Why My Mental Health Opinions Aren’t Just About Me
Let me share a little secret with you – I don’t agree with all mental health treatment. I don’t agree with all the decisions doctors make. I don’t like all the available treatments. I have had very bad experiences with some mental health treatments. I have had some very bad experiences with mental health care professionals.
But I still talk about them. And I still think they are right for some people.
Because my story isn’t your story.
You Are Not the User
When I worked at a fancy software company I designed software for a living. That means I made the decisions about how software looked and felt. What you saw on the screen and how it worked – that was me. And we had a saying at this company, “You are not the user.”
What this means is that my experience of software is not necessarily indicative of a user’s experience in general. I am a specific kind of user and I am not representative of users at large. I needed to put my brain into the brain of others in order to design software successfully. Because my experience and my opinion wasn’t necessarily the experience or opinion of others.
In other words, some people love the changes in Windows 7 and some people hate them. The trick is designing in a way that helps the most people.
The trick to treating people with mental illness is treating people in a way that will help the most people.
I Discuss Treatments I Don’t Like – Hypocritical?
Some people call me hypocritical because of this. For example, I hated electroconvulsive therapy. It was painful and arduous and memory-erasing and useless. Nevertheless, I still think it is a very important therapy for people in some circumstances to consider. It was hell for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be hell for everyone. In fact, I know the numbers, and the vast majority of people who undergo electroconvulsive therapy are going to experience a positive response. I didn’t. I just happen to be in the minority.
Unlike people who assume their experience is the same as everyone else’s, I am able to separate my own life’s experiences from the mental health treatment of others.
Unlike people who generalize their personal experience to everyone else, I am able to separate my own life’s experiences from the questions at hand. I am able to separate the fact that I had the worst side effects of my life on a certain antipsychotic with the fact that that particular antipsychotic is actually a really good choice for some people. I allow rationale and logic to guide my opinions and not my own personal experience.
Because mental health treatment is never about what works for one person, it’s about what works for people, statistically speaking. I’ve been through every med around and most of them have been useless, but this isn’t the experience of most people. Most people find medication that works. Most people get meaningfully better. Most people are successfully treated by doctors – no matter how vocal the group of people who haven’t been successfully treated are.
You Are Not the Patient
So when thinking about another person’s mental health treatment I remember very clearly that I am not the patient. Science guides my opinion more than my personal experience. Yes, of course my personal experience colors my opinions, but it’s not the predominant factor. But this doesn’t make me hypocritical, this makes me reasonable and logical.