Mark: Disappointment with the Mental Healthcare System

Mark experienced discouragement with the healthcare system. When stress led to physical symptoms, his long-time family doctor told him that there was nothing he could do for him. In response, Mark felt “white hot with rage” and was astonished by the lack of care and compassion from his doctor.

He believes mental healthcare for his father has been subpar. He described Gene as being “drugged up like a pharmacy” and having to bide his time in state hospitals that felt like jail. At one point, Mark and his mother were blamed by hospital staff because of things Gene said about them. Mark has seen no improvement in his father over the years, since he continues to do the same things he did when he was first hospitalized.

Early on I realized that doctors and mental health professionals had their flaws. You kind of put some of these people on a pedestal. . . Everybody’s human. A lot of people in this profession fail at even basic compassion.

During his childhood, Mark wished he would have had attention from healthcare professionals.

Somebody to talk to that didn’t judge you because even family. If I talked to my mom about it, it was pretty hard for her to know what my emotions were because she had never been through something like that personally, other than being married to Gene. As a kid, I internalized a lot and thought maybe something was wrong with me. Then I didn’t know any better. Just somebody to talk to I think was the biggest part—to know your feelings are justified and you can have them and it doesn’t mean you did anything good or bad.

Mark acknowledged that in the present day, children may get support in school but when he was a child, there was no one to turn to. He believes mental health staff could be more supportive to families through expressing compassion for the family members of people who live with mental illness.

Maybe they can’t do it, but to put themselves in your shoes. To know that it’s traumatic, even physically; being at a mental health hospital or facility is someplace you don’t really want to be. . . Even when they ask you questions, to think about your answers and not just write them down and say, okay, and just kind of brush you off.

He would like healthcare providers to recognize the effects stressful life situations, anxiety, and depression have on one’s body, leading to physical symptoms and illness.

More of the Story: Coping Strategies