No, mental health care is not what it used to be.  Especially inpatient units.

Even though this is a 2014 article, and British, it may articulate the losses more clearly than anything else I have read recently.

Mental health is “dehumanized.”  There are lots of folks, for example, who see only me.  Mainly because they can see either a psychiatrist or a therapist.  One of my patients thought she could explain this to me.  “You just seem to get more done.”  My first brush with psychiatry was at a French Government mental hospital.  Like most French state mental hospitals, it was a “required rotation,” thus providing patients with medical students early in their training, perhaps the least competent physicians on earth, to do physical examinations, and “health screening.”

I found signs on a routine neurology exam and referred a patient to neurosurgical service for surgery for removal of a brain tumor, clearly a harbinger of the long-term path I was to follow.

I doubt I understood the profundity of the importance of simple human bonding with the wildly disenfranchised patients.

There were students who spent an awful lot of time playing something called, oddly enough (in French ,yet)  “baby foot.”  It was a primitive mechanical soccer game built into a tabletop sort of frame.  The horizontal handles spun wooden dolls of soccer players around to kick a small (weighted) rubber ball.  When I moved back to the USA, I discovered it is called “foosball.”

Moving the handles and spinning dolls around elicited some of the most heartfelt emotional responses I remember ever hearing from the patients.

That was actually the level of “psychotherapy” the medical students had been expected to provide.  And it probably was more helpful than I could have known at the time.

It is surprisingly friendly and wildly helpful to make social contact at all with anyone who is mentally ill.

At the very least, if you are nothing more than prepared to listen, you are unlikely to cause harm.

You are unlikely to be wildly attacked.  Violence is generally no more prevalent than it is in the community at all.

This is not contagious stuff.

I think all human beings have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to become better humans.

Filed under medicine, Mental Illness, News, Psychotherapy by on #

Leave a Comment

Fields marked by an asterisk (*) are required.