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Mental health: the invisible illness

By Karina Cashman

Staff Writer

There seems to be a debate regarding the validity or significance of mental health issues in our society, and a big question posed seems to ask whether or not we can truly believe an individual’s honesty on the mental health symptoms they claim to have. The answer is a simple yes.

I’m not saying we should be running around playing doctor, and we can never truly rely on self-diagnosis, but the fact of the matter is when someone experiences a handful of symptoms and they have a strong sense that something is wrong  with their mind – or it is not working in the way that it’s supposed to – it is likely time for some professional help.

Unfortunately, there seems to be certain professionals in the medical field who are unwilling to explore worries regarding mental health, even when their careers are founded on finding legitimate symptoms through medical research. They often disregard research that a patient may have done on their own, and in certain cases, this can lead to refusal for diagnosis, even in the case that mental health issues are there.

Let’s say that you are experiencing multiple symptoms and you worry that something about your brain isn’t functioning correctly. You go to trusted medical sources for research, whether through your school or external health sources available from hospitals or other organizations. Multiple resources all give you consistent answers across the board, and they may all point to the same disorder(s). Most importantly, every symptom you experience is something that is genuinely impacting your life negatively.  

In this case, then it’s safe to say your concerns aren’t completely without foundation. You’d next want to get a professional’s opinion (which let me note that I am not discrediting), so you reach out to your local psychiatric professional and share your concerns. You tell of the symptoms, the results, your fears and daily struggles, and how it all is making everyday functioning harder and harder.

After all this, you get told that you’re wrong or that what you’re feeling doesn’t exist. That can truly be a crushing thing to hear after you were just so sure of how you feel.

Mental illness often goes undetected for one simple and obvious reason – you can’t see it. There’s a troubling trend where patients often go undiagnosed, which in turn results in the symptoms and problems growing until they get worse; until they get to a point in which they cannot be ignored any longer.

We need to take all medical concerns seriously, especially the ones out of view. I’m not saying to go trigger-happy in diagnosing every patient that walks into a doctor’s office, but when symptoms are showing a consistent pattern or when things have reached a point in which the patient feels debilitated and unacknowledged, then there is clearly something intrinsically wrong with our medical system.

We need to step up how we treat mental illnesses, or we may risk losing those who suffer from them all together.

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