Town Square

Post a New Topic

Where's the help for the mentally ill -- and their families?

Original post made by Tyler Hanley, digital editor of Palo Alto Online, on Jul 26, 2006

Here's a moving piece published from an anonymous Palo Altan in last week's Palo Alto Weekly. Please feel free to post your reactions and comments.

This story contains 996 words.

If you are a paid subscriber, check to make sure you have logged in. Otherwise our system cannot recognize you as having full free access to our site.

If you are a paid print subscriber and haven't yet set up an online account, click here to get your online account activated.

Comments (4)

Like this comment
Posted by Very Tas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 26, 2006 at 5:46 pm

There is a stunning lack of political and social will necessary to treat the issue of mental illness for the serious human problem that it is, and the social and economic mayhem that it creates.

Our ignorance lies at the center of this malady; it's a sickness all its own.

The heartbreaking story above is one of millions like it, repeated over and over and over again in a culture that has stigmatized and criminalized a host of mental diseases that represent some of the most horrofic things that can happen to a human being.

Just today I read about a Houston woman who was found not guilt by reason of insanity for drowning her 5 children in a bathtub. She was found to have been suffering from a severe post partum psychosis at the time of the crime. In spite of this finding, the district attorney in the case did ieverything possible to have the woman - herself a victim - prosecuted as a common criminal, with the death penalty requested. This is the kind of ignorance that we're dealing with.

We witness the tragedy of mental illness every day - street people; co-workers on the edge of breakdowns; violent and self-destructive behaviors committed by persons who have little or no control over their actions, etc.

The tragic irony surrounding mental illness is that it often results in aberrant *behavior*, unlike most other illnesses that physicall debilitate and render people physically helpless (or challenged).

The mentally ill person is ill in a way that causes him/her to break deep social contracts, and often do it in a way that doesn't appear on the surface to differ from the *occasional* add behavior that most so-called normal people engage from time-to-time.

Most of us express anger every once in a while, or become mildly depressed, or "bummed out". Imagine what it would be like to not be able to consciously control an impulse to anger, or become so depressed that no seeming rationale or "pep talk" could pull you out.

Imagine hearing things that are as real as anything most of us hear when we're talking with friends, only in this case the friends are not there, but the voices are still triggering audio centers in the brain, and telling the listener to committ a horrific act of self destruction, or violence on others.

Imagine living with something like that for years. Hell on earth' would be a descriptive understatement.

The lack of political will to aggressively engage the proper prevention and treatment of mental illness mostly exists because most seriously mentally ill people can't speak for themselves - unlike a caner patient, or someone suffering from diabetes.

Perhaps in some far future we'll be able to select out combinations of genes and other congenital factors that cause mental illness. Until then, we're challenged to do what we can to enlighten policy makers, or elect more empathic policy makers, so that we can begin to treat a person who is mentally ill - and their families - with a comprehensive course of treatment that is far more humane than the sad, lacking, and franly shameful situation that exists today.


Like this comment
Posted by Very Tas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 30, 2006 at 7:43 pm

I find it interesting that people will spend a lot of time debating whether a Home Depot will be built near their neighborhood, but spend no time debating the sorry state of the treatment and prevention of mental health in our society. Mental health just isn't "sexy" enough, and is still a "secret" disease.

Here's another example of the harm that can be caused by someone not getting enough help, or getting helpp to late. Clearly, the perpetrator of this crime shuold be punished, but I would like to see someone try to soundly make the case that he wasn't pretty severely depressed when he acted.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Very Tas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 30, 2006 at 7:43 pm

I find it interesting that people will spend a lot of time debating whether a Home Depot will be built near their neighborhood, but spend no time debating the sorry state of the treatment and prevention of mental health in our society. Mental health just isn't "sexy" enough, and is still a "secret" disease.

Here's another example of the harm that can be caused by someone not getting enough help, or getting helpp to late. Clearly, the perpetrator of this crime shuold be punished, but I would like to see someone try to soundly make the case that he wasn't pretty severely depressed when he acted.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 1, 2006 at 10:13 am

I agree, Very Tas, but just look at how mean-spirited and nasty the discussion about Home Depot got -- when it comes to money at stake AND vulnerable populations, the sad reality is that things can get much, much worse.

When people live with the reality of mental illness, or of a loved one with mental illness, they are so much more susceptible to attacks when trying to get help or assert their rights (for example, with insurance coverage) -- just the daily meannesses can be devastating. Speaking personally, you have to choose your battles to survive, and a public forum like this is unlikely to result in significant change, but the potential for engendering meanness from strangers is far more likely. Speaking personally, one risks those kinds of blows for Congressional hearings, or insurance coverage to prevent bankruptcy, or appeals to the board of an institution that is keeping a family member with mental illness overly drugged and thus nonfunctional, or important family meetings, but not for a Town Square forum like this.

The stigma attached to mental illness is still very real. I wouldn't read too much into the lack of discussion, except for that, and that it's hard to be casually vocal when there is so much hurt.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Paris Baguette coming to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 4,514 views

Sing and celebrate
By Sally Torbey | 7 comments | 1,060 views

Surviving Family Holidays
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 334 views

 

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 23 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away more than $4 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. When you make a donation, every dollar is automatically doubled, and 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.

DONATE HERE