Education about mental health and advancements in diagnostic assessment and treatment has come a long way. Every year in the United States, specific days and months are marked as important to bring the community together in raising awareness and helping friends, family members and co-workers in recognizing the symptoms, overcoming challenges and seeking support. Although we’re not out of the woods, still, a large portion of the society finds talking about mental health disorders a taboo and hence, threatening and uncomfortable.
The stigma accompanying mental health disorders does not only affect how people in general see mental health patients but also how the entire medical field is viewed by professionals and non-professionals alike. Psychiatry as defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is the “branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.” A psychiatrist is a medical doctor with special training in psychiatry “to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems”. One who is able to conduct therapies, prescribe medications, administer psychosocial interventions and other treatments. People are afraid to approach a psychiatrist or become quiet if someone takes their name. The profession is looked down upon by many and less respected than general science.
Though psychiatry is an established medical field in which people suffering from mental health disorders are treated through the incorporation of neuroscience and research, psychiatrists are often perceived as being unscientific, manipulative or lacking adequate skills to administer the right treatment. What this has resulted to is the decline of interest among medical students to join the field, despite an increasing demand for mental health services in recent years. In 2015, there were only 28,250 psychiatrists in America comprising 39 percent of all psychiatrists and 37 percent of the general population. There is a scarcity of trained professionals even in the five most populous states namely California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida.
The wide gap between demand and supply has led to increasing inaccessibility of mental health services and timely treatment, making the current situation even worse. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in five American adults suffer from a mental illness in a given year.
Among many attempts made to make mental health services more accessible, the idea of re-labeling the term ‘psychiatry’ in order to bring in a change in the perception of the general public as well as professionals in the medical field is a recent development. Taking examples from other parts of the world, there have been reports that changing the names of mental disorders have reduced stigma. Japan, for instance, renamed schizophrenia from ‘mind-split-disease’ to ‘integration disorder’ resulted in an increase in diagnosis percentage from 36.7 percent to nearly 70 percent in three years, a step that is being followed by other countries as well.
Some experts believe that changing the terminologies of not only the mental disorders, but the terminology used to refer to this field of medicine itself may help remove the stigma associated with it. Perhaps, the psychiatrists can be called as mental health professionals to make it easier for people suffering from mental disorders to approach them without any fear or doubt.
Mental health disorders can be overwhelming for the individual suffering from the condition as well as those closest to him or her. The symptoms can leave a negative impact on the social, physical and mental well-being of the sufferer. In extreme cases, the person may think of committing suicide. However, good news is that the society is slowly coming to terms with the issues of mental health and more holistic treatment options are available for speedy recovery.
The Arizona Mental Health Helpline is a good resource if you want to know more about mental health. If you know suffering from any mental condition, call us on our 24/7 helpline (866) 606-7791 or chat online with an expert to get information on the finest mental health treatment centers in Arizona or inpatient mental health treatment centers in Arizona.