Thesis: Assessing a Person for Mental Illness

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¶ … Person for Mental Illness

The assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in the U.S. is for the most part a basic issue of scale. The scale to which symptomology(ies) of any given recognized mental disorder affects ones' life allows a diagnosis or lack there of for the individual. Diagnostic tools have been developed over time to allow professional clinicians to judge affect based on reported beliefs, thoughts and behaviors, their frequency of occurrence and the manner in which they affect an individual's life. There are basically three mental health professionals who are trained to assess and treat mental illness the professional licensed councilor sometimes called a mental health counselor, the psychologist and the psychiatrist. In most cases diagnosis of a disorder must be made by a psychiatrist who is a specially trained medical doctor but there are exceptions and either of the other two treatment professionals can form an opinion on diagnosis and develop a treatment course.

In most cases, neither the mental health councilor nor the psychologist can usually write mental health prescriptions if they are needed for a treatment course and the individual must be referred to a psychiatrist for both formal diagnosis and medication prescriptions. Yet, once this is done, usually by a single appointment the individual can be treated, relatively independently by a myriad of other treatment professionals including mental health councilors and psychologists who are both usually part of the process of assessment on a weekly basis for the individual. Communications between treatment professionals is essential, especially with regard to the effective utilization of medications and for billing purposes that are dependant upon diagnosis. (Seaburn, Lorenz, Gunn, Gawinski & Mauksch, 1996, p. 20)

Mental health councilors are often charged with the weekly treatment or counseling of an individual and can be responsible for referrals to an psychiatrist for formal diagnosis and possible prescriptions. Individuals can also receive mental health referrals from primary health care physicians or from mental health nurses in a clinical setting. The mental health councilor usually with a master's level degree in counseling and a specialty treatment area does the daily and weekly work with the individual assessing and reassessing progress for any treatment they personally provide and any outside treatment with medication, i.e. If medication choices are aiding the individual or need to be adjusted or changed by a second referral to a psychiatrist. The mental health councilor can practice independently in the community or can work for an institution, such as a hospital or mental care facility.

A psychologist is usually a PhD but can be a medical doctor that is trained specifically in the area of psychiatry, a treatment type. Though most cannot write prescriptions they are much like mental health councilors in their dealings with patients. They asses and treat the individual for diagnosed disorder and all those behaviors, thoughts and feelings that correspond and affect the individual's ability to live his or her daily life. They meet with the individual on a regular basis in or outside the community, as they can work inside a clinical setting, hospital or mental health facility. The basic difference between the mental health councilor and the psychologist is usually the mental treatment focus and specialty, based on the theories associated with psychology, or in the case of a mental health councilor some other specialty. Individual psychologists can seem to have a broader theoretical base and therefore ability to treat different disorders and mental health conditions but like mental health councilors they often specialize in particular treatment types, disorders, individuals or other demographic classifications.

Psychiatrists are specially trained MDs who have additional clinical training in diagnosis and treatment of mental health diseases and disorders. They are often a first clinical exposure if an individual is institutionalized for his or her mental condition as they will assess, diagnose and then outline a course of treatment to be followed in both the short-term and possibly the long-term treatment of the individual as an outpatient or an inpatient. Most mental health admissions are centered around the goal of short-term, week to a few weeks and possibly months given the severity of symptoms and the ability of the individual to stabilize and then cope in a community setting. There are only a few exceptions, such as the treatment of individuals who are deemed criminally insane and who have acted in a violent manner to hurt others, usually committed murder or other violent acts while in a mental health crisis. Those who are deemed prone to hurt themselves are often treated for longer periods, up to the point where assessment deems that the mental health crisis has passed and that the individual is unlikely to continue or repeat such behaviors. Psychiatrists also serve as weekly councilors in some cases but not all, as most of their work is specific to assessment, diagnosis and treatment course recommendations for the individual who will then see other subsidiary councilors, such as a mental health councilor or a psychologist.

Collaboration and communication is an essential aspect of mental health treatment, especially given the fact that psychiatrists are not a plentiful asset in the system and for practical purposes must usually be seen as a referral for diagnosis and prescription and/or adjustment of mental health medications, and other health care councilors must be utilized where formal counseling is deemed necessary. In most cases counseling is deemed both necessary and useful and the psychiatrist will refer out for this process either in the institution r care setting he or she works or to a community-based service practice or individual. (Seaburn, Lorenz, Gunn, Gawinski & Mauksch, 1996, p. 15)

The suicidal individual requires fundamental assessment. Many times the individual who is at greatest risk is one who has reported suicidal ideologies previously or who has exhibited parasuicide or suicidal behaviors. Most people do give hints to those around them that they are thinking about suicide prior to any attempt. This is not a fail proof assessment tool but it can be assistive as a clue to the intent of the individual and the need to intervene. It is also significant that clinicians are aware of prescription medications individuals are taking as it has been shown that some anti-depressants cause or exacerbate suicidal thoughts, especially in children and young adults. A full history of the individual may be needed to bolster any other hints or clues that the individual is suicidal. It is also important to know the treatment history of the individual as strangely it is often at the point that the individual seems to be climbing out of the depths of a depression, when they begin to have more energy and are more active in their world when they are most likely to act out suicidal thoughts. Pinnacle stressors such as serious loss can also exacerbate suicidal thoughts, a death or loss of a relationship or job. In younger individuals it can be the loss of their romantic relationship while in older individuals it can be the loss of a job or the death of a parent or loss through death or divorce of a long-term relationship. Periods of stressful health, such as new diagnosis of a life threatening disease can also create a heightened risk in some individuals for suicidal behaviors. In general woman of all ages are more likely to attempt suicide while men are more likely to be successful, due to the fact that men often choose more lethal tools than women. Most religions and some cultures have strong taboos against suicide which can create reluctance in some to take their own life. As people age the likelihood that they will experience severe loss, chronic debilitating disease or other at risk issues increases, yet it is still the adolescent and young adult population that is at greatest risk for suicide, as they are the most likely individuals to take to heart the rejection and loss that can be a part of the growth experience. Individuals might exhibit clues, outside of actual statement of suicidal intent, such as overly emotional behaviors, such as seeking out and expressing feelings to people they may not see every day or expressing love or disdain for individuals they do every day. They may give important things away or say or do profound things. ("Suicide," 2007) Self-harming behaviors can precipitate suicide, such as self cutting or dangerous risk taking behaviors such as driving fast, having minor or major car accidents that seem intentional or other such incidents. (Heeringen, 2001)

Confidentiality plays a significant role in mental illness treatment as there is still a significant stigma associated with the diagnosis of mental illness and this stigma may do as much social damage as the disease itself in some circumstances. (Corrigan, Watson, Byrne & Davis, 2005)

Epidemiological research suggests that more than half of the people who might benefit from mental health services opt not to pursue it (Narrow et al., 2000; Regier et al., 1993). One reason given is not wanting to suffer the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Assessing a Person for Mental Illness.  (2009, August 5).  Retrieved December 11, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Assessing a Person for Mental Illness."  5 August 2009.  Web.  11 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Assessing a Person for Mental Illness."  August 5, 2009.  Accessed December 11, 2019.