In the interest of full disclosure, my daughter-in-law is in her third year of residency in psychiatry. She quips it is so she can better understand herself. And I felt that for us to have meaningful conversations I’d better update my knowledge of the “best practices” in the field since the days of half a century ago when locking up “the outliers” in societal terms at the state run “funny farm” a la “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with the “beloved” Nurse Ratched was considered “best practice.”
The subject quote is an assessment of one individual in this documentary. In mental health today it is as though we are still at the stage of using leeches to drain the “bad blood” out of a patient, as was once practiced in medicine. One interesting statistic that I have personally experienced has been the tremendous strides made in the treatment of leukemia. In the 1960’s, per the documentary, the cure rate was only 5% (which I believe is a bit low), and today it is now 85%. In terms of individuals with mental health issues, very little progress has been made.
Josh Sabey directed this documentary which was released in 2017. It features Andrew Solomon and Cindy Bulik. A one-hour plus documentary can barely scratch the surface of the world of the mentally ill. Anorexia is one of many mental health issues – certainly one I do not understand at all, and have had no personal experience with. Sabey frames this documentary with the story of Erin, whose mother, as so many do, remembers her as a “wonderful little girl.” Erin was admitted to the hospital 10 times for this illness; at the end of the documentary it is noted in the epilogue section that she died at the age of 28, weighing 70 lbs. Alas, there was virtually no insight provided as to why she had anorexia.
Sabey takes a rather jaundiced view – appropriately in my opinion – of the mainly for-profit 13,000 mental health rehab centers in the United States. The emphasis is on the marketing people and not licensed clinicians. Indeed, many have no license at all, not even a college degree and there is little or no training. The documentary mentioned that many of them follow the “12-step rule,” but never explained what that is! It is stated that mental health treatments use an inverted standard to that adhered to in the medical/pharmaceutical area. Treatments can be provided until they are proven dangerous. The documentary advocated overcoming personal bias and providing evidence-based medicine (which seems like a no-brainer, but as we see in the headlines, in regards to COVID, the “evidence” is often only so much wishful thinking).
Parents and their troubled children is another area of focus. There are the kids blaming the parents with the perennial “If you had done things differently, then things would have turned out otherwise.” Hum! Should the parents be involved in the child’s treatment? To me, as one of the parents in the documentary indicated, it is obvious they should. But that remains a major bone of contention in the field. Another parent succinctly expressed a common fear, when their troubled child leaves at the age of 18: “they will be in the news.”
A reasonable sampling of issues in the mental health field and now my conversations with my daughter-in-law might be a bit better informed. 4-stars.