Posted by: Jack | May 7, 2008

Mental Health Care

Regarding mental health and the associated care systems, I’m a layman at best. But that doesn’t stop me from expressing opinions on the subject.

For three years now, I’ve lived with someone who has worked very closely with many individuals suffering from a smorgasbord of mental illnesses. And I certainly respect her claims that the care systems are lacking in no small way. While there is very likely room for improvement, I strongly doubt that a “good” solution exists. Time for an analogy:

Let’s say you own an apple orchard and produce apple juice as a means of supporting your family. Apples are excellent producers of apple juice and so you welcome apple trees into your fields and accommodate their growth whenever possible. But one day a stray orange seed lands in your fields and sprouts into an orange tree (I don’t really know how plausible this is but just go with it). A range of actions can be taken in response to such an occurrence:

  1. Dig up the tree and dispose of it. An excellent choice if your primary concern is the well-being of your family which is directly related to the success of your orchard.
  2. Leave it be, allowing it to consume resources which are crucial to your apple trees. A reasonable decision if you are ethically opposed to uprooting/killing trees.
  3. Incorporate the juice from the oranges into your apple juice and later find out that the majority of juice-drinkers prefer ‘pure’ apple juice. A questionable course of action. Your family will suffer as a result, but if you believe that all fruit juices deserve equal opportunity, it may be justifiable.
  4. Develop a radical chemical fertilizer which when applied to the orange tree, causes it to grow apples. This may be difficult but upon success, provides for your family and avoids killing the tree. However, by causing it to grow apples you’ve essentially turned it into an apple tree, thus doing away with the original completely.

Hopefully you’ve noticed some connections by now. Persons with mental illnesses are difficult to accommodate because often times their thought processes (the root of who they are) and resulting actions are counteractive in relation to the goals of the majority. The ill person is hardly to blame for their illness, but likewise, healthy individuals cannot be blamed for supporting policy which caters primarily to the majority.

So as I stated earlier, I dont’ believe a “good” solution exists. The reason being that two mutually exclusive goals are being pursued simultaneously. I don’t like to criticize without offering alternatives or solutions but in this case I’m just suggesting that critics refrain from issuing harsh words about our mental health care systems unless they themselves can present a better solution that is plausible in modern society.

Edit: Upon re-reading this I realized that it sounded like an attack on Anna…which wasn’t my intent. This was written in reaction to a few news articles which criticized the ill state of this country’s health care system without any mention of alternatives.

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