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.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son's Mother's Day Drawing of and Message to Me, May 9, 2013

My Son’s Mother’s Day Drawing of and Message to Me, May 9, 2013

This week, I was voted #1 mom in the world by my son!  🙂  Being a mom is a wonderful thing!  It is an experience that cannot be replaced, and must be lived every moment of every day.  I love being a mom to my son.  As a mom, I do my best to invest as much quality time and care into him as possible.  Each and every day, I feel and know that I have been blessed by God to be a mom.  My child is the only one I will ever have; and I always do my best to act in ways that will benefit him. 

Not only do I have compassion, care, understanding, and nurturance for my own child, I am concerned for the welfare and well-being of all children.  Children live in a world that caters to adults, including adult interests, needs, and wants.  Sometimes, people overlook what is most beneficial for children, and make decisions and take actions that best serve adults.  As a society that I hope becomes more enlightened, I am one who encourages increased understanding, appreciation, rights, and protections for children.  And as a mom, I believe this is imperative for the benefit and well-being of my child, as well as children throughout the world.

On this Mother’s Day, let us honor, remember, and appreciate our moms.  And, for those of us who are moms, let us remember why we became moms.  Each mother is a role model for her children, and has been given a great responsibility to raise, care for, protect, and nurture her child(ren).  In our world of increasing adult self-interests, it is vitally important to remember and support mothers, so that they can provide for and do what is best for their children.    Thank you to my son and extended family for remembering, honoring, appreciating – and most of all – loving me on this Mother’s Day.  🙂

“Women need more Appreciation and Respect” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Is it just me, or does this happen to women alot?  Women who are assertive, confident, direct, honest, independent, educated, and who may be single, divorced, and/or widowed are unappreciated and not respected by many men.  Not only are such women unappreciated and not respected by men, but also by other women and the greater society, and others may feel very threatened by their confidence and assertiveness – and blame the women for it due to their own discomfort!  What is it about us?  What is it that people dislike?

I’m not a person who asks for or tends to “need” alot from others.  I try to “handle” and cope with the majority of situations and experiences that I have independently.  I’m not a gossip, though when something is going wrong and could be improved or enhanced, I speak up, making myself and my views known.  What I find is that, for the most part, most people just don’t care.  In fact, I often find that the more I speak up, the worse the situation gets.

Why is that?  Do most people believe that they have enough of their own life situations to deal with?  Do they feel that there is no need to invest anything, emotionally, into someone else’s difficulties, challenges, struggles, or troubles?  Are people afraid to get involved?  Or, is it that they really, simply just don’t care?

It would be interesting to me if a study was performed to research all of these attributes and characteristics of women, and the manner in which men, other women, and even the greater society views and/or treats us.  It would also be interesting to me to ascertain whether or not there are differences in such perspectives and treatment of women across different regions of the country – such as in the north, south, east, and west – in the United States. 

The South is known as the Stroke Belt.  Of course, there are studies that have been completed about why this is so.  I would like to offer my own simple analysis, not based on any research, but based on my own observations and experiences. 

It seems to me that women in the South are often not allowed to be themselves.  In order to be fully accepted into Southern society, women are subtly and silently “required” to speak and behave more like men, be supportive cheerleaders of men, be agreeable and not ask any questions of men, and be submissive to and/or dependent on men.  Additionally, women in the South are required to do all of these things while also remaining “beautiful,” appearing young, and being a great physical, mental, and emotional condition.  Any women who does not seem to “meet” those requirements is not part of the “in” and/or “accepted” crowd.

Perhaps unknowingly, women in other parts of the country do the same, to a certain extent.  Women unconsciously “conform” ourselves to fit in and be more socially acceptable.  How many women do you know believe they have to drink with their boyfriend and/or his buddies at sports games in order to fit in and be acceptable?  How many women do you know pile on the make-up, and spend loads of money for hair and nail treatments, thinking that this makes them more attractive?  How many women do you see at your workplace who are especially kind and friendly to the boss, seeking more favor?

It is not easy to be a woman in today’s society.  Women are “required” to do, say, and “be” so many things, to serve in so many roles.  And, in all this, women are also expected not to become upset, not to complain, not to vent, not to become emotional.  We are expected to be able to handle it all!  Certainly, some of us can be considered superwomen, but after awhile, the stresses, pressures, expectations, and requirements take their toll.  Stroke, cancer, heart disease, and other conditions and/or ailments are a result of the constant, unceasing expectations and requirements that society places upon us. 

Therefore, women need more appreciation and respect in our society – in our families, our homes, our churches, our communities, our nation, our world.  People ought to try to place themselves in another’s shoes and walk in those shoes for awhile.  Rather than overlooking, not appreciating, and not respecting each other’s experiences and who we are as individuals, people must realize that life isn’t always easy for everyone.  Their lack of appreciation, and absence of understanding and respect just makes it that much more difficult for us.  But again, do they really care? 

As a member of a particular group at my church, I was recently overlooked by the male leader of the group.  The leader is about my age, married, and has a family, though he always appeared to take a sort of “flippant” and uncaring attitude toward me.  Today, he realized that he had not included me on any of the group’s e-mails and communications for several months, and that by doing so, I was not informed of a group meeting and photo.  He apologized to me about the situation – by e-mail – though it all just brought tears to my eyes. 

Why am I the person who is regularly overlooked, unappreciated, uncared for, not respected?  Are all of my positive qualities that much of a threat to others that they consciously or unconsciously exclude me from their own thinking?  It is so disppointing and tragic to keep experiencing these types of situations over and over again.  I could change who I am, but then I wouldn’t be “me.”  Maybe most people would like me better if I was more gossipy, untruthful, and fake.  I wouldn’t be true to myself if I behaved like that.  I wonder how many people would truly be able to walk in my shoes?