We need to better understand the behavioral health issues of others
Our state has a behavioral health crisis and it’s not going away. It is estimated that more than 53% of Massachusetts residents, or one in three members of our community, experience behavioral health issues. This includes children, teens, adults, seniors and veterans.
They represent all levels of income and education, profession and occupation. No one is immune to this medical condition, often caused by trauma, chemical imbalance, hereditary, or the daily challenges we face. Those with behavioral health issues are not bad people who willfully and knowingly work every day to aggravate those they encounter. They have a real medical condition that deserves our respect, understanding and support rather than making fun of them, putting them down or castigating them for their behavior.
I remember talking to a Marine veteran in his late twenties who, after eight years in the Corps, came home with many medals for his heroism, including the Purple Heart. He continued to experience and manifest fits of rage and anger, sometimes when he least expected it. He was a real nice boy, a brave warrior who took care of those around him. Unfortunately, his behavior annoyed many of his friends, even though the Veterans Administration prescribed various drugs to stop his aggression. It was unfortunate that his friends didn’t really understand or respect the medical challenge he faced or the fact that he often had no control over his anger. He now has his problems under control, but not before damage is done to his personal and family relationships.
Currently, mental health clinicians are overwhelmed to help their current patients; new patients asking for appointments have to wait weeks or even months for help. Hospital emergency departments have seen an alarming increase in the number of people of all ages seeking urgent help. There are times when children are held in an emergency room for days while waiting for a proper mental health bed. To address the severity of this health crisis, Tufts Medicine plans to build a 144-bed behavioral hospital in Malden and a growing number of police departments are providing additional training for their officers on how to treat people in acute emotional distress. with mental health clinicians. partner with the agents on the scene.
People with behavioral health issues do not brag about their diagnosis nor are they proud of this behavioral problem, especially with the stigma that continues to attach to it. Many suffer in silence. Others act out with senseless and embarrassing actions and behaviors, while others are involuntarily committed to a medical facility for treatment.
Behavioral health issues have been around for decades, but have recently been brought to the forefront of media attention by the pandemic which has dramatically exacerbated emotional issues. From road rage, to anger displayed in retail stores and at hospital workers, to depression, senseless and inappropriate actions and mood swings, it all hits us head on.
We are now seeing employers and managers providing training to address behavioral issues that their employees are bringing back to the office after spending too much time working remotely. Schools and colleges are gearing up to help their students with mental wellness due to emotional issues related to the pandemic.
People with behavioral medical issues face a difficult road to correcting the problems of the mind. That’s why it’s important for each of us to better understand the behavioral health problems we see in others and to recognize that it’s a medical condition that the person with it wishes they didn’t have.
Billerica resident Rick Pozniak has spent 30 years in the health and risk communication field and has taught at several Massachusetts colleges, including Middlesex Community College.