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The Western medical system has a long history of power abuse, oppression and discrimination. The Western medical model is premised on the notion that doctors and other medical professionals are in justified positions of authority, and hence are able to make health decisions for the purported benefits of patients. This necessarily implies an imbalanced relationship in terms of who has power and authority and who does not. Medical professionals of the Western world are given the power to control the bodies of patients, deciding what drugs they need to be taking, what surgeries they have access to, and even what bodies are permitted freedom in society and what bodies must be kept locked away in mental health institutions. Sometimes these doctors are correct, and the outcomes of their decisions benefit their patients. Other times they do not.

In my placement, I find myself struggling with the issue of the diagnosis of mental imbalances for women who have experienced violence. One client, H, is a woman who frequents the Centre on a regular basis. My supervisor, who is H’s counsellor, has told me that H has experienced sexual violence, and that it is likely that H suffers from a few mental health imbalances, as the paranoia and delusions that H experiences are vast. Just recently, my supervisor approached me and asked that I assist H at the Centre in booking a flight to leave that same day. Both my supervisor and I were wary of H leaving the province, but H was very adament that she needed to go away. As I was booking the plane ticket with H, she was literally unable to proceed with the process without constantly describing her assaults and the effects of these on her life. I tried to intervene and focus her on the task at hand, but her traumas combined with undiagnosed mental imbalances seem to have frozen her in a space where she is constantly consumed with the trauma. We booked H a 4:30 pm flight, but H continuously got sidetracked, and did not end up getting into a taxi to head to the airport until less than an hour before her flight. I spent the rest of the weekend thinking about if she made it to her destination safely, what she would do when she got there, and even where she would stay (she does not know anyone out there anymore, so I sent her with contact phone numbers and addresses for shelters, hospitals, etc).

So I have a very difficult time when contemplating the pros and cons of mental health diagnoses. On the one hand, I want to respect the rights and choice of my female clients in their decision to seek treatment (medicinal or alternative) for their mental health imbalances or not to seek treatment. Yet on the other hand, I feel myself wanting to refer some women to seek treatment, particularly the women who clearly have mental health imbalances but do not realize it (client H), as going untreated/undiagnosed could be extremely detrimental to their safety, health and overall quality of life.

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