Mental Health and Quality of Life – Pat Corrigan, Psychologist

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It’s so fascinating researching mental health and wellness. I came across research from Pat Corrigan et. al called, “The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care,” and there was this fascinating finding:

“…people with seemingly ‘less severe’ social anxiety disorders may experience a worse course than those with prototypical serious illness, like schizophrenia, because the fright and nervousness defining their anxiety prevents them from seeking the most demanding of jobs, thereby rendering them unable to live on their own. Some people with schizophrenia are able to live with recurring auditory hallucinations without distress, pursue a career and enjoy a full family life.”

This was truly fascinating to me. Could it be that most of us are not living our lives to the fullest due to low levels of social anxiety, fear and depression? And why do so many of us drop out of care after the first few visits to a mental health professional?

Who is Pat Corrigan?

Patrick Corrigan is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and a core faculty member in the Division of Counseling and Rehabilitation Science.

How Can Mental Illness Impact Your Daily Life?

Mental illness can impact different people in different ways, and the symptoms of mental illness can vary depending on the specific disorder. There are some common signs that mental illness may be getting in the way of your life, including the following:

  1. Interference with daily functioning: Mental illness can affect your ability to carry out daily tasks, such as going to work, attending school, or completing household chores. If you find it difficult to carry out these tasks or they take significantly longer than usual, it may be a sign that mental illness is affecting your life.
  2. Changes in mood or behavior: Mental illness can cause changes in your mood, behavior, or personality. You may feel more irritable, anxious, or depressed than usual, or you may engage in behaviors that are out of character for you.
  3. Difficulty maintaining relationships: Mental illness can also impact your ability to maintain relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. You may withdraw from social situations, have difficulty communicating with others, or experience conflict in your relationships.
  4. Physical symptoms: Mental illness can also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain. These symptoms may not have an underlying medical cause and can impact your ability to function normally.

Why Do People Drop out of Therapy?

There are many reasons why people drop out of therapy – and it varies along gender and ethnicity lines as well.

  1. Unmet expectations: People may enter therapy with expectations that may not be met. For example, they may expect a quick fix to their problems or may not have realistic expectations of what therapy can achieve. If they don’t see immediate progress, they may become frustrated and drop out.
  2. Stigma or shame: Despite increased awareness and understanding of mental health, there is still a stigma attached to seeking help for mental health issues. People may feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help and drop out of therapy due to feelings of discomfort.
  3. Cost and logistics: Therapy can be expensive and may require a significant time commitment. People may drop out of therapy due to financial or logistical challenges, such as difficulty finding a therapist who is covered by their insurance or difficulty scheduling appointments around work or other commitments.
  4. Lack of rapport with therapist: A strong therapeutic alliance between the client and therapist is important for the success of therapy. If the client does not feel a connection or rapport with their therapist, they may not feel comfortable opening up or may not feel that therapy is helpful.
  5. Feeling better: Sometimes, people may drop out of therapy because they start to feel better and believe they no longer need treatment. While feeling better is a positive sign, it’s important to continue therapy to work on underlying issues and to prevent future relapse.
  6. Lack of motivation or commitment: Therapy requires a commitment to the process and can be challenging at times. Some people may lack the motivation or commitment to continue with therapy and may drop out as a result.

Why Do Men Drop out of Therapy?

  1. Stigma: Men may feel that seeking therapy is a sign of weakness or that it goes against traditional masculine norms, which prioritize emotional stoicism and self-sufficiency. This can create feelings of shame or embarrassment and may prevent men from seeking or continuing therapy.
  2. Cultural barriers: Cultural expectations and norms can also play a role in men’s reluctance to seek therapy. For example, some cultures may view therapy as a Western concept or may place more emphasis on traditional healing practices.
  3. Misconceptions about therapy: Men may have misconceptions about therapy and may not understand the benefits or the process. They may believe that therapy is only for people with severe mental illness or that therapy is not effective.

What Effects Does Stigma Have on Accessing Mental Health Care?

Pat’s research focuses heavily on stigma and accessing services.┬áHere are some factors:

  1. Shame and embarrassment: Stigma can create feelings of shame and embarrassment about seeking help for mental health concerns. People may worry about being seen as weak or flawed, which can prevent them from seeking support.
  2. Fear of judgment: People may also worry about being judged or stigmatized by others, including friends, family, coworkers, and healthcare providers. This fear can prevent people from seeking support or disclosing their mental health concerns.
  3. Discrimination: Stigma can also result in discrimination and mistreatment, which can have serious consequences for people with mental health concerns. Discrimination can take many forms, including in employment, housing, healthcare, and social settings.
  4. Lack of understanding: Stigma is often fueled by a lack of understanding or awareness about mental health issues. This can lead to misconceptions and stereotypes about people with mental health concerns, which can create barriers to accessing support.
  5. Limited access to care: Stigma can also result in limited access to mental health care, particularly in communities where mental health resources are scarce or stigmatized. This can make it difficult for people to seek support or find the care they need.

How Important is Legislation to Mental Health?

For Pat, Legislation plays a vital role, primarily in accessing care. Access is a major barrier especially for low income families. Other factors include the following:

  1. Insurance coverage: Legislation can require insurance companies to cover mental health care, including therapy, medications, and hospitalization. This can make mental health care more accessible and affordable for people with mental health concerns.
  2. Parity laws: Parity laws require that mental health benefits be provided on the same terms and conditions as medical and surgical benefits. This can help to reduce discrimination and increase access to care.
  3. Funding for mental health programs: Legislation can allocate funding for mental health programs, including research, prevention, and treatment initiatives. This can help to expand access to care and improve the quality of mental health services.
  4. Protection of rights: Legislation can protect the rights of people with mental health concerns, including the right to confidentiality, informed consent, and access to treatment. This can help to ensure that people receive the care they need without fear of discrimination or mistreatment.
  5. Addressing systemic issues: Legislation can address systemic issues that contribute to mental health disparities, such as poverty, unemployment, and discrimination. This can involve initiatives to promote economic and social justice, reduce discrimination, and address the social determinants of mental health.

Do Mental Health Professionals Need Cultural Competency?

After talking to Pat, cultural competency for mental health professionals play an increasingly important role. Perhaps someone will feel more comfortable opening up to someone of a specific gender, ethnicity or cultural background. That said, the art of listening and learning from someone is still as important than ever before.