Challenges in Mental Health Care: The Sickness v. Wellness Perspective (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Mental health care is a challenging, but rewarding field.  There are many positive sides of mental health care, and also areas that need improvement.  One of the biggest rewards of mental health care is observing and experiencing progress, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients.  Healing, recovery, and a return to wellness of clients in mental health settings requires patience, understanding, respect, and sensitivity.  Agency and organizational stability is also needed for clients in order that they receive optimal care.  While each agency and/or organization has its own culture, a culture in which workers live in fear of becoming a statistic in extremely high turnover is unhealthy in itself.

As an individual working toward licensure in the mental health profession, I am one whose perspective is from a position of wellness.  First and foremost, one must view a person as a person.  To perceive and treat a person with respect, kindness, nonjudgment, and impartiality are requirements in supporting and empowering the wellness, healing, and recovery of clients.  In the counseling profession, one based on a view of wellness in people, there exists a positive and supportive hope for the overall optimal health of the individual.

This view is different from many other mental health professions in which the general view of the client is one of sickness.  Certainly, approaching an individual with a perspective of what can be improved is helpful, and for insurance purposes involving payment for services rendered, a diagnosis of the client is required, however it is my perspective that viewing the client from a wellness standpoint is much more healthy for all involved rather than judging a person as being sick.

Those who view and describe an individual as a “sick person” have already negatively judged him or her.  They have not viewed the person as a person, but as an “ill person.”  Such a perspective held by such individuals causes them to treat the client differently, as one who needs more and more treatment, more and more medication, more and more confinement.  In these situations, the positive view of wellness is gone, and is replaced by a judgment that the “sick person” is unable to become well.

While clients have challenges to achieving and maintaining wellness, it becomes even more of a challenge when many in the mental health field view clients as sick, and only they as the professionals who hold those views have the power and expertise to make them well – or they have already judged that they will never become well.  A professional who approaches a client from a perspective of wellness (a perspective that is in the minority), therefore, faces even more challenges, not only for themselves but also for their clients when others view them as sick and unable to become well.  A person is still a person, regardless of their diagnosis or disorder.  A person is still a person, and has the capability of becoming well.  A hopeful perspective toward client wellness must exist in the mental health profession – rather than client sickness – in order that clients are supported and empowered to experience that wellness.

A further challenge in agencies and/or organizations in which a “sickness” perspective prevails is that experienced clinicians fall into the trap of believing that their views and judgments about clients are the best – that they are the experts.  Certainly, the experience of a veteran clinician is extremely valuable in treating clients, however experienced clinicians who believe that only their views, judgments, and culture of sickness are the most helpful approaches create a potentially dangerous situations for their clients.  Clinicians of all levels of experience must be open-minded to considering and perceiving different views – including those from a wellness perspective – so that their clients receive optimal care and so that they profession, itself, can grow and develop in a healthy way.

Clinicians who view clients from a perspective of illness and negative judgment place their clients at risk for further illness.  Clinicians who are set in their ways of expertise toward mental health treatment, and who are unable to be open-minded toward viewing different perspectives regarding it have already erected walls around themselves that are harmful for themselves, their clients, the culture of their agency/organization, and the field of mental health.

What clinicians must always place as a primary priority is that people are people.  As such, people should be treated with dignity, understanding, kindness, respect, and sensitivity.  If a perspective of client wellness is lacking or absent, clients will likely experience a more difficult road to recovery and may not achieve wellness.  What is healthier – being an “expert” clinician whose views of client illness cause him or her to be closed to considering a client’s optimal recovery, or being a clinician who treats a person as a person, and who applies a wellness perspective that supports rather than negatively judges the client?  You be the judge.

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Teaching Respect and Protection of the Human Body: Working to Stop Rape and Sexual Traumas (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Rape, sexual assault, molestation, and other sexual traumas are far too common throughout our society.  So many people have experienced sexual traumas in their lives; unfortunately, it is much more common than might actually be fathomed.  Pediatricians, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and first responders are those who may often have interactions with patients or clients who are victims and survivors of sexual traumas.  They are those who often work with individuals following sexual traumas, though I am one who is also interested in teaching about the respect and protection of the human body in order that sexual traumas may be lessened and/or prevented in our society.

Teaching Prevention of Rape (from http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/08/culture-of-rape-victim-blaming-has-got-to-go/, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Teaching Prevention of Rape (objectives by Zerlina Maxwell, 2013, illustration by Jasmine Mochizuki, from http://sundial.csun.edu/2013/08/culture-of-rape-victim-blaming-has-got-to-go/, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Last year, writer and political analyst Zerlina Maxwell shared five objectives regarding how men, particularly young men, can be respectful of women’s humanity rather than viewing women as sexual objects.  Maxwell’s objectives were in regard to addressing the issue that women do not need guns to protect ourselves from rape because that places the blame on the victim/survivors, rather than placing responsibility on the offender.

I agree with that.  Society still often blames and stigmatizes victims and survivors, though I have observed that to be changing slowly as a result of more survivors speaking out about their experiences.  Speaking out is a good thing for many reasons.  It helps survivors heal, it can help provide information that protects others from experiencing sexual trauma, and it helps reduce and/or eliminate societal blame, revictimization, and stigmas experienced by survivors.

