Monthly Archives: October 2014

My thoughts on the Samaritans Radar Application

The Future

Thanks for dropping by to read another of my blog posts, these posts are usually on mental health from a carer’s perspective. I am currently caring for a close relative suffering from mental ill health, so I have set up this blog as a form of expression, updates and support for myself and others.

 

 

 

Well ok lets get to this, I have been hearing lots of stories, news and thoughts on the new Samaritans RADAR app, for those who do not know. Let me briefly explain what the Samaritans do.

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The many roles of a mental health carer

Matthew MckenzieThank you for visiting my blog on carers who care for those suffering mental health problems. I have just come from a carers group in Lewisham, which is run by South London and Maudsley carer support officers and a carers advocate from Carers Lewisham. I felt the group turned out very well for carers as also for myself, even if I did not learnt as much as I could, or felt I could not release any of the emotional turmoil as much as I had noticed other carers going through then that is ok, because I do not feel too alone when I walk the path with other carers facing a similar journey.

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On this blog I want to talk about the changing role of a carer. The thing is if you are caring by yourself or in a family, you are still a carer, but the word carer runs a lot deeper than it seems. I am sure I have mentioned this many times, but carers are not usually trained to care when their loved one becomes unwell, this is more the case for carers who care for those suffering difficult but mysterious mental health crisis. I suppose eventually we know that a carer will pick up a few things alone the way in their journey of caring.

I will speak for you

However the road of a carers journey can be long with many winding paths and difficult uphill battles. Now I have been caring for many years and when I look back at my roles, I have begun to realise that I not just a carer. At times I have noticed that I would have to advocate on my loved ones behalf. Why is this?

 

Well as you might have guessed that if you are caring for someone who has difficultly with mental capacity, you will find that you may have to take that step forward to contact services on their behalf, which can cause relationship difficulties, because as a carer, you are drifting into the patients rights, but at the same time you as a carer cannot stand to see your loved ones life falling apart.

You as a carer may find yourself speaking up for your loved one on perhaps a ward round, you may end up ringing around to get your caree financial support, you as a carer may end up having to deal with correspondence, but in the long run you as a carer will speak to your loved one on what you feel they may need to get their life on track. Of course whether your loved one listens to you is another thing, but you are advocating on their behalf, unless they have an independent mental health advocate who advocates for them, which can be a good thing, but its not uncommon for even the carer to step in and update the IMHA (Independent Mental Health Advocate) on their loved ones situation.

So ok, we have one of the roles a carer will probably have to carry out or learn on their caring journey, but what are the other roles?

A healing hand

When a carer who is looking after someone suffering mental health difficulties, its only a matter of time before a carer deals with medication, its only a matter of time before the carer looks around for side effects, its only a matter of time before a carer tends to their loved one’s physical health problems. I may have already mentioned this in another of my blog posts, but those suffering schizophrenia unfortunately have a shorter life span than those who do not suffering such devastating mental health problems. The question is why? Could it be that those suffering such a condition are not proactive in seeking help when physical symptoms arise due to perhaps bad life choices? Maybe it could be mental health stigma or perhaps some health professionals may not take the patient seriously.

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So we then have a carer whose role will change to a nurse and I do not mean a professional trained nurse, what I mean is that the carer will try and tend towards the carer’s physical health problems. The carer will also try to alert the GP or a health professional when critical symptoms arise. The carer will also check if medication is being taken on time and will look for side affects. Its not like I want carers out there to do all what I have mentioned, but I do realize that many mental health carers go through such roles almost on a daily occurrence.

The words we use can heal

So now we have covered two roles where the carer could shift into, but there are more, I would at least like to cover 3 more roles. What could these roles be? especially ones concerning those who look after someone suffering mental health difficulties?

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The next role is a difficult one which many carers including myself struggle through. This role is when a carer ends up having to be a counsellor to who they care for. Now those looking after someone with physical aliments would have to try some counselling to someone who feels the world is collapsing around them, perhaps because the caree is not as independent at that particular time. However consider what a carer needs to do if they are caring for someone suffering mental health difficulties.

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It is fairly well known that counselling can work benefits for those suffering anxiety, phobias, compulsive disorders, depression and other mental health disorders, but what happens if the service user cannot access a counsellor? We have to remember that the carer may be living with their loved one and there will be times when their loved one will reach out for reassurance.

The carer will have to listen to their loved one, sometimes the carer will have to second guess what their loved one is feeling. The carer will also have to be very careful what they say and try to see what words or suggestions could help their loved one make it through the day.

