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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Thursday, September 12, 2002

    Hubristic Psyche: The arrogance of the mental health profession was on full display in yesterday’s New York Times. In the days after September 11, 2001, many of them rushed to the scene to offer their services for “emergency counseling,” but found few takers:

    In the 48 hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the phones at Lifenet, the 24-hour referral hot line run by the Mental Health Association of New York, were unusually quiet.

    ...Yet as many trauma experts had also predicted, in the early days of the crisis, psychiatric emergency rooms and clinics remained largely unused, and volunteers found themselves with little to do.

    And most telling:

    ... But in some cases, counseling was pushed rather than offered. And there was no good way for the public to tell what would be helpful and what would not.

    You don’t have to be trained in traumatic psychology to know what to do with someone in the immediate aftermath of a trauma. You only have to be human. You listen, you hold a hand, give a hug, a cup of coffee, share a tear, offer a tissue, whatever the moment calls for. And the "public" doesn't need mental health professionals to tell them what they need. Distress is not pathology. It can't be talked away in the immediate aftermath of a devastating event. It’s about time for the mental health profession to get down from their high horse and join the rest of humanity. They act as if they’re an association of demi-gods who hold the keys to happiness, when in fact they are the the largest collection of asses to be found. They may have convinced themselves that they were all rushing down there to help others, but the truth is they were rushing down there to help themselves. It was their way of dealing with their psychic trauma.

    Meanwhile, surveys have shown that the incidence of major psychiatric illnesses, even among those most affected by the attacks, are smaller than expected. Experience apparently bears this research out:

    Therapists in private practice report little increase in their patient loads. The New York Academy of Medicine researchers found only a very slight bump in the number of New Yorkers who reported having seen a mental health professional — from 16.9 percent before the attacks to 19.4 percent five to eight weeks afterward. People with post-traumatic stress disorder or depression were more likely to have increased their use of mental health services, the survey found.

    "But the increase was not clinically significant," said Dr. Joseph A. Boscarino, a senior scientist at the academy. "We expected higher use rates."

    Yet the mental health professionals still insist on their own importance in times of national crisis:

    Because of this, disaster experts argue, mental health — both in the broadest sense of comforting anxious citizens and in its narrower definition of treating psychiatric casualties — must play a central role in the government's planning.

    First things first. The central role in the government’s planning for disasters should be insuring physical well-being: treating the wounded, and providing clean water, food, and shelter. The counseling can come later for those who need it and want it. You can't heal the soul while the body's still sick and miserable, or worse, dead.

    posted by Sydney on 9/12/2002 07:33:00 AM 0 comments


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