Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, but People Do

I just left a group I had recently joined, under the impression that people who were intent on erasing the stigma of mental illness would be, well, more open-minded. I am a somewhat naive person in some respects; I will admit that. Possibly because I’m hopeful. Possibly because I’m gullible, to an extent, and I want to believe the best of people. Especially ones trying to erase the shame associated with mental illness because, after all, it’s not something a person can help.

I was surprised, then, to find a posting after the shooting at the recruitment centers, describing the shooter as having an “extremist personality” and one of the women who’s daughter had bi-polar saying, “her daughter didn’t act that way.” I was furious. And very disappointed.

I responded that if the young man hadn’t been Muslim, this wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation, and apparently the idea of mental illness being a stigma was based on race and religion, not the reality of mental illness, which doesn’t tend to pay attention to those lines. It doesn’t discriminate. And as for the woman whose bi-polar daughter not acting that way, I said knowing one person with mental illness is knowing one person with mental illness. If we were all the same, one pill would magically cure all of us and yay, the world would be a happier place. But it doesn’t work that way. We are all individual chemical factories with unique brain chemistries and genetic predispositions. That’s why there are so many drugs out there that don’t work for so many different people, or cause paradoxical reactions (the complete opposite of what they’re intended to do).

I said I didn’t want to be associated with people claiming to want to erase the stigma of mental illness, selectively. What do they think society is doing to them? Exactly what they were doing and patting themselves on the back for. Oh yes, “Extremist Personality,” my therapist pointed out, isn’t in the DSM. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which is what the United States uses to diagnose people. I should note the DSM-V has been highly criticized. Which doesn’t have anything to do with this. I asked how do they expect to change things when they are being so close-minded themselves?

But what do you do when the people claiming to try to make things better for people with mental illness, and I should add that at that point, it was only a few people who were agreeing with this anti-Muslim sentiment, hardly the whole group, are spouting the sort of nonsense that some people do against any person with mental illness, that keeps the stigma alive? I should have not left the group in a huff, I should have seen if what I said actually made a difference. I was hasty, but I doubt what I said made a difference. Because people’s beliefs are ingrained, and that’s the sad thing. “We don’t want our children with mental illness to be stigmatized, but if you happen to belong to a religious group we normally label as terrorists, don’t expect any sympathy?”

We need a lot more love, and a lot less hate.

p.s. I realized I should add an addendum here. I met some really great people in the group, and I hope they know who they are, because I still communicate with them, and I really admire them and what they are doing, so it isn’t as if the experience was a loss–hardly. I learned a lot about schizophrenia, as well, which I didn’t know much about. It was this one exchange that upset me.

Advertisements
Image

Post-Partum Depression

I think it’s very important for women to understand that if you feel depressed after the birth of a child, you aren’t alone, and that there are people for you to talk to who understand, and that, possibly even more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re hardly alone. I know just from having depression that it’s easy to feel isolated and alone, and when I was really depressed, it was all I could do sometimes just to take care of my cat. Taking care of a baby? I can’t even imagine. But there’s hope, and there’s help. Post-Partum depression is understood better than it was before, and recognized as something legitimate and treatable, and something that isn’t the mother’s fault. It just happens. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother or you’ve messed anything up. It’s just something you need to talk to someone about.

I saw this poster at the gynecologist’s office and then found it online, because I think it’s something really important that often gets overlooked and I wanted to post it here. It’s from WellMama and I think they did a really good job.

WellMama

For people out of this immediate area, I also found a website called Postpartum Support International at:

http://www.postpartum.net/

This is quoted from their resources page:

“Postpartum Support International has many resources to help families, providers, and communities learn about the emotional and mental health of childbearing families. If you are not able to find what you’re looking for in the blue menu on the left of your screen, there are three ways to find more options: You can do a search by typing keywords in the search box at the upper right of your screen; access the whole website site map HERE to get a listing of all pages; or contact the PSI office for assistance at psioffice@postpartum.net or 503-894-9453.”

They have links to other webpages and it looks like a good site to check out.

So reach out and find some help, for you and your baby, because you’ll both feel better, and you’ll both be happier, and because it’s just so much nicer knowing that you’re not the only one that feels that way.

Big hugs.