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This role is without a doubt extremely tough and requires not only some training, but knowing the person you care for, since we all have different personalities, we are all different characters. The mind is a mysterious and wonderful thing, but it has many complexities where so much is unexplored, psychiatrists take years to train, so can you imagine the worry or fear when carers need to explore this role?

To serve and protect

You might frown at this next role, but fortunately it might not be too often a mental health carer needs to carry out the next role, but this role is where the carer becomes a safety guard. Now its not uncommon to hear the word “vulnerable” when you define someone suffering mental health problems. As a carer, your loved ones state of mind may have changed to where they may lack capacity internally, but unfortunately the world externally has not changed, your loved one is still under the same difficult situations where those not suffering mental ill health are exposed to.

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Are you worried about those seeking to exploit your loved ones finances? Then yes you will take on the safety guard role.

Are you worried about fire hazards or if your loved one falls? Then think about the safety guard role.

How about abusive relationships where it might be your son or daughter loosing their mind due to abuse or neglect? As a carer you will take on that role to try protect them.

A Helping Hand

For the last role, it might turn out to be the most common. Unfortunately with this role, it can be used because of carer stigma. The thing is you see, not everyone likes to be labelled, some people feel they are only caring for someone because they are carrying out their duty as a family member. Some feel they do not need that special label because they are doing only what is required of them. Others out there feel the carer label is difficult to get rid of, so this next role is when a carer becomes……a helper.

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With this role a helper does all the roles mentioned above and more, a helper aides, assists and carries out support when their loved one needs it. A helper may stand back quietly carrying out care without trying to disrupt their loved ones routine. You may tend to find helper roles in large families or in old aged carers who would have supported their loved ones anyway.

The many roles of a carers journey

No matter what role a carers definition may be, those roles usually fall under some form of caring. If you are caring for someone, it might be wise to think to yourself about these roles and ponder what information, course or help would be required for you to carry out such roles.

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I do not wish it for carers to over burden themselves with switching from role to role, nor should carers smother their loved ones, because it is not right or fair for someone to sacrifice and care for so long, but the longer someone does provide care, then the more roles a carer will pick up along the way. It is important that carers like ourselves are more than just a label, we are ever changing and our journey requires many skills.

London Met Connect – event review #LMetConnect

Welcome to another blog post. You know? I like attending well-being days and health events, especially events to do with mental health. Well I was in luck, on Thursday the 23rd of October, I just managed to attend the London Metropolitan university “London Met Connect”, which was presented by the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities.

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The aim of the event was to get people thinking about mental health. The event gave attendees the opportunity to explore mental health and recovery from a number of perspectives, these including service user participation and local, nation and global initiatives.

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Carers are now entitled to free flu jabs

If you are caring for someone in the UK it is very important you look after your own health.  After all if you fall ill, who will continue to provide care for your loved one.

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Winter is on its way and although older adults and young children get the free flue vaccine, it is of good news that carers have been added to the list.

As a carer, you are entitled to a free flu vaccination. Contact your GP surgery now to book. For support, contact Carers Trust on 0844 800 4361 or info@carers.org
quoting reference flufighter.

I have attached two PDFs to help carers view more about what is required to get the flu vaccine.

2014 – flu jab           CARERS FAQS A4 2PP LEAFLET

Review of “The Anatomy of Melancholy”

Its about time I did another review, however this one is different. Usually I attend events, conferences, engagement events and awareness days. On the 23rd of October 2014 I decided to pop over to to the Battersea over in the borough of Wandsworth to watch an opera performed at Testbed1 which is a 7,000 sq ft creative events space located in Battersea.. Now I am usually just the person to go to the Cinema and yes I know that seems boring, but I thought why not check out this new opera called “The Anatomy of Melancholy”.

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As you can guess Melancholy is a state of low mood or we could say Depression, so since this is a blog is about caring and mental health, I felt it was worth my time to view this Opera performance.

While I was travelling to the show, I kept thinking at the back of my mind how will this Opera performance describe the form of depression, but before I continue with the review, I think its important to describe a bit about depression.

Depression can affect us all, some get depression worse than others. If someone suffers chronic depression then this can be a serious mental health condition where the person begins to become very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way. The person experiences

  • Loss of interest
  • Slowness of movement and thinking
  • Thoughts about hopelessness, suicide and death
  • Tiredness and lack of energy

In the UK Depression affects 1 in 5 older people. You can get more information about depression from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Going back to the Opera performance, as I entered to gain a seat around the stage, I was impressed with the use of lighting, which set the scene very well. I especially admired the use of shadows around the stage. The lighting was done by Joshua Pharo who has done many works across theatre, dance and opera.

