20 March 2012

One of the attitudes that makes it hard to seek help

Today, I was reading through my Twitter feed (I do that every once in a while) and came across a link from Katherine Stone of PostPartum Progress. She had tweeted a link to an article (from Psychology Today) titled "Why Are Healthcare Providers Not Listening?" The article talked about the fact that PostPartum women are reaching out for help for PPMD symptoms and getting a whole lot of silence. It was a wonderful article that I highly encourage everyone to go read. I liked it so much that I shared it on my Facebook news feed. One person in particular, responding to a comment about a soldier who had been taken to the ER after a suicide attempt and turned away because the beds were needed for "something more serious", had this to say:

"As serious as suicide may be, I would think potential nonvoluntary deaths should take priority in any sort of triage situation."

Now. This is someone I know in person. He's a great guy. I'm trying very hard to not make him in particular my focus on a personal level. My focus here is on this: this type of attitude is, in my opinion, one of the prime contributors to people with mental health issues having difficulty seeking help. This is not just something that this one person is saying. This is an attitude that MANY people in our society have and have no problem expressing

The underlying message, whether consciously intended or not, is that "Attempted suicide/mental illness is not as important as *insert other 'nonvoluntary potential death' causing issue/illness/condition/event here*."Ifound it ironic that a response to the article that was talking about women who are seeking treatment for PPMD and NOT getting it illustrated so clearly that treating and helping people with mental health issues, and/or people who have/are thinking about attempting suicide, is not as high a priority as treating someone who was shot, stabbed, in a car wreck, has a terminal illness, or any other "nonvoluntary potential death" or problem.

In a sense, this person is right. Helping someone who has attempted suicide is NOT as high a priority as helping someone who was in a car wreck. However, it certainly should be. Knowing that it's not, and hearing people say things like this, seeing this very attitude displayed, is part of what made it so hard for me to reach out and seek help when I was struggling with PostPartum Depression. It's part of what made it hard for people I know and love with PTSD to seek help. When the message you get is "Your problem is not as important" or "Attempted suicide should be a lower priority in triage", why on earth would you make yourself vulnerable and admit something that's already hard to admit, why would you reach out for help, if you think that help is going to be denied and that your feelings of inferiority are just going to be confirmed by others?

Now. I know this person and I know other people who have made statements like this. They are not people who go around looking for ways to belittle and push others down. Statements and attitudes like this are often the result of ignorance. That ignorance can only be changed through advocacy, public discourse, and education. That's why my blog, and others like it, exist. However, the attitudes and statements, the ignorance, don't just need to be addressed on the level of talking to my friends on Facebook and Twitter. It has to be addressed and changed in healthcare professionals, hospitals, clinics, etc. Hospitals shouldn't be turning people away if they don't have a bed to admit them after a suicide attempt. Instead of "Well, we just don't have room for you, later dude", the response should be "We're going to keep you in the ER until we find a hospital that DOES have room for you, at which point you will be transferred via ambulance." or something along those lines.

Make no mistake though, whether we're talking about doctors, nurses, or the people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, this attitude HAS, and I do mean HAS, to be changed. As long as this attitude is out there and people feel comfortable not only making statements like this but then defending them, it will be that much harder for people to reach out and say "I need help". I speak as someone who has been there, done that. Change is needed and it all starts with awareness.

1 comment:

  1. People in general need to be more sympathetic and understanding of mental health issues; just because blood isn't pouring from our head, doesn't mean we're not suffering.