How to Navigate a Broken Mental Health Care System

Jordan Brown

I'm not trying to scare you with this subject line.

I'm pointing out something that has become more and more apparent to me in the 9+ years I've been a mental health advocate.

Fancy mental health tools and strategies don't matter if they don't meet people where they are.

At any given time, there are massive amounts of people who are just trying to make it through the day.

What about tools for them?

What about strategies and tactics that help them?

How do we go about finding that?

That is what we'll discuss in this issue.

Broken Mental Health Care - A Dose of Uncomfortable Reality

When I was at my most desperate during my worst depressive episode back in 2015, I didn't need a fancy strategy or sage words of advice from a therapist.

I just needed help.

I needed someone to listen to me--to believe me.

I desperately searched for something that would help me sleep again, to help me get through just one more day.

And all the procedures, protocols, tactics that providers threw at me didn't even come close to addressing the core issues of my problems.

Eventually, I decided to go to the emergency room, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's quite possible that making that decision saved my life.

Now, why am I telling you this?

I'm sharing this story with you because so much of the mental health system is self-serving.

Providers get degrees so they can fulfill their life plan of going into private practice to make good amounts of money while having a convenient schedule.

Schools operate like businesses because they are businesses. They churn out students without even teaching them about the most important aspects of mental health care: the mental health care they need to do first with themselves.

Of course, not everything is this way. Not everything is bad.

But something I've noticed over and over (and over) is that mental health treatment is frequently inaccessible and illogical for the people who are trying to find it.

There has to be a different way.

After all these years, I'm figuring out what that is.

What We Need for a Complete Mental Health Care System

First, this is what we don't need:

  1. Flooding systems with quick fixes when the systems are broken in the first place
  2. Having future therapists go to school only to end up in massive debt so that they are essentially forced to go into private practice if they ever want to make a decent living
  3. Inaccessible strategies and tactics that are grounded in advice-giving--and not timeless principles that can be adapted to address a wide variety of situation

So here is what I propose for you to find the mental health care that is right for you

If you're struggling, it's OK to acknowledge that you are struggling.

I can't tell you how many times I had health care providers minimize my feelings and tell me that it really wasn't as bad as I was making it out to be.

If you need basic help, it's OK to acknowledge that you need basic help.

Seeking basic assistance doesn't mean that you are broken. It doesn't mean that you aren't as smart as someone else. It's just a fact. It's your reality. The only way to get the help you need is to own your reality and share it with the world.

Finally, trust yourself.

There are entire systems based on the idea that you don't know what you're talking about. There are systems that base their credibility on being the experts and wielding that authority over others.

But you know what?

You're the expert on your own life. You know more than anyone else alive on that subject.

So trust yourself. Hone your intuition.

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Going with my gut is what ultimately kept me alive.

If I can leave you with anything today, it's that you and your experiences are critically important parts of the equation.

When you're selecting strategies to use, when you're working with health care providers, don't leave yourself at the door.

Bring your full self to your interactions whenever you're searching for answers.

It's not only helpful for developing great mental health--it's absolutely necessary.