The play was written and directed by Finn Beames who is also the founder of bodycorps. We also had OPUS2014 finalist Benjamin Tassie who composed the music for the play and the co-designer being Mayou Tikerioti who has designed many productions in the UK and Greece. The conductor of the play was Tim Murray who has already conducted a series of operas at the Gran Teatro del luceu, Royal Opera House and more.

The Opera centered on the old medical belief of the four humors: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily liquids, or humors. These being Yellow, Phlegm, Black bile and blood. The Opera singers included

John Lattimore whose new work for autumn 2014 will cover John Adams at ENO.

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We also had actors Mark Beesley who sung as a principal solo singer at many major opera houses. We also had Janet Henfrey who has been performing over the last 50 years in many theatres.

Other members of the cast were Donna Lennard who has performed in many opera roles one being alice in Airborne, Dario Dugandzic whose credits include The Dark. Anna Harvey with her roles being “Daughter of the sea” and Maud Millar who made her debut Oliver Knussen’s Trumpets with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

The style of the opera kept my interest going as I looked for references on how depression affects someone. The actors carried their characters well enough that you at least cared about what happens to them in the play. The opera highlighted not only the difficultly of living with depression, but how it affects families and carers, which was well performed by the Grandmother (Janet Henfrey) and the Profather (Mark Beesley).

Janet Henfrey

The Opera also centered on the use of genetics and renaissance medicine, there was quite a lot to learn about the study into Melancholy.

John Lattimore

The performance was also very creative in using different scenes and equipment where inventiveness raised my curiosity about depression, especially with the use of film and equipment where I began to almost focus on several things going on at once.

The music played throughout the opera lent itself to the performance with its eerie sounds, frightening scores and gloomy moods. I must admit I am not one for opera performances and some parts of the play I couldnt understand in one sitting, but nevertheless I really enjoyed the show and would certainly see it again if I have the chance.

You can find out more about “The Anatomy of Melancholy” from their site http://www.bodycorps.org/

What is a Carer?

20140621_215858Welcome to another one of my blog posts, on this particular post I want to talk about carers. Those who have regularly visited my blog might have some idea what a carer already is, but for those who are new to my blog may wonder “what actually is a carer?” What defines a carer and why do people, families and communities sometimes feel compelled to care?

What is a carer

Someone who looks after another persons needs

Lets say you have known someone most of your life or perhaps someone in your family who has fallen ill. That person tries to do their chores and live their life without much help or support, but after a while it will be noticed by most people that they are struggling.

Caring

This is when a person decides to take on some of the responsibilities of that person that has become ill, although the carer’s main focus is to provide help, some security and care for that person.

Not all carers are the same and some have demanding caring duties, while others care on and off for a short time, but no matter what the tasks, they are all carers.

They are mostly not professional carers

When I talk about carers, I am not talking carers who train up on a course and look for people to care for. I am talking about those who find out that care is directed at them due to a family member falling ill, or a neighbour or a friend in desperate caring need. I am talking about parents looking after their children who have sustained serious injuries, disabilities or impairment. I am talking about young carers who are not only trying to understand their place in the world, but also trying to understand why their parents are in need of assistance.

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Its not that carers can’t walk away from the care they give, some carers have to make that decision on what they should sacrifice.  Carers may have to give up work, education, time and commitments to provide care.

Carers are known as carers because they ARE standing by their loved one. If someone moves on they can still provide some care, but it might not be as demanding as those who are currently providing long term or full time care.

Carers have to juggle many things as if their own life is slightly put on hold while they seek to understand the illness that is affecting who they care for.  This is more difficult if the illness happens to be a mental illness or perhaps a devastating physical problem.

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Some carers might not have a clue on what they may face and will have to look for answers or support, but we ll get on to that later.

Types of carers

I am not going to make a long list, but I will want to try define at least some of the types of carers. There are always a long list of carers you can search for on the internet, but since all carers are not the same, it makes sense to point out different types of carers.

Carers for elderly

Here we have those who will end up looking after their parents, most do this because they are concerned or worried that their loved ones will end up in a home too far away from them. Quite a lot of older people prefer to stay at home for their own independence, while others fear abuse and neglect.

 

Some people may wish for their parents to move on, but carers may prefer old aged parents to stay at home. You can also have older aged carers who care for their partners who are ageing. Other older aged carers also may care even for younger people.

Below is a list of symptoms carers may have to care for when looking after older aged loved ones.

List of symptoms these types of carers provide care for

Heart conditions
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
Depression
Incontinence
Arthritis
Osteoporosis
Diabetes
Breathing problems
Frequent falls, which can lead to fractures
Parkinson’s disease
Cancer

Carers for the disabled

These type of carers can be of any age, but this time care can be demanding depending on the disability the caree has, when I mean caree, I am talking about the person receiving the care.

