Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mental Illness’

Woodstock

Woodstock

It’s been a strange week. It was the 45th Anniversary of Woodstock. Three days of Peace and Music and Mud. So we get to reflect, what did it really mean? Bob was home for a long weekend, and we were able to attend a party thrown by our favorite neighbor/friend/alpaca farmers, DeeDee and Bill! Bob thought about his time on a psychedelic school bus while I sipped on a Madison County wine as the sun set and we met the vintner himself; DuCard Winery has won awards for its famous Viogner and its French winemaker, Julien. When I heard that they are planning a wine and chocolate pairing on Saturday, August 23rd, I was all in…https://www.ducardvineyards.com

But the highlight of the evening was meeting my friend’s daughter Brighid, and her son Djouby. Brighid is the brilliant and beautiful Founding Director of a non-profit arts organization in Chicago, “Erasing the Distance.” http://www.erasingthedistance.org Their mission is to use “…the power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate, and promote healing surrounding issues of mental health.” They create plays that confront say depression, for schools, churches, organizations and the general public thereby making mental health a subject to confront with compassion and understanding; they are seeking to bring this disease out of the shadows – shining a stage light on our common humanity.

Which leads me to the next question. If you are willing to grant that each family in this country has a limited amount of money they are willing to donate to a non-profit or a charity, what’s up with the ALS foundation/ice bucket challenge campaign making 3M more than they did last year? I admit I was amused. After all, it’s almost like a-pie-in-the-face funny to watch your friends and co-workers dump ice water over their heads. And the celebrities! Lady Gaga was outrageous of course and Bill Gates was all intellectual about it. I even proudly posted a step-niece doing this on Facebook. One of Bob’s cousins is married to a man who is currently in the last stages of ALS. It’s probably one of the most feared of all diseases, including cancer, because like Ebola, there’s simply no treatment.

However, mental health diseases are the single most common problem in our country according to the CDC: “Mental illnesses account for a larger proportion of disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. In 2004, an estimated 25% of adults in the United States reported having a mental illness in the previous year. The economic cost of mental illness in the United States is substantial, approximately $300 billion in 2002. Population surveys and surveys of health-care use measure the occurrence of mental illness, associated risk behaviors (e.g., alcohol and drug abuse) and chronic conditions, and use of mental health–related care and clinical services.”

ALS, on the other hand, has been harder to quantify according to the CDC because, “Worldwide, ALS affects white males aged >60 years more often than any other group. In the United States, ALS surveillance is necessary to estimate the incidence and prevalence of ALS and collect data on risk factors. ALS is not a nationally notifiable condition in the United States (i.e., it is not a reportable condition in all jurisdictions), and individual state reporting requirements differ, with Massachusetts being the only state that mandates reporting.”

But the VA did commission a study of ALS and found roughly 3.9 cases of ALS per 100,000 people in the American general population. Which would make the occurrence of Lou Gehrig’s disease in mostly older white males less than 0.004%. A quarter of our nation’s population vs 0.004% Sooo…

I’m not saying NOT to dump a bucket of ice water on your head, and give money to ALS research. I’m just asking you not to only give your charitable donations to ALS this year. Please spread the love. Because organizations like Erasing the Distance are doing important work in their community, and I know there are others out there working to bring mental health issues to the forefront, to bring malaria nets to Africa, to fund genetic research to cure cancer and to stop the spread of polio and bring reproductive health care to women around the world. Pick your passion, and do your research.http://qz.com/249649/the-cold-hard-truth-about-the-ice-bucket-challenge/

And BTW, I went to Catholic School, in other words Woodstock wasn’t an option.

Brighid and Djouby

Brighid and Djouby

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Continuing in the Throwback Thursday vein, I’ve come up with a “selfie” from 1975. CLR Hippie Chick 20131120 WebOf course I didn’t take the photo, and don’t remember who did. Except that it was a photographer who stopped me on Madison Avenue near my sister’s NYC apartment with that age-old ruse about making me a star.  I told him he could take my picture, but gave him the Flapper’s address because I didn’t buy into his nonsense. Not wanting to be the next Ms Goodbar, I forgot about it until the picture appeared in my Mother’s inbox mailbox.