 

Image

@Wit’s End

I just became aware of a really awesome and very necessary project on GoFundMe–@Wit’s End. It’s a web resource for parents to find the necessary mental health care and treatment for their children by entering in the type of issues their child has, and the web page matches them with appropriate agencies. It’s truly awesome! Tricia Slavik is the creator, a mother trying to help other parents.

This is the link to help fund this project:

http://www.gofundme.com/wit-send

Here’s an example of the interface:

witsend-infographic-side2

And this is what the creator, Tricia Slavik, has to say about it:

@Wit’s End will be a first of its kind resource for the millions parents who struggle to find appropriate care for their child suffering from a mental illness.

Finding help for a child with a mental illness is challenging at best and heart breaking always.  I conducted a national survey in which 87% of parents say “it is difficult or impossible to find appropriate care.” 17,100,000 children in the US have had or have a mental illness  – that number represents 34,200,000 parents. Parents desperate to get their children help.

Did you know that only 1 in 5 children with a mental illness receives treatment?  I want to change those unacceptable statistics;  I want to do it before one more child ends up in prison, addicted or hurts themselves or someone else.

Read the new Children’s Mental Health Report from the Child Mind Institute here.

Why I Took the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) off my Page

I like to put services that I think are helpful, or quotes I really like, on the side of my page. I had NAMI up as one of them. Because I’d never really needed to use them before and thought they were a useful place. Until I needed to use them. Now, they may be good at getting things done on a large level. I have no idea. I do have to note that their page does have some good resources, so I’m not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. There are a couple of reasons I’ve taken them down I feel I need to mention, though.

1. They have launched a campaign to lower the number of people with mental illness in prison. This is a well meaning campaign, and I signed up as someone interested in following it. But things came up with another issue, 2., which made it clear that they weren’t quite thinking the whole thing through.

2. I was trying to seek advocacy for a friend with depression involved in a court case where the people involved have no understanding of mental illness, and, I feel, are mobbing her. I thought, “I’ll call NAMI. They’ll know what to do.” I was very wrong about that. They told me: “NAMI has no attorneys on staff and doesn’t have the capacity to provide advocates for individual cases.” They went on to say, “If your friend thinks she is
being discriminated against because of her mental illness, then Disability Rights Oregon might be able to help.” This was the state office of NAMI, and they said they forwarded my request to the local office, where the man here was on his honeymoon. That was on June 8th, so that’s a heck of a long honeymoon. There’s a caveat in here that I’ll explain in a minute.

3. I wrote them back, saying that if they really intend to keep people with mental illness out of prison, wouldn’t a system of legal advocates in the court system be a really good way to go, that way they’d keep people with mental illness from ever ending up in prison in the first place? Cricket. Cricket. No response. Because that’s the right way to go about it, IMHO. How are people with mental illness going to be kept out of prison if there isn’t an independent intermediary in place in the legal system to help them advocate for themselves to all the people who haven’t a clue about mental illness or how being locked in jail/prison without treatment is so damnably detrimental? Not to mention inhumane, unethical, and whatever else you care to call it. It’s a bit like shutting the gate after all the sheep are gone. Let’s wait until they’re all in the neighbor’s yard, then go get them. It’s too much work to fix the pen. What we  really need are advocates in the courts. I am very, very convinced about that, and NAMI’s non-answer was disturbing and sad.

4. I recently joined a group and found out how far-reaching NAMI’s non-involvement in personal cases goes. What the cost is in terms of lives lost. If they aren’t going to help people when they really need it, they shouldn’t call themselves the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They should call themselves a government action group and be done with it. To me, an Alliance is something that helps other when they are in need, not something that turns its back on people when they are desperate and at their wits’ end, and the cost is someone’s life, literally. And the effect that loss has on the entire family and circle of friends of that person. The demoralizing effect on other people with mental illness (and their families) as they see or hear of another person like themselves who succumbs to their mental illness because of lack of treatment, or lack of treatment facilities, or just plain lack of understanding.

