Having just read a Huffington Post article the other day, I was left with the same conclusion I often come to regarding the state of mental health: Our division is hurting us. You can read the article I am referring to, here.
There is a lot to be said for the passion and drive it takes to advocate for persons with mental illness. It is a thankless job rife with bureaucracy, red tape and a lot of road blocks. That isn’t stopping advocates from charging full speed ahead. But, that isn’t what this post is about, really. I say it because it is important to recognize that a lot of people are volunteering a lot of time and energy into making the lives of individuals better, but are also finding themselves at odds with others who seemingly have the same goal.
Sometimes, I think in our need to be “right” we miss out on the bigger picture. People with very similar goals and different perspectives should work collaboratively for the good of all. Ought we really take such a divided stance to mental health? I am constantly running across so much judgement in the field. I am frustrated by it. Why deny people their experiences? Can’t your “truth” be as truthful as someone else’s “truth”? Not only are we fighting stigma of society at large, we are fighting stigma within our own movement. Meds vs. Anti-Meds, Assisted Outpatient Treatment vs. The Rights of Individuals, Behavior vs. Cognitive, etc., etc. All of this and we are so far mired in the muck with not a lot of progress being made, we may never get out.
What would it look like if we could acknowledge each other and find common ground to take care of individuals with serious mental illness so they do not wind up homeless, in prison or dead? What would it look like if we could place importance on education so that children could be identified earlier and given the best chance to battle a looming mental illness? Why can’t we do both? I don’t pretend to have all the answers. There is so much need and so much that needs to be changed, sometimes it is nothing but overwhelming. Certainly, though, at the very least, there are a few key things that could go a long way in helping. Some of the things are listed in Bill HR3717. The need to redraft HIPAA so that parents and guardians have the ability to work on behalf of their mentally ill children is a big one. We need to stop closing community mental health centers and mental health hospitals that facilitate programs to keep people off of the streets and as well as possible. Not only do we need to stop closing them, but we need to fund them to the fullest extent possible to reach as many individuals as possible. We need to find a solution to taking care of the most severely mentally ill that doesn’t include locking them away in a place, never to be seen again. We need to stop stigmatizing the mentally ill by understanding they are fighting a very hard battle.