What may have been lost and left out in discussions on mental health treatment has been the importance of “a quality of life” as a tool of mental health treatment. What I have become aware of is the need for consumers to live at a standard that is not separate from what he/she sees as preferred by most or anyone who is being treated by another person. There are core necessities and responsibilities that anyone who performs a service must be aware of. Care is a double-edged sword with one side that focuses on that treatment (clinical or otherwise) and the other side as the care for human life. The second side, the care side is often times ignored as lesser and as unimportant in regards to the treatment side. It has become commonplace that professionalism is assumed void of caring that expedites it with concerns of perfect treatments. As we use this double-edged sword of care, one side can exert painful consequences and the other is allowed to be indifferent to the subject or recipient of services. Bad treatment, “is also a knife” with two sides that can scar one’s life, whether it is a mistake done, or unintended malady of a system.
In mental health this has been an arsenal of confounded treatments i.e., care that was laced with good-bad intentions, whether it was subtle name-calling or the handcuffs to the beds that past consumers endured. There are still many inhumane treatments that most people would not agree are inhumane until it was them in a lock ward. But I regress! My assertion is that “a quality of life” is important to mental health care!
I understand that there have been many discussions on what treatment or no treatment should be. Most advocates for consumer rights have a key list of minimal requirements that the mental health system should adhere to. Among them is the advanced directive. I would like to look at what an advanced directive brings to light about treatment. In my understanding, the advanced directive suggests preferences for services, people, places, and things that a consumer wants in place to promote their quicker recovery. The choices that a consumer makes in advance tell those treating him/her what could upset them physically, emotionally, or problems with past medications that they took. It could be used by a treatment professional like a medical bracelet tells a doctor what a patient is allergic to, i.e., penicillin, peanuts, and etc. It is completed during a point when a consumer is in a preferred state of recovery, long before a crisis, hopefully. Secondly, the advanced directive can also tell the treating person (s) a lot about that consumer, as an individual; what he or she likes in music, food, recreation, and, of course, personal contact. Just because I would write on my advanced directive that I like steak may not mean I will get a steak dinner, but it will tell someone that I eat red meat. Of course, an advanced directive will not get me everything and all things that the mental health system has to offer, but you will understand more about what choices I would make if we do need to know. I strongly believe that we need to know!
If there is preferred treatment, then it suggests that there is a human element to our being. This person wishes something more than to be man-handled, but needs acknowledgement, fulfillment, and wants to participate in the show, he/she being the star. How and why we are not given “the star treatment?” Because there is a room full of stars and no one is better than the next. I cannot but wonder what would happen if everyone’s needs were fulfilled. What if I am the quiet one or the loudmouth one? What if there is a group, should I have to go? Nevertheless, a crisis situation is just that and any additional information could be helpful. So, can preferred or good treatment have value on an everyday basis? Will it mean that a consumer will be ready for discharge sooner or even that their behavior will be better? There are no guarantees, just like there is no magic pill that rids us all of an illness. We may have to return to the lab until we come up with the next miracle drug. But, in the meantime, I still have a human agenda, yes “Agenda,” that I must see to everyday. First on my list is to have a good day, where I eat, drink, care about others and care for myself. If I do not get that much out of a day, then, I am one day behind. Just like when I run out of medication it is a matter of time before I notice it or worse, you may know it. Do I have to lose my mind and my life at the same time? It is backward thinking that the two go hand in hand, and hand in glove.
What is quality of life? In the simplest form, it is what you and I both want and need. What do consumers want? What everybody wants. If you are a human being, you know what quality of life is. Does it mean eating McDonald’s food every day? I hope not, but you may want that. You could learn why that is not a good diet for an average person on a daily basis or what is a good diet or what would be a reasonable alternative to that. Quality means good! If you are going to force treatments on someone at least give them good alternatives! Quality is about respect and considerations. I could go on forever like this, but I do not want to burden those who immediately think that the quality of life for consumers means more work for them. Quality means empowerment and participation in the process. Lastly, quality of life gives us back our own responsibilities and dignity before it is taken away by an intolerant society that can give value to the oppression of people in need. Our real quality in life must begin with when we maintain value for any human condition.
Dedicated to the memory of Rick Sostchen, Executive Director of Baltic Street, Advocacy, Employment, and Housing in Brooklyn, New York. In all his goodness, HE WILL BE MISSED!