5. The Office of Disabilities Rights refused to help as well, because it’s a Family Law case, and they don’t get involved in those. I don’t particularly blame them, because that would take up all of their time. I used to work for Protection & Advocacy, in California. I replaced NAMI with Protection & Advocacy, a nationwide, federally mandated organization who helps people with disabilities, and families with children with disabilities, on cases involving SSI/SSDI, Special Education law, and matters like that. I think they are an important organization, and I know they made a difference where I worked. Like every other federal agency, they are underfunded, but they do the best they can. If people have problems because schools aren’t adhering to their child’s IEP, or someone is having problems with Social Security over SSI payments, they’re the ones to go to. So even though they couldn’t help in my particular case, I still feel they are a good organization well worth putting up on my page for people who need help with those things. Because there are a lot of people who do need help with those things.

Treatment and recognition of mental illness is something that is sorely underfunded in this country. Probably many countries. Yes, there are many people with mental illness in prison, but why does no one look at why they’re there and not in treatment facilities? Why does no one question the fact that courts are woefully underprepared to deal with people with mental illness, treating them as if they are stupid and deliberately defying them? Truthfully, I believe they would rather work with drug addicts than people with mental illness–you can put addicts in treatment with timelines that fit into court schedules (I won’t go into the issue of addicts with mental illness). Mental illness doesn’t just “go away” to suit people like the Department of Human Services, or lawyers, or judges, just to make their lives easier. Mental illness isn’t “convenient.” Just because it’s an invisible disability doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The whole foray into the court system makes it worse. Adequate mental health care shouldn’t be a struggle, it should be a right.

Which is why we need independent Mental Health Care Advocates in the courts.

Image

Wonderful World of Languages

Languages are fascinating. At least, I’ve always thought so. I also want the ability to communicate with everyone, human or animal, to be my superpower. It was therefore frustrating for me to find myself stumped by Cyrillic when I find Russian to be a beautiful sounding language–I have an online friend in the Ukraine with an unbelievable capacity for languages. I can understand her English (and she had to get used to our alphabet), and now she’s learning Italian. And she has a three year-old. And is building a house with her husband. Talking with her has been fascinating, because one of the most wonderful things about learning a language is the ability to learn more about a different culture, other perspectives, another country. The Ukraine doesn’t look all that different from where I live, really. She sends me pictures and we have chats on WhatsApp. All because I bought a headband from her on Etsy, I made a new friend.

People in the United States seem, some of them, determined not to learn other languages for various reasons. The one that annoys me the most is the one that if someone comes here, they should speak English, d***it! Then they make fun of people of other nationalities and their broken English. I just think, man, they speak English a lot better than I speak _insert language of choice._  If I even speak any of the language they speak at all. I speak a few things enough to be partially understood, but nothing fluently anymore. You don’t use it, you really do lose it. My best friend, a German native, speaks English better than I do–he even knows all the grammar rules, which I’m pathetic with. I speak by ear; he had to learn and memorize all the rules when he moved to an English speaking country.

I think that’s what so many people don’t appreciate. English is a hard language to learn. Every time you turn around, there’s an exception to the rule, and pronunciation–phhtt, forget it. Other languages have rules about pronunciation and stick with them. English is all over the map with how things sound (and many things have been written phonetically to show this). It’s no wonder English confuses people. Yet it’s one of the most learned languages in other countries.

We are a little (ah-hem) ethnocentric in the US. I found an absolutely beautiful language map a while ago, drawn by Minna Sundberg, that is a work of art. In fact, you can purchase framable copies of it here: http://www.hivemill.com, under Stand Still Stay Silent, the webcomic she writes. There are other cool things she has done there as well.

I just found another language map that presents languages in a less beautiful form, but an interesting one nonetheless. I found it on http://www.themindunleashed.org, and the creator of the graphic is Alberto Lucas López.

I think it’s worth taking a good look at them and then thinking about English as a language, and just how many other languages–and cultures–there are out there. And then thinking about how many different perspectives there are on things. Supposedly this country was founded on the freedom to express those different perspectives–we were called the melting pot. But we’re not. We’ve become a bunch of globs that won’t cohere because of coatings we’ve put around ourselves that blind us to what other perspectives have to offer. The beauty that is the sound of Russian. The interesting things there are to learn about the Ukraine. The fierce unwillingness to unloose ourselves from our globs and reach out because it’s easier to stay in a lump.

Isn’t it worth a try, though?

Old World Family Languages Minna Sundberg

Old World Language Families
Minna Sundberg

SCMP Graphic: Alberto Lucas López

SCMP Graphic: Alberto Lucas López