October is mental health awareness month. To celebrate, I have the pleasure of introducing my first guest contributor! Anne Parent is an Eating Disorder therapist from the Detroit Area. She recently finished Bedlam: a Journey into America’s Mental Health Crisis by Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg and has some thoughts to share.
One in five Americans will experience a mental illness each year. Awareness, understanding, and destigmatization continue to grow in communities. October is Mental Health Awareness month (although, mental health cannot be talked about enough and should be a year-round topic). Bedlam is a journey into America’s mental health system through the eyes of a psychiatrist. Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg takes his readers from the history of asylums to the present-day crisis facing the country.
He approaches the topic from a personal view as well- his sister struggled with mental illness until her passing. Shame and stigma, topics often left out of books on mental illness, are hallmarks of his story. Dr. Rosenberg talks about why shame led him to hide the fact that his sister had a mental illness and is open about discussing the struggles families have in accepting reality.
There were aspects of the book that I admired and respected- Dr. Rosenberg’s personal self-disclosure and self-reflection, his practical advice for helping someone with a serious mental illness (SMI), and his reliance on facts to give the reader a sense of urgency. He also stayed relatively unbiased in his discussion of controversial legal and ethical questions.
However, his book ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he wanted to disassemble. He focused primarily on schizophrenia, a serious and life-threatening mental illness, yet still a generally uncommon one compared to depression and anxiety. While giving attention to psychotic disorders is not necessarily bad (these disorders are debilitating and the individuals who struggle with them deserve help), the book title made it seem as if the writing would address more disorders. Instead, mood disorders (also debilitating and costly to the individuals who have them) were largely left out of the discussion.
Stylistically, the book jumped around without a clear structure. Some chapters would mix personal, anecdotal stories with facts and left me confused about the message. The chapters were organized by themes, but those themes were loose and too flexible for the reader to clearly deduce what the points were. The specific audience to whom he was writing seemed unclear. Doctors? Therapists? Family members? I would have rather had a more tailored analysis of different parts of the mental health crisis. Perhaps diving into a clear history first, then moving on to where the crisis stands now.
Personally, I have worked in an inpatient psychiatric ward. I have experience with patients with psychotic disorders and understand how difficult it can be to find them the appropriate resources. Understanding where to go next with mental health treatment in America is a puzzle few will be able to solve on their own, but if we approach the issue with care, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the problem, a large-scale issue can be made approachable.
Instead, I offer these small, action-focused steps:
- Reach out to those you think are struggling and let them know you are there for them
- Volunteer or support a mental health cause you care about (NAMI, NEDA)
- Take time to do things that bring you joy
- Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders
- Speak out or write about issues in mental health treatment
ABOUT ANNE : I have a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology and am currently working as an Eating Disorder therapist in the metro Detroit area. Reading is my passion and I love delving into books covering mental health. The brain and the way we treat it is so fascinating to me!
If you have an interest in being a guest contributor, please send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org