Tuesday, June 26, 2007

DO IT ON THE CHEAP AND IT WILL BE A CHAOTIC SYSTEM

“President Robert Mugabe's government has published a bill to move majority control of ‘public companies and any other business’ to black Zimbabweans.
The goal is to ensure at least a 51% shareholding by indigenous black people in the majority of businesses. Critics say it could hurt investor confidence in Zimbabwe, suffering from the world's highest inflation and food, fuel and foreign currency shortages.
Now the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill will go to parliament. It is expected to back the bill, which stipulates that no company restructuring, merger or acquisition can be approved unless 51% of the firm goes to indigenous Zimbabweans.
The empowerment bill says that ‘indigenous Zimbabwean’ is anyone disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on race grounds before independence in 1980. It also provides for the establishment of an empowerment fund which will offer assistance to the ‘financing of share acquisitions’ from the public-owned firms or assist in ‘management buy-ins and buy-outs.’ And all government departments and statutory bodies will be asked to obtain 51% of their goods and services from businesses in which controlling interest is held by indigenous Zimbabweans.” BBC News Online

Reading about Zimbabwe these days always saddens me. When I was growing up there on Mashoko Mission in the early 60’s Africans were full of hope about their future. They believed that someday the country would be theirs and that at that time things would be better. Instead they are worse.

Also when I read the piece this morning about Zimbabwe I thought back to my days in Broward County, Florida. There the Mental Health Program Office is in the Department of Children and Families and one day the issue of 51% came up. The District Administrator for the Department (Broward County made up a District) did not think that PEER Center one of our mental health consumer run drop-in centers should have in its bylaws that 51% or more of its board must be consumers. He had not been there when we wrote the proposal and got the first money. That provision had been in the bylaws from the beginning. Unlike in Zimbabwe we were not trying to take over a business that was not ours. They were trying to take a nonprofit from our control. We got to keep control because of one person in the office who never wavered on the original concept.

Now I find myself in North Carolina and they are trying to figure out what to do after their mental health reforms did not go the way they had hoped they would.
This was recently in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The streetwise, 18-year-old Angie Bauknight who returned to Buncombe County this year, her mother said, is very different from the innocent child who left. North Carolina taxpayers paid for three years of institutionalization in three states, Diane Bauknight said. It exposed her daughter to the wrong sort of girls, ones mixed up in gangs and prostitution. “The whole time,” she said, “we said we would like her to come home. Please just let her come home.” Local care for patients like Angie Bauknight has been rare in Western North Carolina. Care for patients in crisis — who may be suicidal or violent — would expand under plans the state House and Senate may approve. But mental health advocates say they need more than the $20 million to $24 million increase lawmakers are considering if they are to address the state’s problems. “When what you need is a long, steady, soaking rain, it’s hard to get too excited about a sprinkle,” said David Cornwell, a native of Fletcher and executive director of N.C. Mental Hope. Sen. Martin Nesbitt, the principal author of the Senate plan for mental health, defended the amount of money it provides, saying it is all a chaotic system can bear.”

When the Senator who is one of the leaders on mental health and one of the designers of the reforms calls the system “chaotic”, you know you are in trouble. The system in crisis is trying to design and build a crisis system for us. Something is wrong with this picture.

Living with bipolar disorder I have gone through a few periods of time that folks said I was in crisis. They have even taken me and locked me up “for my own good and for the good of society”. What I did yesterday may be better than a locked unit. I spent 2 ½ hours on the Catawba River in my inflatable kayak. I had to call Patty to come get me at the first bridge below the Lake James dam instead of the bridge at Glen Alpine, but I can tell you it did more for my mental health than any time I have spent behind locked doors on a psych unit

Mobile crisis teams, 24 hour walk-in crisis clinics, safe houses and how person centered, individualized and available the community services are is what makes the difference in the lives of folks and their families. Designing the system is not difficult. We know what works, but it takes money. If you want to do it on the cheap, it will be a “chaotic system.”











You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Thursday, June 21, 2007

WHERE IS THE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM? MAYBE IT ALL WENT TO IRAQ!

Phillip Yancy, author of numerous books says compassion simply means “to suffer with”. I had trouble with that definition so I looked it up and found that WordNet said the verb compassionate meant to share the suffering with another. That sounds nice if it were possible. Remember President Bush said “I call my philosophy and approach compassionate conservatism." (White House Press Release April 30, 2002) Wonder what he meant by compassionate?

