Working with people suffering from mental illnesses is a complex and challenging task.
As a result, mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists and medical doctors in the field undergo relevant training that qualifies them to work with the population.
Generally, in treating people with mental conditions, a holistic approach known as biopsychosocial model is applied. This term was coined by an American scholar in medicine and psychiatry, George L Engel. The notion behind the model is to understand human beings and their illnesses from a biological, psychological and social perspective, as these factors collectively contribute to the causality of illnesses in people.
Hence, individuals with mental conditions are likely to be treated with medication, therapy and social support to ensure they benefit from good health.
However, this is not the case for most people diagnosed with mental conditions. When people are treated as inpatients (hospitalised), they are guaranteed biomedical psychological, social interventions based on their diagnosis and problems at the time. Although this treatment approach includes outpatients, often times this population does not benefit from the holistic treatment, mainly because of poor social support systems specifically, lack of family involvement and care.
Family support is instrumental in maintaining good health for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Families need to know, understand and take responsibility in ensuring that their relatives with mental illnesses take their medication on time, and return for their follow-up appointments as scheduled with respective professionals. Because when this process is not facilitated at home level, non-adherence to medication becomes an issue, which inadvertently affects the good health of the individuals, causing the worsening of the condition. It’s worthwhile to mention that some mental conditions have high non-compliance due to the nature of the illness, however, the majority of the conditions are manageable with a good support system.
As mentioned, managing individuals with mental conditions is challenging, more so for the untrained family members. However, help is available from mental health professionals. Make it your responsibility when you accompany your relatives for their visits to consult with the respective professionals and ask questions about the diagnosis, treatment and care of your loved ones. Because a good prognosis is a collective effort from health professionals, families and the people with mental illnesses.
Justine /Oaes (Clinical Psychologist Intern)