Friday, March 31, 2017

Shhhh....We Don't Like to Talk About This!!!

Let's discuss a different type of pain.  Mental health can cause a pain that goes far beyond any physically perceived pain or illness.  You can be living in a lovely home, not have a single concern, and yet be in pain so severe that it feels as though suicide is the only answer.  Is this pain less real because it is not perceived physically?

We live in a marvelous time of technology.  There are so many wonderful things that we can do to palliate physical pain.  Several different types of technologies can make living with chronic pain more functional.

We DO speak about physical pain, bad knees, backs, or chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, or fibromyalgia (although this last illness is still often ascribed as caused by mental health).  The reality is that clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia are PHYSICAL illnesses.  They are every bit as real, as clinical as diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.  They are triggered by an imbalance of the chemicals that we still know so little about, those miraculous chemicals that allow our brains to feel at peace, sated.  We are just now touching the surface of mental health challenge with knowledge about neurotransmitters, and the multiple chemicals that cause our brains to function normally.

In the past we dealt with mental illness by putting everyone that we did not understand into mental institutions.  A woman could be committed for infidelity.  (Note that men were never committed for this reason).  The blind and deaf might be shoved into these places.  Definitely someone with clinical depression or other types of mental illnesses were there.  Anyone suspected of homosexuality was definitely in that place.  It was a horrific answer to societies ails and ills.

Now we realize how broken that system was.  If the old system is broken, where do people go that can not function within society for whatever reason?  Now we shovel them out on the streets and say, "Good luck."  Then we do our best to ignore them and their needs.

The solution to all of this is not simple.  It's multi-faceted, and complicated.  Yet there are things that all of us can do.  We need to care.  We need to communicate, we need to find ways to make a change, even if the only way you can effect change is through reaching out to educate others.  We need to quit ignoring this problem and find more effective methods of coping with it.

During the Great Depression there were many displaced individuals.  They were unable to find work so they traveled throughout the country searching for ways to earn money to send to their families to support them.  My mama remembered vividly men walking on the rails not far from her home.  The men would knock on their door.  They would be ragged, tired, dirty, some of them despairing.  Grandma found food for them.  Sometimes they would do a little work for the food.

What does this have to do with mental illness?  These displaced men were not just ignored or looked at as less than human.  There were programs to help, there were people that genuinely wanted to help.

So many of the mentally ill in our nation are extremely vulnerable.  They live on the streets, and rarely get the medications that they need to be even slightly functional.  Some turn to alcohol, or drugs to self medicate because they can't afford to go to a doctor, or get the medicine they need on a regular basis.  

We must teach, educate, explain, discuss, communicate with our children about the medical reasons for mental health issues.  We need to love them richly, and unconditionally so that they know that you are their safe place.  If bullying occurs during their young years, you must be aware so that you can prevent that from sliding your child into clinical depression.  I repeat, we still don't fully understand the connections between our psyche and our physical body,  We do know that ongoing stress has harmful effects on our body and mind.

Let's take this subject out of the shame, and blame pile, and look for creative, effective methods to help those in this kind of need.

One of my friends went through a severe bout of suicidal ideations caused by clinical depression.  When he slept (he was terrified to sleep) he would awaken every single time with the idea racing through his mind that he had to die...he simply couldn't continue to live another day.  His weary wife found a hospital and he went there to protect himself from himself.  What a giant joke.  He only saw a doctor for 45 minutes in 4 days.  There was a "occupational rehab," program.  They become upset with him when he only wanted to toll paint wooden kitties, five in all.  They told him that he needed to try different things to help decide the type of work that he would do.

He was a professor at a Law School.  He did not need to paint kitties to get ideas for what to do for work.  The one size fits all mentality at the hospital was far less than helpful, and the bill that they were charged after insurance paid was horrific.  The hospital DID keep him alive for those four days, but then they put a financial burden on the already struggling family, AND did NOT give him anything helpful to take back to his regular life.

COME ON PEOPLE!  Wake up!  Don't say, "This is NOT my problem."  You never know...some people develop clinical depression or schizophrenia later in life.  What would you do if you were facing this debilitating disease, or heaven forbid, one of your children or grandchildren were battling with this?  Let's quit blaming and shaming anyone who is facing the severity of these challenges! 

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