Currently the American Psychiatric Association is in the process of classifying grief as an illness. I wonder if grief isn’t essential to being human My own journey through the mental health system may shed some light on how it sees Christianity as a barrier to mental health and how that system seems to have lost sight of the welfare of those it is treating. I invite your comments on this posting. Please let me know your own experiences.
After my husband took his own life I resumed therapy with a trusted therapist. He was extremely helpful in the beginning. He was supportive of my grief and helped me with my fears that I had neglected to see the signs of my husbands decline. I worked with him for over a year. In addition to the grief over my husband’s suicide I was dealing with the loss of my Christian faith which became a frequent topic of therapy. I often expressed to my therapist that I was grieving for God more than I was for my husband. My therapist failed to pick up the signal that the loss of faith was a major reason for my depression. I don’t know if his failure was due to incompetence or simply if he saw this as a chance to enlighten me with his view which was secular and saw meaning as relative.
I believe that though I was questioning my faith even before I met with this therapist, it might have been a simple step back to faith had I been encouraged to look at my doubts without relativist preconceptions. I might have avoided a mental breakdown. Instead I became suicidal. I was definitely planning to commit suicide at that time.
At this point the story becomes Kafkaesque. My therapist called the police and reported that I was suicidal. A Swat Team arrived at the house. Though I made no attempt on my life the police forced me to go to the hospital for evaluation. When I arrived there, I called my therapist as he had asked me to do and which I assumed was out of concern for my welfare. Instead he arranged with the head psychiatrist to force me to admit myself. The nurse who had evaluated my mental state was ready to release me. Instead I was admitted to the hospital involuntarily. Later when I met with the psychiatrist he told me he was going to put me away in a state hospital for a month which was the maximum amount of time for an involuntarily admission. He then told me I wasn’t going to like it. He was definitely angry with me. I believe this stemmed from what my therapist had told him.
Eventually I was able to get released on condition of out-patient treatment. My therapist told the hospital that he would no longer treat me. When the hospital released me I was without any support. I had appointments with an unknown psychiatrist for medication and a social worker for therapy. Both proved incompetent. When I called my original therapist, he refused to talk to me until I had another therapist so that he would no longer be responsible for my care. Then he would only say that he didn’t want to see me further. When I asked for referrals to proficient therapists he gave me a list out of a directory most of whom didn’t take my health insurance or were not taking new patients. He made no effort to help me find genuine help.
This experience was worse for me than my husband’s suicide. The loss and humiliation left me feeling helpless. The disillusion at the hands of my therapist was devastating. At least my husbands desertion was because of illness.