Mental Health Advocacy

I woke up with a migraine today, which sucked a lot. As a result, I spent most of my awake time in supine position, reading. Catching up on facebook, a friend mentioned that one of his friends from high school was dealing with a very public tragedy. Her stepson was dead and her husband seriously injured, and the news was all over it, because he was a state senator. Yes, I’m talking about the (fortunately not fatal) stabbing of Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds and his family.

I don’t know if it’s a big news item nationally, but it’s a big deal in the region. Deeds’ district isn’t close to DC but it is in VA and he ran for governor a few years back, so his name is a bit more well known in the area than the average state senator. (Even among the politically-minded people of DC, few people I know pay much attention to lower levels of politics. Unless you’re mayor of a city that is fairly major, or a governor active on the national level, your name probably isn’t known to non-constituents.) Regardless of whether your local newscast publicized the story, everyone should be aware, and everyone in Virginia should be writing to their representatives in local and state government, as well as the governor, about it. If you haven’t clicked the link to the Richmond Times Dispatch story, please go and read the article now.

As a Navy brat, I don’t really have a place I refer to as my hometown, or “where I’m from.” I lived in Virginia for about a decade, which is the most I’ve lived anywhere, so it is as close as I am going to get. It makes me so angry, so disgusted, so horrified that this all could have been avoided so very easily.

The son was evaluated Monday at Bath Community Hospital, Cropper said, but was released because no psychiatric bed could be located across a wide area of western Virginia.

Last January, DCRG skater Lois Slain actually reported on this problem as it affects Northern Virginia. NoVA had 19 beds to support all inpatient needs for mental health patients, and budget cuts meant they had to rely on public Community Service Boards to fund the 13 of them they got to keep. They are shipping NoVA patients off to more rural hospitals, which means that when people in those areas are in need, they either are shipped off or, as was the case with Gus Deeds, sent home with their families, who are often ill-equipped to handle 24/7 care of mentally ill individuals. Lois wrote about this plight last April, too.

“I literally just stayed home with her,” Warren said. “I resigned from my job. That’s what I was forced to do. … Everything was put on hold.”

In the latter article, Ms. Warren made certain to point out that the care they did receive was helpful, but that it just wasn’t what was needed. This country keeps going through mental health tragedies on large and small scales and the result is not as it should be. Some people hide their heads in the sand, and those who do not, who advocate for restoring the mental health services (or creating them whole cloth, in many places) are ignored by their government representatives because there is no big mental health lobby pouring money into their pockets. In order to make a difference, the outcry must be so pervasive that it can’t be ignored.

Many people think they aren’t affected if they didn’t know the people involved in one of these tragedies, but I assure you, everyone alive is affected by this. Everyone has a brain. Everyone can experience mental health issues. Most people do, and suffer quietly. Those who suffer more loudly, who go on shooting sprees or stab their parents are treated as outliers but they’re not.

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1 Comment

Filed under humanist, mental health, political

One response to “Mental Health Advocacy

  1. I read this story earlier today (via Rachel Maddow). What a tragedy for the family. We have the same problem here. The provincial government closed the mental hospital a few years ago and now a lot of those people are living on the streets and not getting the help they need.

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