In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times recently Verlyn Klinkenborg writing about the report released last week by the Audubon Society which said millions of birds are missing wrote, “The Audubon Society portrait of common bird species in decline is really a report on who humans are. Let me offer a proposition about Homo sapiens. We are the only species on earth capable of an ethical awareness of other species and, thus, the only species capable of happily ignoring that awareness. So far, our economic interests have proved to be completely incompatible with all but a very few forms of life. It’s not that we believe that other species don’t matter. It’s that, historically speaking, it hasn’t been worth believing one way or another. I don’t suppose that most Americans would actively kill a whippoorwill if they had the chance. Yet in the past 40 years its number has dropped by 1.6 million.”

Yesterday I was trout fishing on Wilson Creek not far from my home in the Pisgah National Forest and I could hear the birds. They added to the sound of the rushing water of Wilson Creek, which was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System on August 18, 2000, and made the experience delightful even though I did not catch a single trout. What if all the birds were gone?

Klinkenborg seems to be concerned if we will make the right ethical decisions about the other species on this planet with us and I do too, but I spend even more time worrying about the fact we have never learned how to treat each other especially if they are different than us.

To put it bluntly I have never been like most of the rest of my fellow humans. My mental illness and the fact that I was sexually abused as a young child over a long period of time has made it very difficult for me to fit the normal mold. In other words I am not what I refer to as a chronically normal person. That means school was almost impossible and I was unable to finish college. I held over 50 different jobs before founding Project Dream Again in 1988. My point here is that I am one of those folks that you would not “actively kill” if you “had the chance”, but like the whippoorwill we are dying off. As I wrote in an earlier blog Marilyn Elias writing in USA TODAY about a recent study wrote that those of us in the public system die about “25 years earlier than Americans overall.” Where is the compassionate conservatism? Maybe it all went to Iraq!

To respond to the needs of folks with mental illness means meeting them where they are. Unfortunately, lots are on the streets or in jails and prisons, others living with families struggling to get them services promised but not forthcoming, some in state hospitals or private ones and others hiding because of the stigma of letting anyone know they are ill.

How do you reach out? By embracing them with compassion if you use the true meaning of the word. A true compassionate commitment to the mentally ill and their families would save government in the long term. It really is less expensive to treat people like they are fully human than to lock them up in state hospitals or jails and prisons. Why can’t we learn? We ask the wrong people for advice.

Try this! Ask consumers, family members and frontline workers what is needed. Let them be the experts. Embrace a concept of recovery based on the real meaning of compassion. You will then find that “in the community” begins to mean something.










You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

HEAL AND LEARN TO DREAM AGAIN

The Virginia Tech Shooter made the front page of the Washington Post again this morning. It reads “ Federal agents investigating the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech think Seung Hui Cho displayed many of the same characteristics of a criminal behavioral profile called the "Collector of Injustice," or someone who considers any misfortune against him the fault or responsibility of others.”

The article goes on to say, “ATF agents have assembled a sketch of Cho that they say fits the "Collector of Injustice" profile. "It is always someone else's fault, and the world is out to get them," Bart McEntire, the resident agent in charge of the ATF's Roanoke office, said in describing people who fit the profile. Eventually, the person's compilation of wrongs becomes overloaded, and he lashes out violently to right them and get even with those who he believes have caused him misfortune and ridicule.”

And then it said, “Cho, 23, of Centreville, whose family was religious and had sought help for him from a Woodbridge church, repeatedly made religious references. He said that he had been "crucified" and that, as with Jesus, his actions would set people free. He called himself a "martyr" who would "sacrifice" his life. He wrote that he would go down in history as the "Jesus Christ of the Weak and Defenseless." He thought his actions would inspire others to fight back and get even.”

That article made the front page. In the B section there is an article about the lack of funding for mental health in Virginia. It says, “Legislators said Monday that laws and procedures may need to be changed to better monitor some people with mental illnesses, but ultimately what is needed is more money. "If [mental health] is indeed a priority and we need to address it, then we have to have the resources," said Del. Philip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News), the committee chairman. "We can make all the policy changes we want, but if we don't allocate adequate resources to address the policy changes, then we've actually done nothing." Virginia spent $423.4 million on community-based and institutional mental-health services in 2006. The state ranks near the bottom in funding of community-based services. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill gave Virginia a "D" grade in 2006 for its overall performance for its mental-health services, estimating that the state ranks 30th nationally in per capita spending at $68 a year. By comparison, the District ranked first, spending $414 per capita.”

