You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome

You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome- Patch Adams

I watched Patch Adams today, starring the wonderful Robin Williams. The films is about Hunter Doherty ‘Patch’ Adams, an American Physician who founded the Gesundheit institute in 1971. The film tells the story of how Adams, whilst an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt, made a link between individuals mood and wellbeing and their recovery from physical illness. The key to treating patients was to do so in a holistic manner, looking at their health in terms of their family, community and the world around them. The film was semi-biographical, Patch Adams a real doctor and activist and generally inspirational man.

The real Patch Adams at the Gesundheit Institute

The story of Patch Adams really interested me as it seemed to have similarities to the history behind The Retreat, where I am currently an inpatient… just many hundreds of years earlier. The Retreat was opened in 1796, pioneering humane and moral treatment for those with mental health problems. It became a model for asylums all over the world and really pioneered the reform of mental health treatment. The Retreat was opened by William Tuke following the death of Leeds Quaker, Hannah Mills, who died in York Asylum in 1790 in appauling conditions. Tuke and his family vowed that never again a Quaker should endure the treatment that Hannah Mills had suffered; gradually the hospital catered for all individuals and retained the essence of the early views of moral treatment for patients.

Robin Williams in ‘Patch Adams’ 

Holistic treatment for those with mental health problems has always been something I have felt really strongly about. Through my own experiences and seeing the experiences of others, it seemed so glaringly obvious that the only way someone could recover from a mental illness was if they were treated as a whole individual, not just helped by firefighting their symptoms. For me, the real start of my recovery from my eating disorder and first time I have properly made progress with making real changes came from being at The Retreat. 

Interestingly, in this year ‘s ‘Sock it to eating disorders‘ campaign masterminded by B-eat, a new report into the chose of eating disorders to the UK economy was launched. It indicated how inconsistent treatment was for individuals across the country and the outcome of this was eating disorders costing the national economy tens of billions of pounds. The report outlines B-eat’s views on early intervention and focused treatment for individuals and a more holistic treatment of individuals with eating disorders. 
I think a lot of eating disorder treatment focuses on stabilising individuals but doesn’t work on the psychological aetiology of their illness or working on making their lives recovery focused to help prevent them from relapsing by giving them real purpose and meaning through the activities that they take part in and do. For me, this has been the key to embarking on the road to recovery, it’s been about all of me, not just the illness. 
For those who are recovery in different settings, try and look at the bigger picture and move the focus away from the minute details of your illness. If you can’t see your reasons for recovery and the things you can get from recovery, then the focus remains so inward and recovery is so much more challenging.

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