ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Reasons to Cooperate with Treatment

Jack Bragen
Friday March 01, 2019 - 11:54:00 AM

When a psychiatric consumer becomes "noncompliant" they face massive forces going against them. The "system" is designed to funnel those who are uncooperative into conservatorship, or worse. 

We have many reasons why we are better off initially cooperating with the system, and then going farther than that--using the resources of the system to make things better for ourselves. 

When someone becomes medication noncompliant, a relapse is very likely. This seems universal. In the past thirty-plus years of exposure to fellow psych patients in the mental health treatment systems, I haven't seen any exceptions; going off meds will cause a relapse. I am uncertain about why--I would think a small percentage would be able to get by without medication. 

In some instances, a relapse of severe psychiatric symptoms will carry life-threatening consequences. 

The consequences of stopping medication against medical advice sometimes includes incarceration. You don't want that. In other instances, the relapse causes you to become gravely disabled. In the latter case, a rehospitalization follows, and this is followed, one hopes, with a gradual recovery. A quick recovery probably won't happen unless you're in your early twenties or younger. 

I've seen cops take away people who have "decompensated." The cops are not always nice about it. Not to knock law enforcement people--they have helped me numerous times. Yet, when dealing with a mentally ill person whose behavior may not make any sense, often police are at a loss concerning how to be compassionate. 

In modern times, mentally ill people frequently end up in prisons and jails. They may inadvertently commit minor offenses. It might seem more convenient to just lock people away, rather than trying to help them deal with and solve their problems, and then help them reintegrate into society. 

Often, those in charge of running society are tempted to seek the easiest and most convenient method of dealing with a psychotic, manic, or suicidal person. This is sometimes to incarcerate the person, and in other instances, to commit her or him into a long-term, locked facility. 

The above are reasons that a mentally ill person needs to be cooperative. After you have that learned, it is helpful to find yourself a niche in society. I suggest that you do something you love. It doesn't necessarily matter whether you are very good at it; if you love a type of work, you should do that. When you pursue that sort of goal, and if some level of success at it has a chance of being realistic, it will have numerous good ramifications to many areas of your life. 

In my twenties, my pursuit was that of repairing home electronics. I also worked at other jobs. In most of the jobs that I obtained, I ended up quitting in a manner that was unprofessional. This netted bad ramifications, and a lot of people criticized that behavior. However, there were some jobs that I stuck with, and at the time, this helped my life circumstances. 

Cooperating with psychiatric treatment is something you can do even as you defy the label being thrust on you. 

Defying the concept that your intelligence is below normal, is another thing that you can do in your partial defiance. If you take your medication and accept other treatment that the system is mandating, you nonetheless have the basic freedom to value yourself and act accordingly. 

Because in my twenties, I worked at jobs for more than ten years even after being labeled as schizophrenic, I have Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and not just Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This allows me to get Medicare, which in turn allows me to accept treatment for physical and mental ailments, at a wider variety of places and not just at county-run facilities. 

When I was in my thirties, I finally gave up on conventional employment. I'd been taking heavy antipsychotics for a long time and decided that it was getting too difficult to be employed while maintaining this and other forms of treatment. 

Yet, my experience at working jobs, and my attitude of cooperation yet defiance, are things that stay with me, and that continue to help my quality of life be better than it would be otherwise. 

The mental health treatment system in conjunction with other mechanisms in society, and a psychiatric condition that necessitates treatment, are things we probably can't change. But we continue to have power over our own attitudes and actions. We don't have to accept the role of mentally ill idiot. We can do better. Being mentally ill, or being diagnosed as such, does not have to define us. 

Cooperating with the system is the biggest thing we can do to fight the system. When we cooperate, we maintain our basic liberty and maintain our faculties, this allows us to stand up for ourselves. This is something we would not be able to do if we were noncompliant and re-hospitalized on a repetitive basis. 

Jack Bragen's books can be found on Amazon.