This article got me thinking about the bigotry of low expectations and the importance of continuing to assert that every addict should be offered treatment services that provide a path to full recovery, not just symptom or harm reduction.
If it’s not suicide or drug overdoses doing the killing in psychiatric patients after all, how does that change the way we see severe mental illness? For one thing, it jerks this sort of disease back into the world of everyday misery. Society is excellent at sealing off the deep end, so to speak. Because this kind of illness is behavioral and has to do with the very ways in which we experience the world, it becomes easy to put the brakes on empathy. The study suggests that psychiatric patients are mostly dying in normal ways, albeit in hyperdrive: living life fast but miserable.
Hartz et al’s study also suggests that anti-smoking and other public health campaigns have effectively bounced off the mentally ill, perhaps in part because doctors are looking past these behaviors. “Some studies have shown that although we psychiatrists know that smoking, drinking, and substance use are major problems among the mentally ill, we often don’t ask our patients about those things,” Hartz says. “We can do better.”