I guess that means if Mr. Cho was going to college in the District he never would have hurt a soul?

Philip Yancey, author of numerous books and Editor-at Large of Christianity Today, in a sermon on the Virginia Tech campus two weeks after the tragedy said, “Do not attempt healing alone. The real healing, of deep connective tissue, takes place in community”.

I did not know Mr. Cho, but I know what he did was an evil act. I have written before pleading that we separate the discussion of evil acts from the discussion of the mental health system and mental illness. I guess I was just crying in the wind. So then, the mental health system and the legislators funding and trying to design it had better listen to Yancey. “The real healing takes ……place in community.” He did not say takes place in the community. He said takes place “in community”. He also said “Do not attempt healing alone.”

As I have said before recovery and healing from mental illness can only take place when a person feels safe and rooted in a community that embraces them with warmth and acceptance. So you want to take the tragedy at Blacksburg as a reason to discuss the mental health system, then get real. If you are serious then look for the real answers. The real answer to recovery is helping your fellow sojourner find a place to be safe and rooted so they can Heal and Learn to Dream Again.





You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Soul, We Have One Too

In 1988 I found myself just coming out of a dark depression which had followed a wonderful manic high with time on my hands because I was unemployed. I decided to do a little research into the attitude churches had towards folks with mental illness. Being raised as a missionary kid in southern Africa, I was not unfamiliar with churches. I designed a survey and sent it out. Mainly to churches in the denomination in which I grew up, but I threw in a few others also.

I quickly found out that stigma was very much alive and that some ministers that I knew personally believed mental illness had some relationship to demon possession. I also learned that most of the mainline churches had mental illness networks, but that evangelical churches seemed reluctant even to talk about the issue.

Even in the denominations with the networks few individual congregations were doing anything in the way of education about mental illness or advocacy for the mentally ill. There where no special ministries to the mentally ill or their families. I knew that I had never been comfortable saying anything about my mental illness in church and my father wrote before his death that I was an embarrassment to him with his fellow missionaries (Read MY FATHER”S WORD’S Friday, March 04, 2005).

The Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network did a study guide called Serious Mental Illness: Seeking A Comprehensive Christian Response. “This study guide provides four sessions for personal and class discussion and reflection. These sessions encourage and challenge the reader to think about ways people living with mental illness are included and/or excluded from participating in the work of the church and society in general. The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) will take the feedback obtained through this study into consideration as it develops a policy statement for action by the 218th General Assembly (2008).” (Their words)

The study guide is well written and I was surprised to find quotes from my writings in two of the sessions. Copies had been sent out and I was curious how the study guide was being received at the local level. I contacted the congregation where I live here in North Carolina and I was told by the minister that he did not remember getting it. Is it really any different in 2007 than it was in 1988?

Recently I found the following in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “Robin Huffman, director of the N.C. Psychiatric Association, said negative thinking about mental illness still prevents many people from talking about their illness, even if they do get treatment.
“If I’m looking for a promotion at work, do I want my boss to know I’ve had depression?” she said. “Do I really want to go to a psychiatrist and run the risk of someone I know seeing me come out of the office? That’s what people think. If more people would speak up, it would help educate others.”
In that same article it quoted a workplace study, “A national survey of human resources executives by the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health ranked mental illness as the top health issue for effects on indirect costs to businesses. The survey appeared in the July issue of Employee Benefit News. U.S. businesses lose an estimated $50 billion a year because of employees’ mental illnesses, according to a study published last year in the American Journal of Psychiatry, The most common is depression, which costs $4,426 a year in indirect costs for each employee who has it. The cost for an employee with bipolar disorder is $9,619.”

The point is that in two places in the community where roots are made there is major issues for those of us with mental illness. There was when I did my first research in 1988 and there is today. I have never felt like I belonged in any church or at any workplace. It is not just me folks. Many of my fellow sojourners feel the same way.

The mental health system across this country is struggling. Each state keeps writing new plans to solve their problems. They all speak of recovery and person-centered approaches. Of course they are all trying to figure out how to do the job with the least amount of money they can, but that is not their biggest problem.