At the time I was putting my Psychology degree to good use.                                                                                            http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/willowbrook_survivors_recollec_1.html

Because of my future employer’s investigative reporting, most of the psychiatric hospitals, previously known as “State Lunatic Asylums” were closing down. The overcrowded, inhuman conditions, coupled with advances in drugs like Thorazine marked the 70s trend toward de-institutionalization. The question remained, what should we do with these patients who were returning to society, sometimes after decades of neglect? The answer was a different type of warehousing, “day treatment facilities.”

I was hired to drive a bus and pick up patients from their group homes, delivering them to a bevy of activities in the state of NJ. I also got to run a few of the group therapy sessions, and since I enjoyed gardening, my supervisor encouraged me to plant a garden of vegetables around the back patio with like-minded patients. Passivity was a continuing problem, either due to the psychotropic drugs they were taking or the years spent behind hospital bars, or both. So actually digging in the dirt was considered a milestone.

Today, many people with severe disabilities are able to live a normal life. Modern pharmaceuticals allow them to work, to drive, to love, and to make a home for themselves. But sometimes psychotic patients stop taking their meds, for various reasons and when that happens, when they become a threat, “to themselves or others,” it’s time for a reboot which includes a short hospital stay. And when those psych beds, which may be on a floor of any hospital in your neighborhood, are full, when a doctor can’t find one bed for his or her patient, well then sometimes that patient falls through a crack. Over the years, Bob has had to discharge too many severely ill psych patients because there were no beds available.

964831-creigh-deeds-and-familyMy prayers go out to VA Sen Creigh Deeds who was stabbed by his own son, Gus, on Tuesday after being released from a hospital in Bath County on Monday. Gus Deeds later turned a gun on himself in a continuation of this Shakespearian tragedy now called a “murder suicide.” And we can’t blame the lack of will to pass gun control legislation after VA Tech, or the shortage of mental health beds in the state alone, because blame can be shared by a tightening of budgets over the past few years that was reported by the  National Alliance on Mental Illness: “Virginia’s overall state mental-health budget decreased $37.7 million dollars from $424.3 million to $386.6 million between fiscal years 2009 and 2012.”  The wheels on this bus cannot continue going round and round. If a state senator’s son could not access help, what does that mean for the rest of us?

 In 2011, Virginia inspector general G. Douglas Bevelacqua released a report chastising the state for turning away in a month an estimated 200 patients determined to be a threat to themselves or others who met the criteria for a temporary detention, only because state facilities lacked the room to hold them. Twenty-three of Virginia’s 40 community-services boards acknowledged that “streeting” occurred at their facilities.

Read more: Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds’ Son Evaluated and Released Before Stabbing | TIME.com http://nation.time.com/2013/11/19/before-senators-stabbing-a-shortage-of-psychiatric-beds/#ixzz2lI6Mmsqu

 

Read Full Post »

Something happened this week in Atlanta that will affect 50% of American households, over 11 million adults and 2 million teens in this country. Just think about it, a woman who had recently been chastised by a congressional hearing, turned around to announce “…the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation.” HHS Kathleen Sebelius told a crowd on Friday she was happy to be out of Washington while speaking at the Carter Center in Georgia. As you can imagine, this got a polite laugh from the audience. src.adapt.960.high.1383940058477

From now on, insurers will have to cover mental health and substance abuse services in order to comply with standards of the Affordable Care Act. In the past, nearly 60% of Americans have reported not seeking mental health services either because of a lingering stigma or an inability to pay for help. The latest round of mass killings has highlighted the need for improved mental health care, although adding this “parity rule” without concomitant gun control legislation seems illogical imho. Still this is BIG news.

