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.

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.

“Prayers and Support Needed for St. Rose of Lima Parish, Newtown, Connecticut” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Newtown, Connecticut (Reference: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ ).

Prayers and support are still very much needed for parishioners and employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as for the survivors and residents there for coping with grief and healing.  Postings on Facebook, CatholicVote.org, Change.org, WordPress, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other organizations speak to the continued need for prayers, support, and good works for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. 

My own regional Women’s Catholic Bible Study group at St. John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia is also involved in spreading this message, as well as in providing encouragement, prayers, and support for – in particular – the religious employees of St. Rose of Lima Parish.  Please continue to spread the word and share supportive, encouraging words and works of healing for the people of this parish and of Newtown. 

The church’s address is:

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church

47 Church Hill Road

Newtown, Connecticut 06470

Priests at the Church include: Msgr. Bob Weiss, Fr. Luke Suarez, and Fr. Ignacio Ortigas. 

There are also many religious sisters, deacons, education employees, office staff members, and others who are doing their best to emotionally and spiritually support others while also coping with their own grief; and it is my understanding that they really need all of the support that they can get to heal and cope. 

Additionally, the church website that shares prayers of supporters to the parish can be found at the following link: http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

Please do whatever you can to help, encourage, and support the people of Newtown, Connecticut, and St. Rose of Lima Parish there.  The Church website also has a link where one may make monetary donations for the Sandy Hook families.

References

St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.  December 28, 2012.  http://www.strosechurch.com/prayers-for-newtown/ .

(Note: Please know that I do not support or endorse any of the advertisements that may appear in conjunction with my blog posts.  They are placed there by WordPress, and I have no control over them.  I appreciate your understanding.)

“A Spiritual Inquiry: How and Why Should we Forgive?” By: Michele Babcock-Nice

“A Spiritual Inquiry:

How and Why Should we Forgive?”

By: Michele Babcock-Nice

March 20, 2012

Michele Babcock-Nice

Michele Babcock-Nice

Forgiveness.  What is forgiveness?  And, how and why should we forgive?  Who should we forgive?  Forgiveness – the act of forgiving – is a spirituality issue that I have contemplated and grappled with in my own life.  It is something that I have experienced, myself, through others, and by observing others.  Why is it important for us to forgive ourselves and each other?  These are topics of personal relevance, as well as relevance for the greater population.

Forgiveness is not only something that must be taught, it must be learned.  People must model forgiveness with each other and encourage it among one another in order for it to have full and far-reaching positive effects.  Jesus taught and commanded that people forgive each other, so that both we and our sins will be forgiven by God. 

Colossians 3:13 states, “Forbearing one another and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Mark 11:26 states, “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Matthew 6: 14-15 also shares, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” The Holy Bible, 1979).  The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct us that we are to forgive each other. 

One of my favorite Bible passages that is very humbling to me is Matthew 18: 21-22, which states, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (The Holy Bible, 1979).   

This passage reminds us that we are not perfect, that none of us are perfect, and that, to me, is very humbling.  When I think of the mistakes that I make and sins that I commit, whether unintentionally or not, it never fails to humble me when I hear and contemplate these verses.  Jesus wants us to forgive each other seventy times seven times, that’s nearly 500 times!  One must understand the general idea, however, is not to just forgive each other once, twice, or even a few times, but repeatedly, without end.  That also reminds me of how fallible and human we truly are, and that we are actually in need of forgiveness, by each other and of ourselves.

Luke 6: 36-37 further teaches us to be kind, merciful, and forgiving, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” (The Holy Bible, 1979).  Luke 6 actually teaches us many things about each other in addition to this, such as being good to the poor and giving to one another. 

Luke 6 provides us with an opportunity to reflect on who we are as people – to reflect on our characters and true natures.  Are we people who truly have goodness in our hearts?  Are our thoughts, words, and actions motivated by and intended to help and support each other and ourselves?  Do we honestly hope to be caring, compassionate, understanding, merciful, and forgiving toward each other? 

The Bible and Jesus’ teachings, therefore, instruct and direct us to forgive each other.  Not only are we to forgive each other a few or several times, but countless times, for we are fallible, we are human, we are children of God who are progressing through our learning stages of life.  When we ask others to forgive us, we are humbling ourselves to their mercy. 

When we ask God to forgive us, He is forgiving and provides us with free will, but also with the understanding that we should not do the same wrong over again; we must correct ourselves.  If one is Catholic and goes to reconciliation, he or she shares those transgressions that he or she has committed with a priest, who, through God’s power and mercy, forgives us.  Again, however, we are called not to commit the same wrongs or sins in the future.

Just the other day, my young son was upset with me.  He brought a library book home from school that I did not approve of.  It was a comic-style book that was geared toward older children, though I am aware that the particular theme of the book was not something that I agreed with, nor was it entirely emotionally or mentally healthy for him.  I allowed him to read it one day, with the express understanding that he could read it during that one day, but not following that day.  I was aware that he was tired, and had not slept well the previous night, though he was very attracted to reading this book.  It was my intention to return the book to the school library on the next school day, which I did. 

So, my son became upset with me when he tried to look at and read this comic-style book on a day when I had not allowed it.  I spoke with him about it, again explaining my reasons behind it.  He is aware of my views on such books, though, as a youngster who is, at times, testing his limits, he can be persistent about his wants and desires.  So, when I refused to allow him to read the book on the next day, he was mad and upset about it.  Understandably, he wants to fit in and be like the other boys, but he knows that he is my child and that the other boys are not – their parents can have them do as they wish. 

