In my work as a physician, one thing that has always bothered me is the patient with "neuropathic pain". Here is the typical scenario: A patient with a history of chronic pain (usually back pain) and pain medication use comes to the hospital for surgery. Post operatively, the patient's pain is poorly controlled, despite administration of high doses of morphine derivatives.
Are you reading this at work during your lunch break? Has anyone come into the lunchroom to tell you about the cold they had lately, or their children's chicken pox, or their aging father's hip replacement? I bet this happens quite a bit. Just about everyone talks about these maladies, small and large, fleeting or chronic. When's the last time you tossed a "How ya doin'?" at a co-worker, and instead of talking about that flu that just doesn't seem to go away, she mentioned casually, "Ah, well, I'm going through another depression, don't you just hate that?"
In recent decades, societal conceptions of mental health and mental illness have evolved significantly. Compared to prevailing attitudes of the early 1900's, the general public and scientific community alike have become much more aware and knowledgeable of mental illness: its causes, severity, prevalence and treatments . With increased basic and clinical research into the fields of mind, brain and behavior, more effective and accessible treatments for all types of disorders may soon be realized. However, all the efforts and successes of the scientific community are critically undermined by the presence of a persistent, widespread societal stigma against mental illness.
Every year in the United States, approximately 44 million people are diagnosed with a mental disorder. Of those diagnosed, roughly 19 million suffer from depression and 4 million others suffer from some form of generalized anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, not everyone with a mental disorder seeks treatment. Of those who do, nearly 40% do not complete their prescribed treatment. The most common reason cited for the failure to seek treatment is the stigma associated with mental health. In general, Americans have the inaccurate perception that individuals who suffer from a mental health disorder are dangerous, freaks, loonies, deviants, neurotics or psychotics.
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