When I was working, I called it the Curse of the Capable: how the need for help and support by people who appeared capable went unfilled. Now, I call it the Curse of the Capable Sufferer: those deemed to have a high capacity for suffering are left to get on with it, unsupported.
Because I’m deemed capable of suffering without “doing something stupid” – in other words, something physical – I’m left to get on with it on my own. Someone somewhere has made a deliberate calculation that my suffering is mere suffering and will not result in physical harm – hence, not a priority. Another example – if another were needed – of how mental health services treat mental distress only if it presents as a physical problem.
It’s cruel to abandon people to their suffering, to leave people to go on, to struggle from day to day, from coping mechanism to coping mechanism, one day more, second by second. It’s a waste of a life to merely exist, to get through a day, to live to only suffer some more. It’s cruel to abandon people to suffer on and on.
Sometimes I wonder how psychiatric staff can get through their day, find value in their work, sleep at night, knowing they are leaving people to suffer. I wonder what it’s like to train for years to help people and then, when you qualify, to find you cannot help people since there are no resources. I wonder what it’s like to train for years to help people, to know you could make a positive difference to people’s lives, and to then not do so. I wonder what it’s like to come into work knowing that, today, as yesterday and the day before and the day before that, your decisions will be condemning people to needless suffering that interventions could alleviate. I wonder what it feels to do that calculation that says: this person is capable of doing a lot of suffering, so let’s leave them to suffer. Perhaps it’s part of the training: to view mental distress in terms of physical health, to treat with physical measures: drugs, containment.
I can tell you what it feels like to be abandoned to get on with suffering: cruel, wasteful, twisted, grotesque, inhumane, disgusting, shit.
To offer me treatment only if I do something physical? That’s sick. That’s twisted. But the Curse of the Capable Sufferer condemns me to be left to suffer on. It makes me angry that people are making decisions that condemn me to suffer on alone – or make it physical. Treating mental distress only when there are physical consequences, and then treating it with physical means, seems barbaric.
There’s something warped, twisted & cruel in a mental health system that deliberately abandons people to suffer mental distress.
- My tweets on the subject (from which this post arose), together with the responses of other
- Related blog post: Mental health? Physical treatment (May 2014)