look in different places for help. Friends and family could play and important part and that’s why they need to read a book similar to this one. It will make it easier to communicate and give the right kind of support.

As with autism people have discussed what words to use. Some don’t like to use words like disease, illness, condition, suffering and difficulties, but no matter what we call it, there is no doubt that it is a situation we can’t manage alone. We need help. I like the word recovery, and much like someone recovering from an addiction, it may never really be over. You can’t take a pill and hope it will pass. Recovery is a long process where you have to do a lot of the talking while your thoughts are challenged. That’s how therapy work according to this book. The point is for you to change the way you think because old ideas that never change may be a part of the problem. I still don’t think we should listen to the psychiatrists about everything, though. Some people seem to think that I am sick because I don’t want to spend any time with them. Who’s to say I’m the one who needs to clean out the old patterns of thought ?

This video from Canada illustrates why it is important to start talking about mental health:

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