Simone Weil (1909-1943), French mystic, social philosopher, factory worker, teacher, Christian and activist in the French Resistance during World War II, whose posthumously published works had particular influence on French and English social thought wrote, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.”

That is the biggest problem of the mental health system. They have never understood that the main goal of recovery is to become rooted in community. Some of us like the folks at Pathways to Promise and Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder (www.MentalHealthMinistries.net) have for years been talking about the role that faith communities play in this process.

First, you have to agree we are fully human and that we are more than our mental illnesses that are medical illnesses. We have a soul and I will not argue with you about how you want to define soul, but it is the place deep within your being and you know the place I mean. We have one too and it needs to be rooted. All the meds and all the mental health programming will not replace the need to feel embraced by a community of folks who one believes one can trust and who one believes cares about one. In that community one can become rooted.

Recovery requires becoming rooted because we have one too.



You can contact me at eecoop_yahoo.com

HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Saturday, June 09, 2007

SO WHERE DO YOU LOOK WHEN YOU NEED MORE THAN THE MEDS ARE BRINGING

Table Mountain is the only geographical feature in the world that has a constellation named after it, the Mensa. It rises above the city of Cape Town, South Africa and I had the privilege of seeing it from the freighter on which we had sailed from new York to Cape Town in 1960. It was a great adventure for an eleven year old boy. For those of you who have read previous blogs you know we were headed to a mission station a 100 miles out in the bush in what is now Zimbabwe. It is flanked by Devil's Peak to the east, Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the west, and the Karbonelberg to the south-west. The Twelve Apostles are it's buttresses along the Atlantic coast. Maclear's Beacon has a observatory erected in 1843 by the astronomer, Sir Thomas Maclear, as part of a experiment to more accurately measure the circumference of the earth. The western end of the plateau supports the upper cableway station that was first built in 1929. In May 1998, Table Mountain and much of the remaining unspoiled area of the Peninsula was placed under the custodianship of South African National Parks and proclaimed the Table Mountain National Park.

The Linville River with its source high on Grandfather Mountain has, by its tremendous scouring action, formed one of Eastern America's most scenic and rugged gorges. The steep walls of the Gorge enclose the Linville River for 12 miles. The river's swift waters descend over 2,000 feet before breaking into the open levels of the Catawba Valley, Elevation averages 3,400 feet along the rim of the Gorge and 2,000 feet on Linville River. The Linville Gorge Wilderness , in the western North Carolina Mountains, is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The gorge is formed by Jonas Ridge on the east, and Linville Mountain on the west and is bisected by the Linville River, which drops into the valleys below. The odd assortment of rock formations located on Jonas Ridge include Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock, and the Chimneys. Elevations range from 1,300 feet on the Linville River to 4,120 feet on Gingercake Mountain. The terrain is extremely steep and rugged with numerous rock formations. It is covered by a dense hardwood/pine forest and a wide variety of smaller trees and other plants. Recreation opportunities include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, fishing, and hunting.

Tucked away in a corner of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, between Lake James and Grandfather Mountain, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is so rugged that it was spared the clear-cut logging that was inflicted on most of our eastern forests shortly after the turn of the century. US Army Rangers and US Marines do their wilderness training here. Tenderfoots beware: Linville Gorge is no walk in the park. Table Rock Mountain is the hub of climbing activity in Linville Gorge.

How do you compare the beauty of Table Rock Mountain here in Western North Carolina to Table Mountain on the southern tip of Africa? How to you compare the beauty of the Grand Canyon out west to the Linville Gorge or the New River Gorge in West Virginia? The point is I don’t think you can. You enjoy the beauty of each place for what it is each like you enjoy the beauty of each individual for who they are.

As some of you know I recently moved to Glen Alpine, NC. I can sit on my porch and look out at Table Rock Mountain. On a clear day I can even see Grandfather Mountain. I am a short drive from a very famous trout stream. I don’t fly fish, but the trout don’t know that and they love the night crawlers I fish with on my light tackle. The other day Patty and I were out on Lake James in my new inflatable kayak. A real kayak is an Eskimo canoe with a skin cover on a light framework made watertight by a flexible closure around the waist of the occupant and propelled with a double-bladed paddle. I bought a Sea Eagle 330 inflatable because they are very forgiving of mistakes and I had never been kayaking or canoeing. It being new to me I decided I needed a model they said was for kids and old folks. From Lake James you can see Table Rock Mountain.

