Is The Mental Health System Broken?
I recently read an article that talked about the funding President Kennedy was setting aside for mental health so that mentally ill people could have access to mental health treatment outside of a state run facility. Sadly he was killed before he could get anything started and the funds have gone towards other things. Due to the lack of funds, some mentally ill people have limited or no access to receive proper treatment; they wind up homeless, develop substance abuse problems or die. The prison system is seems to be filling up with people who have sever illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. There are not enough psychiatrists employed through the correctional system to treat those patients.
Last year, one of the state hospitals here in Louisiana was shut down due to budget cut and the patients had to be transported to another state hospital. This hospital used to offer a three tier level of treatment for patients, but due to the cuts, it was cut down to two tiers and fewer bed were available. A former nurse from this hospital described the three tier system was admitting the patient and starting them on medication, treating and helping them set life goals and then the last step was to release them. With the two tier level, the patient is admitted and put on medication and then sent back out into the world. I have experienced the two tier system twice in my life through two different mental hospitals I went through. When I was 14, I was in for only 72 hours and released after the weekend. My second stay 2 years ago lasted for 10 days due to the unstable situation at home. Both times I had a label slapped on me, pumped full of meds and sent on my way. The only way I have gotten better is through the mental health center in my city; they offer counseling, medication management and a psychiatrist to see. The drawback though is that the psychiatrists are now only allowed to see you for only 15 minutes and not an hour like in the past. It gives the patient just enough time to let them know how the meds are doing and the doctor to decide if meds need to be adjusted.
Another thing that mentally ill people experience is the stigmatism that is associated with their illness. I have faced them due to my mental illnesses; I have Major Depression and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Yes, major depression is debilitating and some people think it is something someone can snap out of like normal depression or that it’s an excuse to get sympathy. From my point of view, it is not something you just snap out of. Even with medications and exercise, I have days I am very agitated and want to be left alone. Schizotypal is considered to be mild schizophrenia but without hearing voices and can come back into reality. It hinders me socially, but through counseling I have been able to improve on my social skills slowly, but I don’t allow anyone to get very close to me. Schizotypals face the stigmatism that they are weird and completely odd. So what if they dress completely different and see out of whatever the norm is. Major Depression and Schizotypal can both be managed with medications and counseling which could help reduces the chances of suicide and substance abuse.
As a mentally challenged person, I go through pain everyday of my life as well as others with mental disabilities. It’s as if no one understands our pain or even wants to understand it to help us except mental health professionals. My mother’s sister and her friend have accused me for half of my adult life that I have just been using my parents to gain sympathy and benefit from whatever they can give me. Recently my Dad and I talked about that issue and he said, “They have never had children so they can’t make a judgement without going through it themselves. They don’t understand that you require a certain kind of care at times and your mother and I know how to do that.”
Just remember that everyone deserves equal fair treatment, mental illness or not. The mental health system needs to quit getting the back burner and get the proper funding it needs.