For this week’s newspaper article, you decided to write about mental health. You chose this topic because of the experiences of two of your friends, Martin and Sally.
Here are their stories:
Marty had been released from a provincial psychiatric hospital after having been admitted recently for intense psychotic symptoms. At the time of admission, Marty was highly agitated, yelling that the police were going to harm him because he’s Jack the Ripper’s brother. In the emergency room, Marty told the on-call psychiatrist that he was hearing voices of the devil preaching about his murderous relatives.
This was the patient’s third hospitalization since schizophrenia was first diagnosed 12 years earlier at age 22. Marty had made an excellent recovery from previous hospital stays: He had been working as a salesman at a hardware store for the past six years, and lived nearby in a small but comfortable apartment. He visited a psychiatrist at the community mental health center for medication about once a month. He also met with a counselor there to discuss strategies to cope with his mental illness.
Marty had several friends in the area and was fond of playing softball with them in park district leagues. He had been dating a woman in the group for about a year and reported that he was “getting serious.” Marty was also active in the local Baptist Church, where he was co-leading Bible classes with the pastor. The reappearance of symptoms derailed his job, his apartment and his social life.
Recuperating from this episode involved more than just dealing with the symptoms of his illness. The reaction of friends, family members and professionals also affected what happened to Frank. The hardware store owner was frightened by Marty’s “mental hospitalization.” The owner had heard mentally ill people could be violent, and worried that the stress of the job might lead to a dangerous outburst in the shop. Marty’s mother had other concerns. She worried that the demands of living alone were excessive: “He’s pushing himself much too hard trying to keep that apartment clean and do all his own cooking,” she thought. She feared Marty might abandon his apartment and move to the streets, just like other mentally ill people she had seen.
Marty’s doctor was concerned his hospitalization signaled an overall lack of stability. His doctor believed schizophrenia was a progressively degenerative disease, a view first promoted by a renowned psychiatrist in 1913. In this view, psychiatric hospitalizations indicated the disease was worsening. The doctor concluded Marty’s ability to live independently would soon diminish; it was better to prepare for it now rather than wait for the inevitable loss of independent functioning. So the doctor, with the help of Marty’s mother and boss, talked him into leaving his job, giving up his apartment and moving in with his mother. Marty’s mother lived across town, so he stopped attending the Baptist church. Marty was unable to meet with his friends and soon dropped out of the sports league. He stopped seeing his girlfriend. In one month, he lost his job, apartment and friends.
Like Marty Clarkson, Sally Miller had been diagnosed with a significant and chronic disease: diabetes. She had to carefully monitor her sugar intake and self-administer insulin each day. She watched her lifestyle closely for situations that might aggravate her condition. Sally also met regularly with a physician and a dietitian to discuss blood sugar, diet and exercise.
Despite these cautions, Sally had an active life. She was a 34-year-old clerk-typist for a small insurance broker. She belonged to a folk-dancing club she attended at a nearby secondary school. She was engaged to an accountant at the insurance company. Despite carefully watching her illness, Sally suffered a few setbacks, the last occurring about a month ago when she required a three-day hospitalization to adjust her medication. The doctor recommended a two-week break from work after her discharge, and referred her to the dietitian to discuss appropriate changes in lifestyle.
Even though diabetes is a life-threatening disease (in her most recent episode, Sally was near coma when she was wheeled into the hospital), no one suggested she consider institutional care where professionals could monitor her blood sugar and intervene when needed. Nor did anyone recommend Sally give up her job to avoid work-related stressors that might throw off her blood sugar.
In your 2 – 3 page essay, please address the following:
1. Why is Marty’s chronic illness perceived differently by society than Sally’s chronic illness?
2. Is there more of a stigma about some types of mental illness than others? If so, why? Consider the various types of mental illness. Be specific – you want your readers to gain knowledge and understanding about the issue.
ILLNESS: TREATMENT PARTNERSHIPS AND COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES Patrick W. Corrigan, Psy.D.
Corrigan PW et al. Stigmatizing attributions about mental illness. Journal of Community Psychology. 28:91-102.
Corrigan, PW. 2002. Empowerment and serious mental illness: Treatment partnerships and community opportunities. Psychiatric Quarterly. 73:217-228.
Corrigan PW, et al. 2010. Self-stigma and comming out about one’s mental illness. Journal of Community Psychology. 38:259-275.