Father’s Day is coming up. Remember I said you can see Table Rock Mountain from our porch. Well, Patty’s father died a little over a year ago, but him and I have spent hours on that same porch looking at that mountain and talking and waiting on Patty and her Mom to get a meal ready. It was with my father that I saw Table Mountain in Cape Town. This Father’s Day I will be thinking of mountains.

Why so much about the outdoors? Because I needed something more than the medications were bringing. For those of you who know her you know Patty is a wonderful person, but it is not Patty’s responsibility to fix me. She is my wife not my caregiver or casemanager. I need to be able to give back to her not just take from her, but I am empty. I think I am making progress after the AAA surgery (Google it if you don’t know what I mean) then they hit me with something else. I will not bore you with the details, but I deal with my bipolar illness and childhood sexual abuse better than I do this continuing saga of new physical things to deal with. I don’t think I will let them draw anymore blood.

So where do you look when you need more than the medications are bringing? I first look to the beauty of God’s creation. It never disappoints me. From hurricane to the tiniest wildflower you can find the hand of the Creator.

You also look to your friends. Patty went one time with me out on the lake and a friend went another time. Friends from south Florida keep in touch and that means the world to me. Family makes the journey seem lighter.

The real deal is you have to look deep and find that last bit of energy to fight the demons of depression and discouragement. I almost did not use the word demons because I don’t want anyone to think I mean demon possession, but you all know how fond I am of alliteration. Where do you look? You look deep within. It is there. Others can help, but the real work is yours to do.







You can contact me at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

Homepage: http://www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Monday, June 04, 2007

DO NC LEGISLATORS KNOW WE ARE FULLY HUMAN?

A headline in a Raleigh, North Carolina newspaper last week read “Mental Health Mess Under Fire”. One line in the article said, “The Senate used the budget bill it approved this week to rein in community support, a basic mental health service that in its first year cost about twice as much as expected.”

It is not a real surprise that the Senators are upset, but really they have themselves to blame. The legislators here in North Carolina are like those in most other states and in the federal government. They listen to the wrong experts. They listen to the experts from a consulting firm with briefcases, charts and degrees. Who are the real experts? The folks living with the mental illnesses, their families and loved ones and the professionals on the front lines working with them.

The community support program in this state was not well defined, some of the paper work was so disrespectful to consumers I don’t know how it got approved (here I am speaking of the Person-Centered Plan that asks everybody about goals, strengths, preferences, etc except maybe the mental health center janitor), and the frontline folks got little training. The training manual I looked at was confusing, but then I am only an expert by virtue of living with mental illness and being an individual and system advocate since 1989. It was ill conceived and they blamed the people trying to carry out their flawed plan. Go figure.

This fits in with an article that appears in the latest edition of Psychiatric News.
“Va. Tech Tragedy Spurs Examination of Commitment, Campus MH
Aaron Levin
Outpatient commitment procedures and resources to fill the mental health needs of college students are reexamined in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy.
The killing of 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech University on April 16 opened a wide-ranging, if not always focused, debate about civil commitment and the availability of psychiatric services on campuses around the country.”

The problem that has come up around the country with what is called outpatient commitment is community resources. If you agree the state has the right to do it then the funds have to be there for the programs. The problem is no state is even properly funding the community programs for folks willing to participate much less for the much more costly involuntary community programs. As it was in Florida when I was there and as it is in North Carolina now, money is the reality that drives the decision making process. Not so called best practices. Not best medical practices. Not even the most humane thing. Money makes the call.

In that same Psychiatric News article Paul Appelbaum, M.D., the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Law and director of the Division of Psychiatry, Law and Ethics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, said “If 97 percent of violent acts are committed by the non-mentally ill, targeting them as a matter of policy is a peculiar thing to do.”

That is a good question. Why can’t the policy discussion be about how to build a public mental health system that truly embraces the idea that we are fully human and that we and our loved ones may actual know what we need?

I just wish the folks writing, developing forms, developing programs, teaching about and working in person-centered approaches would at least read Carl Rogers or call what their doing something else. To embrace us as fully human begins with how the program is designed even down to how it is funded and how the forms are designed.

I truly wonder if the legislators of North Carolina and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services know we are fully human. Does Governor Michael F. Easley know we are fully human? Since Blacksburg I am beginning to wonder if anyone knows we are fully human with all the rights of chronically normal people.


You can contact me at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com

HOMEPAGE: www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html