Also important to address is that people of all ages and backgrounds can be sex offenders, whether or not they have been charged and/or prosecuted.  Research that I, myself, have completed in this area has reflected that those who experience sexual traumas by others may be infants, children, teens, or adults.  It is also important to state that males an females may experience sexual traumas, and that those sexual traumas may be perpetrated by males and/or females, as well.  This is not an issue, therefore, that solely affects women, but also is a worldwide issue that affects our entire society.

Yes Means Yes, No Means No (from getacover.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Yes Means Yes, No Means No (from getacover.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

That stated, a focus that I would like to bring to this post is in relation to protecting and educating young men about the humanity and integrity of young women’s bodies.  A particular focus in these respects is one that I direct toward male undergraduates and male entrants into the military.  Perhaps, then, a focus can be on stopping and/or preventing rape, as well as including language that focuses on protecting and respecting women’s bodies.

In my experience as an undergraduate college student, I am aware that there are those college men who rape, who encourage their male peers to rape, and who believe that rape is sex.  Both my experience and that I have observed includes the views of some college men who are fraternity members and football players.  It is the attitudes and behaviors of some of these men who reflect negatively on their peers.

Real Men Don't Rape (from bewakoof.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Real Men Don’t Rape (from bewakoof.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Similar attitudes and behaviors are increasing in regard to many men in the military.  Those who rape and sexually traumatize others cause and perpetuate trauma, particularly when much of our society still appears to blame, stigmatize, and revictimize survivors.  Survivors of sexual trauma should not be viewed as, nor treated as criminals; offenders should receive consequences, treatment, and be held accountable and responsible.

Another focus that I would like to state in this post is to share with young women, teen girls, and others who may be targeted for sexual trauma, ways in which to potentially protect themselves from it.  No matter how much one may work to protect oneself, it may not prevent or stop a sexual trauma from occurring, though such information is more helpful to know than not to.  One red flag to recognize is when a boy or young man is repeatedly pressuring, particularly about sex and/or drinking alcohol.  An objective of teen boys and young men who rape is to get a target drunk and/or spike alcohol with the pill known as the date rape drug.

Prevent Date Rape (from barnesandnoble.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Prevent Date Rape (from barnesandnoble.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

One way to immediately protect oneself from this is to be aware of and recognize when a male is being pressuring regarding sex and/or drinking alcohol, and to remove oneself from that situation as quickly as possible.  Regarding some males, as soon as a female says, “No,” that becomes a cue for them to work more quickly toward raping their target.  So, in order to excuse oneself from such a situation, a female should not draw attention to feeling uncomfortable, wanting to leave, or desiring to return home, but should use some other excuse to leave the situation that will not escalate any potential for the male to commit sexual trauma toward her.

Other ways for females to protect ourselves is to recognize and be aware of males who are members of college fraternities, football and/or other sports teams, and who are in the military.  This also applies to males who serve in professions that support a strong male patriarchy and hierarchy, including the Catholic Church and other employers or volunteer organizations.  Unfortunately, males in many male groups often protect each other with a code of silence regarding offenses and/or crimes that may occur by their members.  When such offenses are brought to the attention of their superiors or the authorities, they may continue to be protected by other males, however it is important for such offenses to be officially reported and documented.

Rally Against Rape in New Delhi, India (from globalpost.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Rally Against Rape in New Delhi, India (from globalpost.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Something else for females to keep in mind is that some males believe that rape is sex, and that if they want it, they are going to “take” it by whatever means necessary.  Because some males believe that their action of raping another is sex, they seem to think they are “being men,” experiencing a “rite of passage,” and being “one of the guys.”  They may brag to peers about their sexual prowess, and how a female who was targeted was “easy,” “slutty,” or “trashy,” thus causing other male peers to become interested in targeting her, as well.  Females must be aware that males talk, and that their talk among each other may not reflect a realistic or accurate portrait of what occurred.  So, when other males appear “interested,” females must be aware that their interest may not be genuine, but may be based only on the inaccurate perspectives received from the males’ peer(s).

A big disadvantage for women in our society is that society teaches girls to always be agreeable, cooperative, and nice, and to look up to males, respecting them and holding them in high esteem.  Certainly, many males are worthy of trust, respect, and being viewed positively.  However, for girls who become women who have been taught to trust, respect, and view positively those who should not be, they may be more easily targeted for and experience sexual traumas.  Those who target others seek vulnerability.  Those who have any potential for being targeted should be aware of this, and also be aware of the other ways identified and described in this post to protect themselves.

Rape Victim-Shaming of Society Football (from pinterest.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Rape Victim-Shaming of Society Football (from pinterest.com, retrieved September 13, 2014)

Again, when a person experiences sexual trauma, the person who was the offender should be held responsible and accountable, not the survivor or victim.  A person may take every action to try to protect herself or himself from sexual trauma, and it may still occur.  Therefore, it is imperative for the survivor to know that he or she is not at fault and not to blame.  Those who offend have had experiences and/or learning that causes them to believe that it is acceptable for them to commit sexual offenses and/or traumas against others.

If you know of anyone who has experienced sexual trauma, consider going with them to report the crime.  Consider accompanying them to their doctor.  Perhaps, refer them to and go with them to a rape crisis agency.  There are trained professionals who are very sensitive toward survivors of sexual traumas, and there are other trained professionals who are not sensitive at all, but blaming and revictimizing.  Survivors and victims of sexual traumas must be supported on their journey to healing.  And, society must take every possible action to educate about and protect people of all ages from experiencing sexual traumas.  Respecting and honoring others and their bodies is all-important in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships.