Losing It

We have to start talking about America’s mental health crisis

  • Losing-It

    Dante Terzigni / www.danteterzigni.com

  • Losing-It

The first time I saw the mug shot I was at an Amoco station, 15 minutes from the nearest psych ward and 90 miles from home.

I didn’t need to stop for gas. My tank was still three-quarters full. But having just spent the past 48 hours trying to help a dear friend navigate his hometown’s heartless mental health care system, I figured a scalding cup of stale coffee might keep me from drifting into a ditch.

While I was waiting for the clerk to count out my change, my eyes fell on a copy of the daily paper, dated January 11, 2011.

The front page looked like something a newsboy in knickers would be hawking during the second act of a Batman movie. The headline type was extra-large and loud, the accompanying photo swallowed up all the space above the fold, and the subject—eyes wild, framed by pale cheeks, and a hastily shaven head—looked like a patient from Arkham Asylum. He even wore an off-kilter, vaguely villainous smirk.  

Jared Lee Loughner: Arizona’s assassin, the new year’s first mass murderer, and America’s bogeyman du jour.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, the coffee was ice cold. I hadn’t touched it. I didn’t need to. Enraged, my head swimming in adrenaline, I threw my bags inside the front door and sought out my unsuspecting wife. I wanted to scream about the banality of cynical sensationalism and wail about our country’s need to reduce everything to a biblical battle between good and evil. And I wanted someone to hear me.

Bob Bennett
3/22/2011 7:27:27 PM

Better screening is needed. According to the Bio-Medical Model there are four reasons for brain dysfunction16: 1. Anatomical abnormalities or damage 2. Lack of oxygen or glucose; 3. Electrolyte imbalance; 4. Neurotransmitter deregulation; the imbalance of brain chemistry. Some studies have shown that from 41% to 75% of individuals are initially misdiagnosed17, often due to overlooked treatable conditions. Also, often ignored are tests and treatments which come from outside the Bio-Medical model, even when studies have shown them to be effective. Many of these treatments, however, have never been considered important enough for studies to be conducted, despite individuals having benefited from them. It is not that one model is right and the others are wrong,but that each contributes to a solution based Recovery Model. While not attempting to outline all the conditions that can contribute to an individual being mistakenly diagnosed, nor the methods a well trained physician can use to eliminate various environmental causes, two screening tools deserve special consideration; Hair Test Mineral Analysis (HTML) and a Chiropractic examination. Neither is currently in widespread use. / For more info on recovery and prevention of mental health problems that the medical community would prefer to keep hidden see www.approach2balance.org

Oliver Lu
3/22/2011 9:56:21 AM

Heart in the right place (I think) but much more "education" needed. Defines schizophrenia in terms of its stereotypical symptoms (voices and "split personality"); many people with the disorder do not have auditory hallucinations and "split personality" is more in the realm of multiple-personality disorder (the "schiz" part in schizophrenia refers to the split between the person's psyche and reality). Also seems to accept the need for "treatment" uncritically, as well as the general paradigm of mental "illness" (I would have thought in a publication based on an "alternate" perspective there would be more skepticism vis-a-vis the medical establishment and Big Pharma. Perhaps a future issue could address inter alia the lack of evidence for the biochemical imbalance and genetic link hypotheses, as well as the corruption of medical research and journal publishing by pharmaceutical companies [the latter two often with deadly consequences and inevitable class-action lawsuits which *always* end with cash settlements and gag orders]).

Summer Foovay
3/8/2011 8:57:05 PM

Mental illness is a much broader subject than MS or AIDS. There are many degrees of mental illness, most of which do not include homicidal violence. If people could receive treatment and help tailored to "I can't deal with real life well right now" rather than to "okay, lets deal with it by hitting you with a sledgehammer and knocking you our for the rest of your life" then incidents like the one in Arizona and others less violent and deadly - those "little" incidents that land so many mentally ill people in jail - could be avoided.There is so much wrong with how the mentally ill are treated in this country it is hard to know where to begin. One of the first things we need to address is the "take a pill" mentality. Some of those pills are basically a chemical frontal lobotomy that leaves the patient in a barely functional state. Which is why so many of us who are intelligent and functioning - most of the time - refuse to take them. Yet if we refuse the only treatment offered - a pill - then we cannot receive the help we need. So many of us cruise under the radar - creating books, movies, art and hiding our illness, hiding at home on "bad days" rather than dealing with the stigma and being force fed medication to keep us quiet. We need to look at treatments and how they are administered, as well as getting people into treatment. The choice of being a zombie or having a chaotic life should not be the only two choices offered.

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