Everyone talks about how important healthcare is while screaming about how expensive it is also. It is quite prohibitively expensive at least here in the United States. We can blame capitalism or conservatives all day long, and they are largely to blame, the truth is we absolutely have to operate within this broken system as it current exists. This becomes a challenge for those of us who don’t have the financial resources to overcome those hurdles.
Yet during all this we often skim over the mental health portion of the discussion. While it can be difficult, and expensive even, to obtain proper healthcare, at least we can get access to some basic medical needs relatively free simply by visiting the emergency room of your nearest hospital. The uninsured know they can go into an ER, receive treatment regardless of ability to pay and then face the negative consequences of having a medical bill they can’t afford to pay. However you can’t go into the ER and tell the doctor your depressed then expect them to give you proper treatment. At least not without first attempting to take your own life, which depending on the jurisdiction you are in could land you in deeper turmoil.
The fact we have at the surface a solution to provide basic medical care even to the uninsured, albeit an imperfect one, that dismisses entirely the needs to treat patients with mental health issues is a glaring flaw in our already overly flawed system.
The one thing you will find a lot of on the internet is self care guides for those who are seeking relief for their ailments. Home remedies and folk medicine have become a necessity for many Americans for the very fact we just can’t afford proper healthcare. Now we all know diet and exercise are often repeated as the keys to a health life. Yet the access to legitimate scientific information regarding what that looks like is blocked behind the worst paywall Capitalism has concocted. The trouble with folk medicine is what works for one person might not work for someone with an entirely different set of circumstances. Our bodies are all unique. Some people food allergies while others have medical conditions that might be triggered by certain, even healthy foods. This is why we need access to doctors who know our bodies health effects who can guide us to determining what a healthy diet and healthy exercise looks like for us as individuals. But again access to that information is locked for those who have money.
Going back to mental health for a second. We don’t have good folk medicine when it comes to mental health. The most common touted solution is do what you need to do. Take care of yourself is a close second. we have platitudes. We have people tout the benefits of therapy without getting into the hurdles many of us face obtaining good therapy. This is especially true for trans individuals. When we find a therapist often times our gender dysphoria can take front and center while our other issues can be put on the back burner. This leaves us stuck treating one issue while ignoring the others. But again we can’t get access to good, quality mental healthcare without access to insurance, or the money required to obtain insurance. Again even though insurance is somewhat accessible all things considered, finding an accessible plan that covers mental health is not always as easy.
While many of us find some comfort in folk remedies for physical discomfort such as the tried and true put ice on it or walk it off, what do we do with folk remedies for mental health issues? One of my previous therapists once told me often times our vices and bad habits are our own coping mechanisms we develop to handle the stress of life.
Again the issue with this is every brain is different. Telling a teenage boy who has anxiety and depression issues to grab some porn and go to town on himself might be a healthy piece of advice, if that male is cisgendered and comfortable with his sexuality. That same advice could cause extreme discomfort, anxiety and dysphoria if “he” is really a she being forced to live a lie due to societal and family pressures. Thus something often touted as a folk remedy for stress and anxiety for some could be the cause of stress and anxiety for others. But without proper access to mental health professionals to help us sift through the weeds of our minds to determine which solutions will offer us help from the ones that will only make things worse, well frankly is even more dangerous than going untreated. Those who google symptoms might come across a diagnosis that sounds good, claim they have it and seek support from others with said condition unaware they might have something else entirely.
I was officially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Social Anxiety, Severe depression and PTSD. Some of those issues are treated with medication. The medication wasn’t working for me because my healthcare provider didn’t have all the facts which leads me to the next issue, our transphobic healthcare system.
The fact I had to talk to a gender specialist to diagnose me with gender dysphoria is important. It tells me that it’s regarded as separate from my other issues. My most recent therapist said the GD wasn’t a cause of all my issues but without treating that attempts to treat other issues were futile.
However I have had plenty of doctors who saw I was female, assumed I was cisgendered and then proceeded to provide me healthcare advice based on that assumption. Once corrected that I am trans some doctors proclaim it doesn’t matter it’s all the same to oh that explains a lot then they alter their attempted treatment. I had this happen more than once. Again if you do some research or talk to cis women you quickly find out those prejudices about female bodies persists even within the medical community it reinforces the need to address those larger societal issues plaguing trans and cis women alike.
The problem with folk remedies lies in the treatment itself. It’s easy to self medicate your way into suicidal ideations. That’s why we need to do better. Not only do we need to work to make healthcare a universal basic human right available to all humans, but we need to ensure that mental health is included within those discussions. Otherwise you are treating the symptoms while ignoring the problem, which only makes things worse down the road. This is why I have diabetes. I turned to food for comfort. This was decidedly unhealthy but it’s reinforced by our culture as a folk remedy for inner pain.
Mental health is such a large part of who we are. If your mental well being is not being taken care of properly then depression can make everything else feel overwhelming. As someone who struggles with mental health and physical health issues I can attest that It’s easy to let yourself go and not take proper care of yourself once depression or anxiety kick in. You hear it from people all the time online, life gets to be too much so we withdraw to take care of ourselves. The sentiment from those who supports us is usually take care of yourself, but how can you do that when you don’t really know what that care should look like?