Due to recent events the subjects of mental illness and the mental health system have, once again, found prominence in the national dialogue. This
happens just about every time some maniac goes on a shooting spree... Mental illness becomes a hot button issue and most people say the same
How did this person slip through the system?
It is my goal to try and address that question from a very non-standard perspective. I am addressing from the point of view of a person who is in that
system and has been for a very long time... from the perspective of someone who, on paper at least, is crazy.
Those who spend time in chat, or who might have seen some of the posts I have made on the subject will be aware that I have a psychological diagnosis.
A rather severe one, as diagnosis go. The labels that have been placed upon me, by the mental health field are
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
To be honest, the jury is out on the Bipolar thing, as different therapists come to different conclusions about whether or not I
actually have Bipolar Disorder or just Major Depressive Disorder.
But, meh, from my
perspective it is six of one and half a dozen of the other.
For the sake of this dialogue we can just narrow it down to the most basic of terms. I have massive panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and a
predisposition towards being a bit negative and self-defeatist.
During the course of my illness I have engaged in periods of behavior which would be considered troublesome. I have self medicated in the past with
alcohol and the use of pills in an off label fashion. I also attempted suicide by a combination of migraine pills and alcohol about sixteen years ago.
Add to this that, for many years, I was angry, confused, and had, shall we say, more than my fair share of street and bar fights... and a pretty
acceptable picture of the bad aspects of my disease is painted.
For those of you wondering about this, as I assume some will be, by this point in reading... Yes, it is very, very difficult for me to admit to these
things. I am aware of the stigma that comes with these admissions. I have, over and over again, dealt with the marginalization that comes with
confessing these things. Even knowing that... Even knowing that, from this point forward, I will have a target on my ATS back, so to speak... and that
a segment of this community will, henceforth, simply write off my opinions and ideas... Well, opening this dialogue matters enough to me, to us, and
to our society, that I am more than willing to cope with these things.
Now that my "credentials" and feelings are stated, please allow me to get to the crux of what I want to discuss. How these insane shooters "slip
through the system".
The answer to this question will unsettle many of you to the core and hopefully will shake a great number of you out of a false belief system that
seems to permeate the collective subconscious of America...
My answer is "What system???
Let me say that again... What system?
How many of you have wandered through a major city, or pulled off the freeway and seen that lost, obviously mentally ill person, begging for spare
change? I know that in my little town, there are always at least a dozen or two of these folks hiding just behind the facade of civilization. They are
often easy to miss... easy to overlook. But they are there.
And I can assure you of this... They not only stand out more than the spree killer does (before he acts) these people also try very very hard to find
help that is just no there. They discover that the only "system" serving the mentally ill in this country is one big emergency room based revolving
door. As soon as they can get in
they are routed directly back out
If a man (or woman) who appears to be on the verge of starvation, who is obviously addicted to chemicals, and who is walking down a sidewalk having a
conversation with themselves - eyes glazed over - stench rising from their frame... if this person goes unchecked, then how can we think, even for a
moment, that society is going to notice a clean cut person who just happens to post some vitriol or psychobabble onto the Internet? If the street
schizophrenic doesn't raise a red flag then why would the seemingly normal, by comparison, suburban kid?
While I have never fallen into the situations I just discussed - as I am thankfully blessed with an illness that does not tend to cloud my thoughts or
ability to logic and reason - I have done volunteer work with people who have. And take the word of somebody who tries to champion the lost, in this
fight... finding help for these people is next to impossible. It just doesn't exist.
And, since the economic collapse a few years ago, it has gotten exponentially worse. Local mental health clinics, which were, for the most part "band
aids" for the sick, to begin with, are now so bereft of funding that the mentally ill are stuck. These clinics can make more money by servicing anger
management, DUI counseling, and drug addiction cases than they can dealing with the delusional. I personally have, on two occasions, had people with
advanced degrees suggest to me that I should lie and say I am addicted to drugs, or to say that I have homicidal tendencies, as, in their professional
experience, that would make me the "squeaking wheel" and, as we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
I declined on moral grounds. But also because those kinds of squeaky wheels also are scrutinized in some very unflattering ways and I don't deserve to
spend my life with the label of "dangerous". I am not dangerous. Well, not very dangerous at least.
At any rate, even with medical insurance, getting help for mental/emotional illness is a trial and ordeal that I don't recommend to anyone. Quite
frankly... my experiences lead me to believe that most doctors, medical and psychiatric, are one trick ponies. If they can't throw Prozac at a
problem, then they either run away or refer you to the next doctor down the street.
Let me be clear here. I have never spent a single second in a psychiatric hospital. Not a moment. I've only set foot into one such facility, once, and
that was to visit a relative who is a drug addict. And even with him having a full blown hard drug addiction, health insurance, and a sizable trust
fund, they only kept him for four days. This statement is important because after my suicide attempt I asked
to be placed into an inpatient
facility. I actually begged. I felt myself to be a threat to myself or others as I'd blacked out and couldn't remember my suicide attempt at all.
I was told that I was no risk and to relax.
I was then offered Prozac and sent home.
Again I say, "What system"?
It just isn't there. It doesn't exist. And this is the cold truth that is hidden behind the headlines.
So... As this dialogue begins, renewed, each time a maniac opens fire upon innocents, let us use it as a chance to open the eyes of the general public
about just how inefficient and non existent mental health care truly is in this country. Let's get beyond the stigma of the subject and begin a
dialogue that might, eventually, make the USA the kind of place where those amongst us who have problems, will have access to help and to the answers
they need to find.
The loss of life in these cases is always so avoidable... and yet we continue to ignore this subject because it makes us uncomfortable. It's time for
this travesty of reason to end and for the truth to be discussed.
Thank you for reading this.
edit on 1/15/11 by Hefficide because: same faux paus, different approach