 

Types of disabilities a carer will have to care for.

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Autism
Cerebral Palsy
Hearing Loss
Haemophilia
Intellectual Disability
Paralysis
Sickle Cell Disease
Spinal Cord Injury
Tourette Syndrome
Traumatic Brain Injury
Vision Impairment

This is not a full list, but shows what carers may need to tackle in order to provide care. I have two brothers who have Autism and providing care and safety as well as treating them with dignity can be a juggling act, but be aware Autism is a range or spectrum of disabilities.

There are also different ranges of paralysis putting strain on carers wanting to care for those who lack the function to care for themselves.

Carers for mentally ill

Another type of carer who often can be hit pretty hard because they can lack the knowledge of how to deal with mental illness that has struck their loved one. How can you care for someone who may not wish to receive care and yet is recognised by the mental health system as user of the services. What happens if the caree does not wish to engage with services? Where does this leave the carer, what rights do they have?

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Here is a list of mental health difficulties in order to understand what some carers provide care for.

Addictions
Bipolar
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Body Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Personality disorders
Eating disorders
Psychotic disorders
Mood disorders
Anxiety disorders
Stress response syndromes
Dissociative disorders
Factitious disorders
Sexual and gender disorders
Somatic symptom disorders
Tic disorders

Remember this is not a full list.

Some disorders can vary in the type of care needed, while other disorders are devastating and require support not only for the patient or person with lived experience, but also for the carer who can at times be overwhelmed in providing care.

Youngs Carers

One of the most difficult experiences for a carer is that of a young carer. Young carers can lack decisions on if to provide care or how to cope. Young carers face carer stigma and bullying from other young people who may find it funny that the person is caring for someone with disabilities or other illnesses.

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The strain on young carers can be so difficult that often family relationships break down, although relationship breakdown is a common theme among many other types of carers.

Young carers especially need help in supporting their relatives and usually this can depend on how good social services are. One strain could be that pressure is put on the caree to have their child put in some form of care, but this can cause added strain to the child who now lacks family support, but could have freedom to enjoy their childhood. The balance of growing up as a young carer is a very fine line.

What MAKES a person a carer

You do not want to see your loved one hurt physically, emotional

A carer is not a sudden role, usually a carer is formed as a slow process. Since I have been a carer for most of my life, I have come to the conclusion that being a carer is something you become and the role will change.

As a carer you do not wish anyone else to take over your role due to fear that role will not be carried out, but this does depend on the type of care needed. I am now going into controversial mode. In the UK some of the health systems have failed loved ones, the systems designed to protect communities, families and those who fall ill have ended up as part of the problem due to power culture and lack of information share.

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The elderly, frail, sick or mentally ill have been put at risk time and time again due to lack of resources, lack of finances, mistrust and neglect and lack of…..care.

I am not going out on a limb to blame the NHS as a whole. Since in the UK this is one of the biggest and best placed institutions, which Britain has to be proud for, we have skilled health professionals working overtime to provide care in difficult circumstances and even then we have carers who fail their loved one due to abuse and also neglect.

However we are always asked this question, the question asked of a carer is who do you trust?

The NHS or care system in any country has to be responsible somewhere, too many stories of failure to provide care and families and communities will mistrust the health system, they will then provide their own care. The primary role of a carer is to not see any more harm come to those that they love.

Carers share time and energy in their role to care

Although carers are put under pressure, but carers noticed that they can share their time to provide some care otherwise a carer would more likely step back and walk away.

There is a threshold where a carer will decide to stop if their caring duties become too much, but carers can see time and energy placed in their role. The resources of time, care and energy must be planned in order to stop a carer from being over burdened, this is not an easy thing to get right and it depends again on what the caree is suffering from as present.

 

Caring sometimes can be overwhelming, which is why carers need support themselves

No one is a born carer and carers often worry about their own health, be it physical or mental support. Carers who care do not get paid unless its a form of benefit, however caring is almost like a job to most carers, but carers aren’t bankers or engineers, they do not serve the public in that way.

Carers try to keep their families together, families try to keep community together, without the community then what do we have left? That is a frightening thought.

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Carers have to emotionally second guess what their loved ones needs are, carers may also have to advocate on behalf of their loved one, sometimes the law may try to support carers, but at the same time block carers access to information (for a good reason), but this can cause conflict in the caring role.

Carers have to do physical chores, shopping, cooking, hygiene care, financial support and keeping the family together as well as sacrifice their own future.

