2019…we are here!
As I scroll down the list of blogs about mental health I wince every time I see someone say “I have” this or “I have that. In working to erase the stigma placed on mental health I work to change the narrative as I engage those I work with. I expound on them they have symptoms that have been diagnosed as such and such. I work to ensure they understand when they have a headache, they are not a headache, but certainly, when you are pregnant, you are known as such.
It is important that mental health professional lead the way in how the field is portrayed as well as how those that participate in it are also portrayed. I’ve heard the symptoms referred to as behaviors…I beg to differ, behaviors are inherent of experiences whereas symptoms are the end result of a trigger, stimuli that supports negative behavior, same as the trigger on a gun when you pull it, the end result is a negative outcome. So when someone with symptoms of Schizophrenia refuses to take a bath or change clothes, or chain smoke, or refuse to talk during therapy or even meet you for therapy…those are not behaviors those are symptoms of Schizophrenia. The report should not indicate the person refuses to take a bath without preferencing the understanding these actions and non-actions are inherent of the diagnosis. Labeling this as behavior indicates actions or non-actions the person willfully executes.
I use a lot of strength-based and biopsychosocial approaches as underwear to Person-centered, Narrative Therapy, Reality-based Therapy, CBT and other modalities with an understanding the overarching mental health syntax to the wholistic wellness lens we are now using is sustainable independent living. That includes awareness of the symptoms of the diagnosis and ways to integrate the symptoms into their lives with coping strategies reducing the need to compensate because of stigmatized thought patterns.
Narrative changes can happen from intake to discharge and certainly in between. Symptoms are manageable with the right tools, work of the consumer and maintenance of the improved coping strategies. No better opportunity to change the narrative than to start with those we serve.