Friday, February 22, 2013

"THEY WERE ALL BIPOLAR" REALLY?

Dallas, Texas Mayor Mike Rawlings admits in the piece he wrote for The Dallas Morning News that he is no expert in the field of mental health or mental illness.  His opinion piece appeared 2/21/2013 on dallasnews.com.  He is also a partner with The Dallas Morning News and KERA in “Erasing the Stigma: Mental Illness and the Search for Solutions”-a symposium on treatment for the mentally ill. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings may be contacted at mike.rawlings@dallascityhall.com.

He makes the claim he wants to help end stigma.  Mr. Mayor, after listing several mass murders you concluded by saying “no pun intended, they were all bipolar.”  The facts are that no one has said any mental health professional diagnosed the Newtown killer as having a bipolar disorder.  The other killers you listed may or may not have had a bipolar disorder, but that does not mean their actions were caused by their bipolar disorder.  They may have had more than one diagnosis and the possibility exists that some of them were driven by motives or by evil that cannot be contributed to a mental illness.

“Mental illness is one of the most difficult afflictions for any individual or family member to deal with, but at one time so was heart disease. The question is: How serious do we want to be about it? Or do we just want to go back to arguing about our culture’s secondary causes of violence?”

If I read the above quote from your Dallas Moring News piece correctly, you are saying the mentally ill are the number one cause of violence.  Did you really mean to say that?  If not you owe all of us with a mental illness an apology.  If you did mean it then you should not be making any public statements about mental illness or public mental health policy.

You say in the piece you are a good listener.  I hope you will find a group from the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement and listen to them.  They might help you understand we are not the number one cause of violence in this country.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

FEAR OF GOVERNMENT


For the first time since I came in contact with the mental health system in 1964, I fear the system and the government funding it.  I didn’t fear it as a teen.  I didn’t fear it in the military.  I didn’t fear it through many hospitalizations in public, private, and Veterans Administration hospitals.  I didn’t fear it on more visits than I can count.  However I must be honest, I fear it now for a couple of reasons.
 
First, I fear they will continue to take funds away from the system until it doesn’t even have the skeleton bones of a system left.  A time limit on services is in direct conflict with the concept of person-centered recovery.  All of us with a label that is considered a severe and persistent mental illness have the dream of regaining the life we had before the illness stole some of our abilities.  The journey to regaining some or all of our stolen abilities is an individual one.  It does not fit well into arbitrary timelines or pathways designed by a system.
 
I understand that money is an issue, but it is not the only issue.  Few people in the field truly believe that the person has a right to determine their own path and pace.  I have met few mental health professionals or for that matter consumers working in the field who were not ready to “fix” me if I would only listen to them.  It is hard to watch people make what we think are mistakes, but true progress can only be made when the person is heading in the direction of their dreams and heart.  It is then they will get up and go again after each fall.  The pace may be slower, but it is truer, more dignified and shows that those helping truly are listening and care.
 
Second, I fear the system will be forced by public opinion and thus the government to use major portions or its underfunded resources to chase after the potential mass killer.  Don’t take this to mean I am not concerned about gun violence because you would be dead wrong.  I am concerned about using limited resources on a fool’s errand.  Expert after expert has come out and said we can’t predict who might be a mass murderer.  The system may still try if the government takes money and demands they do.  I don’t have a violent history, but I could still become a target if I said the wrong thing in a therapy session.
 
To fear your government in a democracy is a sad thing, but the reality is I do.  Maybe you should think about what I am saying.  Maybe you ought to fear this craziness too!   

Thursday, February 07, 2013

PROGRESSIVE THEOLOGY: CHRISTIAN MYSTICS

I have been working on the issues around the church and those of us labeled mentally ill for about twenty-five years.  The church can be a major piece in our community natural support system if it chooses to be inclusive.  The rituals of religions can be very satisfying to those of us who need concrete ideas to hold on to.  The real questions start to come to the forefront when a person wants more than a social club or a set of rituals.  What do you do when they ask you how to find a close relationship with God?

The politically correct answer is to say pick any spiritual path you want because they all lead to the same place and are equally good.  Some of the national organizations working on issues around spirituality and mental illness seem to endorse this viewpoint.  I don’t.

I think, if you believe there is a God, you have to decide how you think that God revealed himself/herself to the human race.  For me it does not compute in my mind that God used a multitude of paths or religions.  So I picked one way.  Jesus.

So back to the question.  How does one get close to God?  The Christian mystics did something they called contemplative prayer.  It is getting your mind and heart quiet enough to hear and receive the Holy Spirit.  You can read about God all your life, but until you feel something deep inside your being you simply have an intellectual understanding of God.

Getting quiet enough to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit indwelling in you is harder than trying to make it through the world while having hallucinations.  It is the hardest thing a person can attempt.

Why I am writing this right now?  Because with all the mass murders has come lots of talk about us and I think some people may need what has helped me.  I don’t go to church much and I don’t push my thoughts onto others, but knowing someone walks with me has helped me many times. 

You can say it is a delusion Ed.  There is no one there.  My reply to you will be to be still dear one and you just might feel someone walking the path with you.

Monday, February 04, 2013

ONE SIZE FITS ONE


“I believe it is time for the C/S/X Movement to split.... the "Recovery Movement", the "C's", who try to be PC, perhaps to protect their funding, maintain relationships, or because they believe what they are saying, undermine our voice and destroy our credibility when they support forced treatment, mandated medical model treatment with no choice, or profiling in any way. I think it is time to make it very clear there are two philosophically separate factions speaking so that we are not constantly wasting our energy trying to create the construct of a unified movement that does not exist.”  Amy Smith (from a Facebook post, Feb. 2013)
She is right that the C/S/X (Consumer or Client/ Survivor/ Ex-patient or Ex-inmate) movement is not a unified movement.  It has certainly not settled on an agreed upon philosophy or a definition of recovery. 
I feel lucky because I have survived 49 years of what the system has thrown at me over the years.  They keep coming up with different words for their approaches and develop new drugs, but the truth is it is still designed to change me and to turn me into a chronically normal person. So nothing has really changed. 
I have been an advocate since 1988 and have been called a traitor by family groups, consumer groups, and providers, but I am still here.  My main sin is that I really do believe that people should be allowed to determine their own path to wherever they want to go.  I also believe that if the state decides to declare “parental rights” and lock a person away in a state hospital then they owe that person all it takes to put his/her life back together in the community. No time limit.  No service denied because Medicaid will not pay any longer.
I am both an Ex-patient and an Ex-inmate.  When I have been held against my will, I look at that as being a prisoner.  When I am in a psychiatric unit without being held against my will then I am a patient. 
If you have read this blog before you know I think we are bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings and that I hate the reductionist bio-medical model.  I don’t think you improve things much by simply adding a system planned “recovery” model to a bio-medical model.  What do I mean?  I mean a state like Tennessee taking the definition of recovery from SAMHSA and saying since SAMHSA says recovery is possible we are going to set time limits on services.  In TN, NC, and FL you had better be one of the people who recover fast.  I mention these states only because I know about them.  I am sure there are others.
There is a wide range of views among us about the reality of mental illness as defined by the mental health system.  From folks who say there isn’t any such thing as mental illness to those that declare it to be a totally biological illness.
I don’t know where you find the real movement.  A movement based on our humanity and rights to be treated as fully human and not as criminals if we haven’t committed a crime.  A movement dedicated to humane, respectful, peer driven, scientific, and spiritual services delivered by a peer driven system with a motto that one size fits only one person.