Saturday, December 10, 2011

Welcome to the wonderful world of mental illness!

     “We’re all crazy, I just got caught”; was a slogan I first heard from the actress Delta Burke when I met her many years ago. This woman, who fights major depression and an eating disorder, was able to make light out of a powerful but misunderstood subject, mental illness. With this blog we are going to examine just what this illness is all about, what it takes to defeat it and the challenges that recovery entails. To best illustrate all the dynamics of this disorder, I will use many of my own personal experiences in life as an example. This blog is one of many avenues that I have and will continue to utilize to bring social awareness to the plight of those afflicted and the ones close to them.
     It does not matter which of the numbers people go with. It is known that about one in five or six Americans suffer from mental illness. Those add up to over fifty million people and it is said that less than a third are actually seeking treatment. Those are staggering numbers! Many of these individuals have faced rejection in nearly every aspect of their lives, have faced denial of essential treatment and in the past been the recipient of some form of police brutality. It is as if it becomes a sin just to be diagnosed with one of these “socially unacceptable diseases” that those afflicted will create their own personal underground to hide in shame. I know because ten years ago, I joined their ranks. However, I decided to make a difference!
     Times did change because people within the mental health system truly do believe that recovery is possible and that individuals can create a tremendous life for themselves. Step one in overcoming is accepting that a person has a chronic illness and has to make it their responsibility to get better. That is the essence of recovery, acceptance and personal responsibility.  In my case, I decided that I would not be part of the problem, but rather I wanted to become part of the solution. With this blog, I will be giving a step by step overview of “The good, bad and ugly” of the system itself!
     The “good” of the system would have to be the new mental health workers, the police. In dozens of presentations and classes to about a thousand police officers and cadets throughout Northeastern Ohio, I have found dedication with this profession to actually finding help for individuals afflicted. A far cry from the days that brutality claims were the result of a poor contact between the officers and those afflicted.  I cannot deny that “rogue” departments do still exist; however I would estimate ninety percent of the police departments do exemplary work this field. Because of their efforts and dedication, brutality claims along with violent altercations between those afflicted and the police have been dramatically reduced. This blog will deal with both positives and the negatives within the law enforcement community.
      The “bad” can best be answered by police officers themselves. I hear it all the time and it is, “I bring an individual in crisis to the emergency room after deescalating a tense situation. I spend time with the one afflicted and a couple of hours later, he or she is back on the streets.”  
     The common practice for hospitals who are dealing with a mental health crisis is to give the individual some pills, release them and tell them to seek treatment. This absurd “Treat them and street them” policy ignores the fact that the individual came into the hospital for some real treatment and care, not to be released back and given virtually no opportunity to get better. However, the medical profession seems to dehumanize those with a mental disorder and that makes it a widely accepted policy. It is disappointing to note that the medical community has made little substantive improvement in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Sadly, it is apparent that many will find examples of regression in care, in spite of a greater knowledge in the science of these disorders.
     The “ugly” part of these disorders is without question, the stigma of being diagnosed with one. I am here to say that it is true, the stigma of mental illness, is many times more painful than the illness itself. It seems to be a given that some supposedly intelligent professionals who claim to be God fearing, will create a moral exclusion to demean and ostracize the mentally ill. I know that first hand as I have suffered that type of indignity.
     There are other areas of the mental health community that will be examined, especially the political climate, which can best be described as toxic.  In time, we will examine the voting record of many of local political leaders, break down their votes and determine the long term impact to the mental health system.
     In many actions, we are all crazy in some idiosyncratic way, and it becomes difficult to differentiate where the boundaries of insanity begin. With awareness and empathy, fewer people will be left in a dungeon of loneliness that is a hallmark of mental illness. With less of a stigma more and more will seek treatment and with that, they can become much more productive members of society. 
     All comments and questions that are posted to this blog will be answered as quickly as possible. I also encourage anyone with an interest in specific topics related to the mental health field to post them as suggestions for possible future subject matter. Thank you for visiting this blog and I look forward to hearing from many of you!!

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