Friday, May 29, 2015

About Mental Health

Yesterday, I discussed triggering, and a bit about what it is.

Let me clarify. I am not a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or any kind of therapist. I have several friends both here and in Houston who are active with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I have not been involved, what I know is more from the "osmosis" of being around people who discuss these matters, and talking with friends who are familiar with various conditions.

I come from a military family. I know the stigma that mental health care can have, the resistance to admitting one is seeing a "shrink." As the daughter of an Air Force veteran, the sister of an Army war veteran, I follow the news articles about veterans, brain injuries, and mental health.

Here is a link to a 2014 RAND report on Mental Health Stigma in the Military. I read the abstract and downloaded the PDF, but I won't be able to read the full report tonight.

In some of my discussions with others about mental illness, it has been compared to physical illnesses. In particular, most people do not tell a diabetic to ignore or forget their insulin. Most people understand that insulin and medications are required for a diabetic to live a long and healthy life. Just so, a person with mental illness should see a mental health practitioner, and may need medication in order to live a long and healthy life.

Let's not get into the "big pharma" debates here today. Yes, the over-diagnosis and risk of stigmatizing normal behavior exists. Some people who are on medication might not require the medication. However, other people do need their medication to survive. Such medical decisions should be between the individual, their parents if a minor, and their health care provider.

In a similar way, asthmatics sometimes need their inhaler in order to breathe. You might know that allergens like cigarette smoke can trigger an asthma attack. Emotions, such as anxiety, can also trigger an asthma attack.

In one of my Facebook comments to the "The New Republic" article, I mentioned exercise-induced asthma. A person with exercise-induced asthma may be encouraged pre-treat themselves with a "rescue inhaler" 20-30 minutes before their workout, in order to maintain breathing during the exertion. (Every person is different. Follow your doctor's prescriptions and advice for guidance on your particular situation.)

I compared trigger warnings and the self-care steps described yesterday to this preparation with a rescue inhaler. A person who has experienced trauma may be able to read triggering articles and/or literature if/when they are allowed to take appropriate self-care precautions. Just like pre-treating exercise-induced asthma in order to complete a workout.

So <soapbox = on> I don't want to hear any more comments like "wimp," "sissy," or "wussification of the United States" with regard to trigger warnings. Triggering an epileptic seizure is not funny. Triggering an anxiety-induced asthma attack is not funny. And ignoring people's needs to take precautions before reading certain traumatic materials is also not funny. <\soapbox>