When my son, Ben, finally began treatment for mental illness, I kept careful notes on all the symptoms I saw between appointments. At best, Ben would see his therapist and/or psychiatrist for 1 hour a week and was often able to hold it together for that one hour in a much better way than he’d been able to do all week with us. So I made an effort to fax these notes to the provider the day before the appointment.
Some read it. Most did not, citing “no time” as the reason.
Really? What kind of session can you have if you don’t have all the facts? Families know. They know a lot.
Many Mental Health Providers Shut Loved Ones Out of the Treatment and Recovery Process
To this day, the amount of family involvement “allowed” varies greatly, and
I find that a number of providers are so scared of the “privacy laws” that they don’t realize that they are allowed to do things like receive info from the family or share general facts about the diagnosed or suspected mental illness.
Why? Because families are part of the solution – or they can be, if the blaming stops. Mental Health Providers: by the time you meet the families, they may already be at the end of their respective ropes.
We want to be heard. We want facts. We want realistic hope. And please – tell us how we can help.
Families like ours who have been to NAMI, read books, visit HealthyPlace to share and learn about mental health can be especially priceless allies in the treatment plan. Please don’t push us aside. If you have no time for us, tell us where we can go for information on mental illness and let us know how we can best help our loved one as well as ourselves.
Right now, with Ben’s recent relapse still fresh in our minds, we are taking more charge of his life than we would like to – and that’s because the option (independent living with close to no program of support services) is so frightening to us. So Ben spends time at his apartment and “visits” us a lot. Which means, for now, that we supervise his psychiatric medications, drive him to work and school, and make sure he gets to his NA meetings. I trust us. It’s working well. But the goal here is eventual supported independence and we are still aiming towards that goal. Meanwhile, his providers are including me in decisions (I am conservator, so that makes the privacy thing easier). They can see the value for now. And – oh yeah – they still get paid for “supervising” – as we still wait for food stamps and other benefits to get straightened out.
Most families do not have – or want – degrees in social work. Still, we have learned a lot and we certainly know our loved ones and how they behave the other six days and 23 hours of the week. Mental Health Providers: please listen to us and include the information we have in your treatment plan. Let’s work together, whenever possible, toward the goals we all agree upon.