In my son being angry and upset with me, I recognized his desire to get something that he wanted.  I reminded him that he did read the comic book on the one day, but could not do so the next day.  I then asked him to forgive me.  And…he did.  I told him that I love him and that I want the best for him, and then, I gave him some time to himself.  Soon thereafter, he came around, and found something else to stimulate his interest.

I believe that this is a manner in which God and Jesus want us to behave.  It is important to have strong morals, ethics, beliefs, values, and principles.  This is something that I am trying to instill into my son.  By sticking to my views, beliefs, and principles – and by asking my son for his understanding and forgiveness – he more readily showed his appreciation and respect for me and my values. 

This example may be something minor in most of our lives, though it is something that is important to be taught, learned, and modeled.  In this way, I am teaching forgiveness to my son, even in regard to my expectation about his acceptance of my values and principles for his upbringing.  These are also good reasons for asking for and receiving forgiveness.

An area of forgiveness that is not often addressed or recognized is of forgiving oneself.  This is extremely important – we must forgive ourselves.  Who, among us, teaches how valuable it is to forgive ourselves?  I am aware of a recent Lenten Retreat at my church in which the religious speaker, a priest, spoke of forgiving ourselves as the theme for the event.  And, how and why must we forgive ourselves?  This is a significant question to which there can be many answers.

When was the last time you ever thought about forgiving yourself?  Why, you ask, should you forgive yourself?  This is an issue of much contemplation, prayer, and reflection for me because I know that I am not perfect – I am human, I am fallible.  Yet, I can also be very hard and tough on myself, not giving myself credit where it is due, blaming myself, depriving myself, sacrificing things from myself, being down on myself.  I always try to have a positive attitude and outlook on everything, but I also recognize that I have very high standards and expectations of not only others, but also of myself.

Therefore, I must forgive myself.  I must forgive myself for being human, for being fallible, for making mistakes, for being too hard on myself, for not being good enough or kind enough to myself.  In forgiving myself, I am more readily able to forgive others.  I am also more easily able to view others as human, as fallible, just like I am.  For me, it is also a much healthier perspective.  If I forgive myself, I feel better and happier, not only about myself, but everything. 

When I forgive myself, my outlook is improved, things are not as worrisome or stressful as they were, and I take it easier on myself, allowing myself to enjoy life, my family, and others more.  I don’t need to make things so hard for myself, nor to be as hard on myself.  So, I must and do forgive myself for all of these things.  I am better able to be forgiving, loving, nurturing, kind, and compassionate to others in doing so.

Lastly, and something also not often commented on or recognized is that in forgiving each other and ourselves, that does not continue to open the door to being vulnerable to being hurt by others or ourselves.  We must express our views, standards, and expectations to others, and insist that those are met, so that we are not vulnerable to being wronged by them again. 

If we are wronged by those whom we forgive, then we are called to forgive them, though I believe we must continue to insist upon the manner in which we desire to be treated by them.  If they do not improve in their words or actions, then we must forgive them, but we must also help ourselves, perhaps by seeking to further understand them and/or distancing ourselves from them. 

And, we must open our eyes and recognize ways in which we are not helpful to and loving of ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves for those actions, but also work on improving our actions toward ourselves.  We must create a mindset that is loving, helpful, and healthy to and for ourselves.  Therefore, forgiving ourselves, and working to improve the manner in which we view and treat ourselves are also important aspects of forgiveness that are valuable and significant.

One issue with which I have been working on forgiving myself is my divorce and the choice that I made in a spouse.  I, ultimately, desired to reconcile and remain in my marriage, though it was extremely difficult and challenging; it was my former spouse who ended our marriage.  I remained faithful to my spouse and dedicated to my family in the midst of challenges which were unbearable at the time. 

It was during those times – as well as times past and present – that I leaned on God, Jesus, and my faith for survival – for the survival of my soul and spirit.  It is in my faith that I continually take comfort, though I also recognize that I work, daily, to forgive myself for my decisions that have harmed myself and my family.  I recognize that one cannot force a person to believe and behave in the manner in which the other desires, though I also believe, however, in the importance and healthfulness of forgiving myself and my former spouse, not only for the good of myself, but also for that of my son and family.

Forgiveness, therefore, is and should be a huge part of our lives.  How often do you forgive others and yourself?  What are the ways in which you forgive?  Do you willingly accept forgiveness when it is offered to you?  Do you seek to keep a healthy perspective in mind, body, and spirit by recognizing and forgiving yourself and others? 

Also, when you forgive, do you help yourself by expressing expectations of those who have wronged you so that they understand and respect you more, thereby reducing your own vulnerability to them?  And, are there times when you may not have done anything wrong, but are still able to ask forgiveness so that it will help improve the situation or assist another in feeling better about themselves – it takes a person of strong character to do that, even if he or she is further blamed or wronged.

Forgiveness is an act on which we must place greater value.  Forgiveness is freeing and healthy for our minds, bodies, souls, and spirits.  Forgiveness is something that we should practice each day, in asking God to forgive us, in requesting others to forgive us, and in forgiving and being more loving to ourselves.  We must remember that we are all human; all of us are fallible.  Therefore, we must continually forgive, as Jesus taught and instructed us, so that we may, in turn, be forgiven.

References

Fairchild, M. “What does the Bible say about Forgiveness?”  March 20, 2012.  http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/a/bibleforgivenes.htm

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.