Vulnerable Populations: the Mentally Ill

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Vulnerable Populations

Lisa M Buschur

HCS/531

Feb 2012

Dr. Deb S. Sandberg

"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all." * Bill Clinton

Vulnerable Populations
Emotional and cognitive well-being are phrases used to describe mental health. Positive coping mechanisms and an assessment of suicide lethality are assessments providers consider when identifying a psychiatric patient. Those that suffer from mental health disorders are every- where, they are our neighbors, friends, family members, and our patients. When someone can no longer cope with stress is usually when some type of intervention is sought or furnished. This fractured mental state is very fragile and has great potential to deteriorate quickly and possibly violently. It is in this exposed state this population finds themselves, vulnerable. Population Demographics

Mental health disorders can affect anyone at any given time in any age group or demographic. Disabilities can range from mild to the most severe and characteristically, run the gamut. Centuries ago, there was a stigma with mental health where imprisonment was thought to be the logical solution. Nineteenth century insane asylums held the promise of compassionate rehabilitation; unfortunately, lapses in funding prohibited this dream from becoming a reality (“Kirkbride Buildings”, 2001-2012). Dr. Kirkbride, advocate of the tenets of Moral Treatment, foresaw a treatment facility that was idealistic in grandeur and architecture where he hoped to create a place of healing for the mentally ill. With plenty of fresh air and open spaces, “these asylums replaced cruder methods of coping with the mentally ill, such as confining them to prisons or poorhouses where they were often abused and their special needs were rarely met” (“Kirkbride Buildings”, 2001-2012). Sadly, his humanitarian movement was thwarted by over-crowding and under-funding; leaving these beautiful buildings and altruistic ideals subject to the elements and deteriorating morals of how to treat this special population. Many movies have been made regarding the occupants of these haunting facilities; in which we see children, men and women of all ages. Mental illness doesn’t see a poverty line, age group or education level. It can lay dormant waiting for an opportunity to expose itself or can manifest at an early age where commitment to a then facility, or now, program holds the promise of a better life. Why is the Psychiatric Population Vulnerable

The psychiatric population is vulnerable for several reasons. Historically, they have been vulnerable as they were made into science experiments where physicians attempted barbaric methods like frontal lobe lobotomy and the controversial electroconvulsive therapy, better known as ECT. Though patients now still suffer from chronic assertions of providers to know what’s best for them, this population doesn’t seem to have many advocates in the national arena. In an article by Schomerus, Matschinger, and Angermeyer (2006), they conducted a survey where they examined where the public preferred to see spending cut. “Participants were presented with a list of nine medical and mental diseases including alcoholism, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, rheumatism and AIDS and were asked to name three conditions where they would prefer to see health-care resources cut” (p.369). Sadly, their conclusion was that most participants were willing to cut funding for psychiatric illness. The authors state (2006), “Mental diseases evoked a far greater desire for social distance than most medical diseases which had considerable influence on resource allocation” (Schomerus, Matschinger, & Angermeyer, p.369). So it would seem even though insane asylums are a thing of the past where mental health patients were truly out of sight out of mind, society has kept them imprisoned by their willingness to cut spending thus perpetuating the...
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