Reimagining Mental Health Care

“Our mental health care system is failing!”  How often have we heard this cry after the suicide death of a yet another person who did not receive the care they so desperately needed in order to live.  Tragic, angry and heartbroken – we feel the ripple effect through our communities over and over again.  Yet nothing ever seems to change.

Cracks in the System

When we hear of these failures, our natural instinct is to look for the source of blame or the fracture in the system that caused this tragedy to occur.   I truly wish it was as easy as locating the exact spot where the system that broke down in order to make the repair, but the truth is – in my opinion at least – that mental health care requires a completely different focus than physical health care.  We just can’t continue to model mental health care after the physical health care system.

Physical Health Care Begins

Our physical health care system certainly isn’t perfect, but it generally works within the system that it was designed to meet.  Most of us are brought into the world with a team of doctors or nurses that swiftly evaluate our physical health from the moment we are born.  As we grow from childhood into adult, we have a collective understanding of what constitutes good physical health and can usually access routine or emergency medical intervention as necessary.  Sometimes our ailments can be fixed quickly, while others may be permanent or require a longer treatment approach.  But with physical health, the system is more expansively created into departments, clinics and specialities so we can more easily navigate where we will get our needs met.

Mental Health Care Begins In Childhood

Wouldn’t it be nice to image a mental health system that started at birth? Where babies and families were screened and supported as routinely as their childhood vaccination schedule.  Early childhood has a profound and lasting impact on how we navigate the world throughout our lifetime.  Attachment and bonding – a concept not as routinely known about by the general public – has a significant impact on a child’s ability to navigate stress and challenges as they age into an adult.  It is imperative that children and families have consistent and preventative care to protect their mental health and wellbeing.  This doesn’t just happen in a medical doctor’s office – this happens in our homes, our schools, our communities and our recreational facilities.  This is where we can all have the greatest impact in supporting children in recognizing the importance of caring for their mental wellness.

The Spectrum of Mental Wellness

Of course, like physical health, there are many factors that will influence the mental health of children and adults across their lifespan.  Our mental health will naturally fluctuate in response to our experiences and our responses to these experiences will naturally reflect our mental health.  Easily understood, right? These processes are also not visible to the naked eye nor can they be seen on a scan or an x-ray and they are very unique to the individual experiencing them. Working within our mental health system requires time, patience and understanding. A far cry from the hustle and bustle of the busy physical health care system that is the backdrop of popular television dramas and a reality for our medical care providers.

Hope For Healing

So how do we heal from the pain or trauma that we are experiencing?More importantly, how do we help people that we love who are hurting?  It’s a complex question because I don’t know that one answer truly exists but a couple of ideas to consider.

  1. People experiencing a mental health crisis aren’t looking for a quick fix for their problems.  They are looking for a quick fix for their pain.  When pain is met with compassion and validation, it can begin to subside.  
  2. We can all do better in our understanding that emotional pain looks very different than physical pain.  The person may or may not even be aware that they are in pain. It may not look like pain at all, it might look like irritability, anger, aggression, isolation, ignorance – the point is, we need to be able to not only offer hope to those who cry but also to all those who hurt.
  3. Mental health impacts all of us, not just those with a known mental illness.  We tend to have a false belief that we need more mental health care for “the other people”, the ones who are really sick or in dire need of services.  This is a dangerous myth as is creates that idea that some of us are stronger or more invincible. Our mental health is something that will fluctuate.  We will all find ourselves in need of mental health care at some time or another.  

Steps Forward

If you need support or direction, please reach out to us hello@risingtidesnb.com.  We created our centre to give people a place of hope for healing and it is our desire that everyone will be able to access the care that they need to recover. 

There are many places to reach out for help but unlike primary physical care, it’s not always easy to know where to start.  Most of us will be able to clearly articulate why we are going a doctor about a physical health concern, but it’s much less easy to put into words when our mental or emotional health is suffering.