As we reach the end of #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, we at Ellenhorn are reflecting on the ways providers of mental health treatment have the power to both help and hurt the clients we serve and those struggling with mental health problems overall.
Mental illness can have a profound impact on quality of life. Anyone that works with, lives with, or knows someone that struggles with any sort of mental health issue is aware of the level of shame and self doubt that the individual experiences. In addition to the existing stigma that comes with a mental health diagnosis, receiving treatment can oftentimes result in further feelings of marginalization. Standard treatment for psychiatric issues is often conducted in a vacuum, in which the person being treated is removed from their real life. That experience can damage a person’s confidence as they come to see themselves as defined by illness; it often derails them from pursuing their life goals, thus robbing them of a sense of purpose and disrupting their connections with others. Moreover, our current medical model – which views mental health problems like any other medical illness and presents these problems as a fundamental, heritable, and immutable part of the individual receiving treatment – can further leave clients feeling hopeless and broken.
At Ellenhorn, we believe that these social injuries are as devastating as a person’s psychiatric symptoms. For this reason, as a core part of treatment at Ellenhorn, we actively support clients in pursuing their goals – helping them return to their most deeply desired educational or vocational track, regain their rightful role in the world, and recapture their belief in their own ability to realize their dreams. By taking a step back and looking at not only a client’s diagnosis, but also the circumstances at play within their environment, we can prevent potentially devastating social injuries, and help people heal from such damage. As the science shows, working closely with clients to create meaningful futures fosters real human connection and creates a sense of purpose and hope. It is critical that we as clinicians, family members, and friends reframe our approach to mental health treatment if we want to see a long term change. We can work to the strengths of the person and not contribute to the trauma one experiences from navigating treatment. That is our charge as mental health professionals and human beings.
Finally, we want to acknowledge the everyday struggle that our clients and other individuals with a mental health diagnosis face. We see you, we stand with you, and we support you. You are so much more than your diagnosis.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash