Treatment & Therapy Replace Stigma & Stereotype
The perception & dynamic needs to change. If you get a physical illness (diabetes, cancer, etc.) you receive empathy. Get a mental illness diagnosis or experience emotional distress/depression, you get ostracized and stigmatized.
Cost for treatment and therapy should be covered just as it is for physical ailments. There should be no shame in obtaining treatment.
However, the patient also needs to assume responsibility for their own recovery. Medication and therapy as appropriate needs to be mandated for the best interests of both the patient and the society. Both must be protected and if that means mandated services with consequences for non-compliance, then so be it. Part of this system of mandated treatment must include close monitoring of the individual since circumstances can change quickly for the worse for everyone concerned.
This scenario requires giving up of one’s autonomy (similar to giving up of the single family home ownership fixation as described in another of my blogs concerning affordable housing). The end goal of the new dynamic would be a tough-love scenario where the patient gets the needed treatment. The patient maintains his regime and is not allowed to “go off the radar screen or go off the rails”.
Gone will be the days of denied service.
Gone will be the days of persons missing in action (MIA) only to surface later in tragic circumstances for either themselves or others.
Families and loved ones need to be able to take charge of the person who is decompensating. We need to adjust the system and rules of the game to prevent a gradual descent into hell or in some cases a free fall.
We need to re-design the system to allow for off-ramps and rest stops on this person’s highway to hell. Under the revised format, a person who has self-awareness of their deteriorating mental and emotional state should be able to check into a treatment facility where they can get the help they need. If they are unaware of their own free fall, family and loved ones with whom they are connected should be able to get them the treatment they need.
Last, but not least, this treatment should be more than a 24-48 hour monitoring bandaid strategy. The duration and intensity of treatment needs to be sufficiently long and effective.
Will all of the above described proposals be costly? Damn right! But it’s preferable to our current quagmire of homelessness, co-occurring disorders, undiagnosed disorders, addictions, suicides, violence and mass shootings.
Do we continue with the band aid approach treating symptoms or treat the actual disorder making the proper diagnosis.
A theme of this segment of the manifesto of big ideas (like all the other segments) revolves around the notion that persons should not be allowed to become untethered. Persons should be allowed to be reasonably independent. However, based upon diagnosis and behavior, the monitoring-treating-restricting of this person for their own good and the good of society must take priority.
How did I come to make these observations and proposals?
Years of working in the mental health field assisting persons suffering from mental illness and recovering from addictions has convinced me of the importance of compassionate tough-love. When I switched into this career late in my life, I had to make a conscious effort to refer to persons as suffering from mental illness and addiction rather than being labeled mentally ill or addicted. As a mall cop, I have been at the scenes of drug overdoses and dealt every weekend with persons who are emotionally disturbed and experiencing anxiety attacks. As a former property manager and community organizer working in some very distressed housing sites and neighborhoods I have seen up close the ravages of addiction, suicide, mental illness and crime all in a toxic mix. Last, but not least, given my Irish-American ancestry, I am well aware of alcoholism, conflict avoidance, vengeance and denial all neatly masked in a veneer of wit and charm.