The mental health system, despite all its complexity, can be described as a drainage hole for human suffering. Mostly, the pain that flows into it seeps into the groundwater, but occasionally it will reverse course and erupt into “normal” life as if from a geyser.
Reducing a wide collection of psycho-social phenomena into one generic mold of “human suffering” without committing a grave injustice to the diversity of voices within the “patient” community, voices that yearn to be differentiated and heard, is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, my experience has shown that a certain pattern or structure does underlie most interactions in the mental health system — often, the pain encountered in its bounds combines a type of Hurt, the conviction that something wrong and unjust has happened to me, with some kind of Silence, indicated by a paucity of language in the interpersonal space and in some cases, the actual inability to put one’s experience into words. These two features — Hurt and Silence — usually merge and become inseparable. Thus, in the interaction with the “consumer,” the mental health “professional” can either reinforce the foundation of Hurt and sentence the “consumer” to continued silence or, alternatively, work toward the disentangling of these two elements.
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