Thursday, 31 January 2013

Caring for the mentally ill: It’s going to cost money. Get over it.

caring for the mentally illI find it really ironic that we’re being forced to look at the consequences of the horrendous lack of care and compassion we have shown the mentally ill while many lawmakers and the “53 percent” are simultaneously doing their damnedest to cut what they call “entitlement” programs.

Have we really sunk so low as a society that it takes the death of twenty little kids and the six adults who tried to protect them for us to look at how we have ignored, shunned and stigmatize those who roam the streets mumbling to themselves, sleep in urine stained stairwells littered with empty bottles or carry a cardboard sign asking for food?

Let’s collectively admit we are hypocrites and bigots. Let’s stop going to church on Sunday and professing to love Jesus and all he stood for and then turn on Fox television and cheer for the lawmakers who want to cut what they call “entitlement” programs for these lazy addicts, alcoholics and mentally distressed who we believe have chosen to spit on our American work ethic.

Do you really believe that when these people were kids they said, “When I grow up, I want to be a junkie with rotting teeth” or “I want to hear voices that scare me,” or “I want to be a mass murderer?”

No, they didn’t say that. That is not what they wanted. And the only way we’re going to get to a point where we are willing to give a penny of our hard-earned money to care for and about the mentally ill is if we get over our self-righteous indignation, admit we have not “loved our neighbor as ourselves” and that we have judged – oh boy have we judged – while professing to live a judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged lifestyle.

Food stamps, residential treatment, free and low-cost food, housing, therapy, prescriptions – you’re going to have to get used to paying for these things for people you don’t like. Get over it, accept it and make the best of it. Or, you can keep on painting everyone who gets government assistance as inferior, bad human beings who don’t deserve what you call a “free ride.”

Let’s be honest. We really don’t know how many people getting government assistance are gaming the system. We also don’t know how many of them have an untreated mental illness, such as alcoholism. (Yes, alcoholism is a mental illness). We have a choice. We can continue to do a half-assed job of taking care of people – especially adults with mental illnesses – and continue down the road we are on or we can change.

Change is not only going to take a monumental shift in our feelings and behavior toward people with mental illnesses, it’s going to cost money. A lot of money and you and I are going to have to foot the bill. There will be money wasted. People will game the system. But people are gaming the system now and we are already wasting billions of dollars warehousing the mentally ill in prisons and to refusing to pay for their medications, housing and food and care.

Look where that has gotten us. We cannot keep doing the same things and expect different results. We are going to have to suck it up, open our pockets and hearts and do it. If we fail, we try something else. We pay for programs and research until we find what works. That’s the way we do things in this country. We don’t give up.
Depressed man in stairwell photo available from Shutterstock

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