The problem is caring is not something that can be physically traded, care is provided behind doors, caring is just something that is not often seen, so perhaps society does not value carers as they value material things. Maybe this is a human condition, but this human condition has a flaw, because not all in society will be carers, but one day we will all need care ourselves. Think about that for a second.

Carers can be trapped by outside forces who may not recognise them

Carers can be easily trapped, as I have mentioned before no one is forced to care, since caring can be a decision process. Some people can walk away from care, while for other carers the role has become too much and rightly so.

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Maybe carers just feel they are not getting that support, but each day a carer will question themselves on how much resources do they have left?

Carer Stigma

Some people do not wish to be labelled as carers because they feel they are caring out the role as if they are a family member or doing this out of honour for the community. Others prefer that they are labelled supporter or helper, but no matter what they are called, they are providing care and assistance. Some carers are fortunate to have bigger families who can help take turns in the role, while other carers are litarily a one man army digging deep in vast energy resources.

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Society is only as strong as the people who live within it and test it. Society is just not the be all and end all, society is changing all the time.  The problem is society also must remain a state where community wishes to live within it. We all wish for society to be civil, but the problem is so many things are tied to economics and that includes the health system. Its a numbers game, less resources here and someone has to pay the price and the cost is painful.

Society has rules and unfortunately rules can trap carers.  Carers can end up paying the price where they are only trying to help their family or the community.

Carers need to speak up, but not all can speak

Carers need to speak up, if carers wish to be valued for what they do, they need to let others know what battle they face almost every day. Some carers cannot easily do this, while others face the stigma of caring.

I have come across some people who feel carers are just lazy people who should get a real job, and some do have a point, there are other carers who abuse their position, but for most of the time a lot of carers are under huge amounts of pressure. Throughout my caring role I have encountered many organisations in the UK speaking up for carers that being CarersUK or Carers Trust and many more.

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We also have engagement and participation groups and healthwatch springs to mind, because they play a greater role on access to quality health care.

Some support

If you are a carer yourself or know someone who is starting out as a carer, you are not alone, there is some help to support you on your journey

Going on line to find resources

Its a tough one, but I have always found going online to look for examples of providing good care. Some will say the internet has too much nonsense to make any good idea of what care should be, but use your judgement, compare different sources. Get numbers and ring around, join forums. CarersUK has a forum which offers support, advice and experience.

http://www.carersuk.org/forum

As for other countries, there usually is some form of carers forums online. If you do not have access to the internet, usually a library or a carers center has some online facilities for carers to use. Use these facilities to also plan your future, since it is important to work on your skillset, since you might not be a carer forever.

Visiting carer centers

You can always physically get support and that is by booking some time at a carers center. I use carers Lewisham myself and sometimes I pop over to other boroughs in London. At carers center you can get emotional support as counselling, financial advice, advocacy and meet other carers. The rule is do not try to cope by yourself.

Speaking to other carers

As I have mentioned before, speaking to other carers is vital. I can say safely say I have written this blog in one sitting, but I have only 10% of knowledge of what is required of carers. Speaking to other carers has several benefits but the biggest is to show that you are not the only one out there, you are not on your own. Carers can also offer advice on starting out on care, they can also offer some emotional support and advocate if need be. The other side of the coin is you can offer advice to carers who are at their wits end.

Information is your currency to your caring role

People often value currency as in money, carers lack financial capital, but money cannot buy love or care. So the thing is what can buy good love or care?

The answer is Information.

Carers should look online, speak to others and do not be afraid to ask. Get information and turn it into knowledge, then apply the knowledge. We are not perfect and the human condition is frail as is also society is not perfect and can also be put under pressure.

As a carer you will make mistakes, you will judge and be judged. You will get angry, you will be pushed aside and lied to and be undervalued, but deep down you can look yourself in the mirror. Money comes and goes, but memories of those who care will last generations to come.

Good luck in your caring journey.

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Review of Schizophrenic Disorders Lecture

Here is another lecture I came across which is quite suited to my blog. This lecture is from the course “Psychology of Human Behaviour” taught by Professor David W. Martin from North Carolina State University.

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The course has 36 lectures, but the one lecture that caught my eye is lecture number 10 called “Schizophrenic Disorders”. I felt this lecture is important for a carer as myself since I am looking after someone suffering from such a condition.

So lets delve into this lecture further.

Professor David starts off from the lecture that he is going through the various mental disorders from the DSM IV, which as we know has gone up to DSM V, which stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”. This manual is very helpful to psychiatrists and others interested in mental health, but the manual also has a difficult and controversial history, but we can explore that for another time.

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