Coverage for mental health problems should be the same as for physical problems, but the public needs to speak up,” Rosalynn Carter, speaking with her husband, last year told several hundred members of the Association of Health Care Journalists. “What is holding up equal coverage? I think it’s the political consequences of an election year. Excuse me for being so blunt.       ww.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/11/09/carter-bush-backed-mental-health-equality-now-bipartisan-part-of-obamacare/

Maybe you’ve seen the homeless veteran get a makeover on vimeo, and then join AA ? Or maybe you’ve seen Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a double amputee, dress down a contractor for scamming the system to get government contracts related to his “disability?” http://www.upworthy.com/whats-the-worst-thing-you-could-say-to-a-congresswoman-who-lost-her-legs-in-battle-found-it?c=ufb2

Our veterans have been suffering long enough, waiting to get treatment for PTSD and head injuries. Homelessness and suicides in this population have been rising . Many seek help outside of the VA, because of the stigma, as well as the red tape. http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/critical-need.aspx

Let’s talk about mental health, like any other illness. My parent’s generation never mentioned the word “cancer.” We didn’t talk about lots of things related to lady parts, now we all wear pink ribbons. Reagan didn’t want to say, “AIDS.” But if we can’t talk about something as a nation, how can we cure it?

“Comfort Food”  is a fascinating essay about a Mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and later her daughter was hospitalized with bipolar disorder complicated by substance abuse. Her friends didn’t bring casseroles or even try to talk with her about her daughter. “Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: ‘How’s your depression these days?'” http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2013/11/families_dealing_with_mental_illness_need_support_too.html

Now if we could only get that darn website to work…

Read Full Post »

Last night our City Council heard from many business owners on the Historic Downtown Mall. Their issue is that the numbers of homeless people congregating on the mall is hurting their business. I remember Mimi walking into her yarn shop one day and complaining about some people who were yelling profanities and getting into a fight a few doors up. Right smack dab in the middle of the day! I have to admit, it’s hard to sit outside for a scrumptious meal at one of our fine dining establishments with homeless people carrying on in the background. Catholic guilt kicks in. Still, our city, the People’s Republic of Charlottesville, has gone overboard in protecting the rights of the homeless: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Charlottesville&state=VA its churches offer shelters; lawyers defend them in court free of charge; and there are ordinances protecting their right to congregate while restricting where they can stand/sit. Since they are not allowed to approach you for money, they sit with their dogs and kids holding cardboard signs explaining why they need to beg. Because that is what it is, not loitering, but begging.

My Jersey comes out at times like these. I grew up walking the streets of NY pre-Guiliani, when every block was teeming with beggars and people were sleeping on cardboard boxes outside of Tiffany. I was taught to ignore them. I know that sounds cruel, but the reasoning was that it would put (young) me at risk if I stopped to talk with them, and it would encourage more begging. There were shelters available and most homeless, I was told, are alcoholic and/or drug users; so any money I gave them was just feeding their habit. That made sense to me. Now we know that many homeless are not just drunks but mentally ill, and since there are laws prohibiting the forced administration of medication to these patients, unless they are a danger to themselves or others, they are stuck in a Catch 22 of bureaucratic limbo. If they are treated with psychogenic drugs, they will often stop taking them because they forget or just don’t like the feeling. So a cycle of homelessness can seem hopeless.

Certainly today, there may also be a small percentage of homeless who have fallen into poverty due to divorce or bankruptcy, and find themselves living in a car. My question is do homeless people really have the right, are they protected by our First Amendment, to sit on our public sidewalks with their signs up and their hands open? To argue and party with abandon so long as they remain a certain number of feet away from the Paramount Theatre? And how much can we the people balance and regulate their rights with the rights of business owners to operate their stores in relative peace?

When temperatures rise into triple digits in June, and many in our county are still without power in July, our City Council may find it difficult to keep tempers down around town. Stay safe, stay cool be careful around those fireworks – did you know you can buy them right in the grocery store in VA?! Happy Fourth of July Y’All, from this transplanted Jersey Girl!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: