ON MENTAL ILLNESS: New Restrictions, New Perils

Jack Bragen
Friday September 09, 2016 - 01:58:00 PM

Some of the fiascos and foibles of mentally ill people, that twenty or thirty years ago wouldn't have many repercussions, in today's climate we could no longer produce without serious consequences. Society has become more tightly restricted concerning what is acceptable and what isn't.  

For one thing, we don't want to go off medication and get 5150'd. There is more of a likelihood, compared to twenty years ago, that cops will simply take us to jail. I am reading of more and more situations in which persons with psychiatric disabilities are jailed when not "behaving properly" as opposed to the appropriate action, which is to get the person into treatment.  

Society has less tolerance of deviating behavior. Law enforcement is likely to assume that an individual is high on street drugs rather than mentally ill. They also seem to have a more hands-on approach. They appear to be less lenient than they were in the past. 

Furthermore, according to one source, it is far cheaper for counties to simply incarcerate people rather than get them into treatment.  

There are also stricter guidelines concerning treatment. For one thing, there is a new procedure in place concerning benzodiazepines. They are considered narcotics, and how they are dispensed has recently changed. Secondly, psychiatric practitioners could be becoming less tolerant of behaviors that might be considered improper, behaviors that are presented by a number of persons with mental illness. I have heard of some practitioners dropping patients more readily. 

And you do not want to be stuck without a psychiatrist. Not having a psychiatrist can have serious consequences. Finding a new psychiatrist is probably more difficult than it was. I have heard a psychiatrist say that psychiatry doesn't pay as well as other branches of medicine. Plus, there is the factor of more mentally ill people vying for services. If you have a decent psychiatrist, you should hang on to her or him.  

Keeping an acceptable psychiatrist requires that you follow their instructions and not attempt to deceive them. It may require that you do not make repeated phone calls to their voicemail if you have a problem. One phone message ought to do, if you are dealing with a competent treatment professional.  

Keeping appointments is usually very important. I have missed some appointments in the past couple of years due to feeling too sedated on my medication. In those instances, I phoned the place of appointment and explained that I felt too sedated to drive to my appointment. There isn't much they can say to that. However, I have tried to improve my attendance. When dealing with a medication prescriber, it is more important to keep appointments than with a psychotherapist. However, if the psychotherapist is a private therapist, they could charge you a hefty fee for missing an appointment--not good.  

If you do not like how a mental health practitioner is treating you, you could do the following: explain specifically what he or she is doing that you don't agree with; if you can't reason with the practitioner, ask to be switched to someone else. I've dealt with therapists who were overtly obnoxious and with others who were clueless. I asked to be switched and it worked just fine. Trying to do without therapy isn't usually a good idea. 

In today's climate, it is important to show that we are making an effort at following through with treatment. If you burn your bridges with your treatment venue, you could be "thrown to the wolves," which means re-categorized into the criminal justice system or you could lose other necessary benefits.  

The above opinion is but one perspective, and other people's experiences may be different.