Per Anders Torvik Langerød
Mental health care in Norway is a Swiss cheese with good intentions.
This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.
As a relative of a sister who took her own life in 2014, and as a survivor of the terrorist attack on Utøya, the encounter with mental health care has given me good experiences. But it has also given a shock at how much suffering we accept, without doing anything about it.
Part of the answer, I think, lies in the fact that very few understand how much pain mental ailments and disorders can cause. Mental health care in Norway is a Swiss cheese with good intentions.
Consumes on all of us
The measures are consuming us all and have raised a debate about enhanced mental health care. It is good. Before the pandemic, there were also major shortcomings and long queues in mental health care.
An incomplete understanding of mental health has unfortunately also followed us into the pandemic. It is not always enough to just think that more psychologists and better health services help people with mental illness and disorders.
Good mental health is also outside the sphere of the help system. It is about being able to live and be surrounded by a normal society full of life, other people, experiences, necessary distractions, cultural experiences. Everything that makes life worth living.
An incomplete understanding of mental health has unfortunately also followed us into the pandemic
If we are concerned about the mental health of the population during the coronary pandemic, we must remember that the most normal environment and a vibrant society is also an important part of medicine that either reduces symptoms so much that it is easier to work with what is difficult, or because it provides necessary breaks between the painful.
Breaks that motivate you to keep trying to get well again.
Mental health care is not to go to a workshop to replace a part that does not work. It is the patient himself who has to do most of the work. Several workshops do not help alone.
After several suicide attempts, my sister was discharged from the District Psychiatric Center (DPS). When the discharge had a good justification, it was about relief that was thought to lie in having one’s own life experiences “out there in the normal”, not just from inside an institution.
Even though she was considered too ill, the whole sibling group had to go on a trip to Italy to experience the good life. Traveling, being with other people, impulses, culture, music, training, taste and all the 10,000 things that happen when you live in a free open society, also benefit everyone who struggles with mental illness and suffering.
The mentioned impressions in addition to their own experiences make it impossible to exaggerate how much a pleasant everyday life and activities together can raise the quality of life and reduce symptoms.
This makes problem solving easier and at all possible.
The interplay between health care and a good full-fledged free life with experiences and unplanned impulses is totally absent in the discussion about mental health during the pandemic. This must be given heavy weight in the “overall assessments” that are made about measures.
It is impossible to copy the joy of life from an unplanned social coffee break at work, the heat from joking in the hallways or a Friday game with two new people you became acquainted with. The feeling of normalcy when you relax to the sound of the smooth and safe buzz of everyday life.
We are surprisingly bad at thinking agile rather than static solutions.
Oslo Municipality is a good example. Several cities are now creating solutions where they adapt health care for each one according to need and everyday life.
It is not yet over, and the condition must worry us seriously.
Suicide is it most common cause of death for young people.
The waiting time for advice for eating disorders has never been longer than now.
Research shows that one in five anorexia patients who die commits suicide.
Half of us get such major mental ailments or disorders that we need mental health care at least once in our lifetime.
I the report on humanitarian needs in Norway on population group disorders, living conditions researcher Anders Barstad from Statistics Norway (SSB) places the seriously mentally ill among the groups that have the greatest disorders in society.
This does not work
We lack psychologists and health nurses, flexible assistance programs that offer training, social contact and health care. And we lack good methodological research projects that try out 100 different variants for pain relief that are flexibly evaluated, so that what works is scaled up and tested on a larger scale.
We lack such simple things as that if someone is admitted to the acute psychiatric ward at a hospital, but later sent to ward B at the same hospital, or eventually DPS, many doctors find it difficult to access information, medical records and assessments from previous therapists.
But if you are unsure about the Christmas rib, we have your own rib phone you can call.
Between all the systems, there are thousands of frustrated, wonderful employees who want nothing more than to help
Relatives are informed to a very small degree, and many refer strictly to the duty of confidentiality. The GP who is to be a pilot for the patient in the systems is rarely informed. In many cases, the GP does not even take the ball to make sure that you get a plan and systematically try out different treatments.
And between all the systems, there are thousands of frustrated, wonderful employees who want nothing more than to help.
This does not work. It’s nobody’s fault. This has happened to all of us and has grown more and more in our time.
We must do better together, regardless of political views and backgrounds. The last thing we need is a trench discussion about who did not do what. It does not motivate more action nor does it give us back someone we lost.
Now it’s urgent
A new government gives hope, and Mental Health gave the Labor Party top marks for the party’s program on mental health. Together with Oslo’s patient-oriented model, it gives faith that a different future is possible.
We need politicians and health authorities who run services made with experiences from relatives and patients. In a few years, we can finally cultivate a service that relieves suffering and makes more people healthy.
Norway is ranked as one of the world’s best countries for dealing with the corona pandemic.
If there is will and clear goals, we perform miracles. Now it is urgent for the population’s mental health.
Per Anders Torvik Langerød is affiliated with the Labor Party, where he has held several positions.