Tag Archives: mental health

The Changing Health Disparities Landscape

An opportunity for hope?
By William B. Lawson MD, PhD, DLFAPA

I am old enough and fortunate enough to see and appreciate the changes that have occurred over the past half century in the health care system, especially regarding mental health. I still vividly remember visiting a state mental hospital where a great uncle spent much of his life. The building had all of the negative aspects of an institution including limited resources and communal showers. But then chlorpromazine (thorazine), a drug used for treating certain mood disorders, was invented and he was able to spend the rest of his days at home with his family. Fast-forward several decades, when I began my career as a psychiatrist, I was part of a team that completed a study with clozapine, the first antipsychotic that was demonstrably superior to others.  Again, I saw the wonders of medical technology as people with severe mental illness once relegated to back wards in chronic institutions were able to engage in meaningful relationships and live productive lives. Relative to the rest of medicine, treatment of the mentally ill is relatively young and the wonders of new advances and treatment long seen in antibiotic therapy and cancer treatment are still emerging in psychiatry.

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What Is Healing?

Dr. Joseph Gone discusses indigenous healing practices in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley and Clare Callahan

As an illness, cancer preserves its fundamental characteristics in spite of how cancer patients and the broader population feel about or define the illness. Cancer, in other words, is an indifferent phenomenon to the extent that how it operates is immune to the meanings one assigns to it. By contrast, an illness such as multiple personality disorder interacts with the human narratives told about it. For example, prior to approximately 1950, there were only 50 cases of multiple personality disorder in the history of medicine. In the 1990s, however, there were 50,000 cases documented in America and elsewhere. This sharp increase in the number of documented cases was arguably due to media documentation of multiple personality disorder in films such as The Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Sybil (1976). The depiction of the illness in the media, as well as the discovery of battered-child syndrome in the 1960s, created the conditions for the expression and diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. Depression may similarly interact with the narratives that are told about depression.

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