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I’ve been in a mental hospital for suicidal ideation/attempt twice in the last two years. It leaves a lasting, painful impression well beyond the trauma that led you to seek help there to begin with.

Paper scrubs, prison sheets and institutional socks. Dignity was hard to come by no matter which wing you were confined to-by design. There was no privacy or consideration for personal space. You were laid bare in every sense of the word.

The patients had a wide array of diagnoses, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia to bipolar. People desperately in need of help, but some incapable of seeing that they needed it. This is one of the tragedies of mental health treatment: patients don’t have self-awareness enough to know that there is something wrong with them, either because of their illness or because of the learned responses from their experiences.

Many cultures consider even acknowledging mental illness a weakness, if not a sin, so how can people expect to get better with no structured support. Most people leaving the hospital don’t have the financial means to continue both therapy and medication, which is what the majority will require if they ever truly hope to recover.

I believe the solution starts with working through the media to remove the stigma of a mental illness diagnosis. From there, community resources and insurance offerings will grow and people will, hopefully, have an opportunity to access help they didn’t realize they needed. It is better now than when I first became depressed, but we are a long way from this lofty goal.

© 2021 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

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