Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Letter to "Talk of the Nation" National Public Radio

Saturday, President Bush wondered how to make treatment available to those who suffer from Mental Illness. Today (Monday) Talk of the Nation discussed ‘Forced Treatment” for the mentally ill. The tragedy at Virginia Tech has brought this issue to the forefront of many peoples concern. It has been my top concern for a long time.

My daughter has a mental illness and I say this with her full permission and encouragement.

The real issue is that Mental Illness is not recognized as a medical condition. Not by many doctors, certainly not by insurance companies or the general public. Most people account the symptoms of the mentally ill to just bad behavior.

My daughter is at times a threat to herself, but much of the time she functions just like you and I - Has a job where she is very valued, lives away from home and has supportive friends. She is on medication that helps smooth out the daily rough edges.

My daughter would be able to function better and avoid the extremely painful aspects of her illness if therapy were available – she has a wonderful therapist – but she cannot afford to go often enough to have a long term benefit. Her insurance only covers 20 visits in a 24 month period! That’s less than once a month. Consequently her therapist is only able to assist her during a crisis – not beforehand as preventative care.

This is not an illness that goes away after 20 treatments; this is a lifelong chronic issue. Can you imagine telling a cancer patient that only 20 doses of chemotherapy are available? Then you’re on your own? My daughter is fortunate that she is educated enough about her illness that she knows she has to work at it everyday, but the threat is always there. Her body is scared by the abuse she has inflicted on herself. She has been on suicide watch many times and has been hospitalized for her attempts. Yet she bounces back, learns new methods of prevention, and goes on with her life, always moving forward. She is a true survivor. I am incredibly proud of her. But no one should have to suffer and hurt like she has.

Until we wake up and acknowledge that mental illness is just that – an illness – just like cancer is an illness, there will always be those that don’t get help. There will always be those that go over the edge. And there will always be those that are discriminated against because they are brave enough to admit they have a mental illness and they need help.

Thank you NPR for your thought provoking broadcasts. Hopefully bringing this issue to light will help those that suffer from Mental Illnesses. The tragedy at Virginia Tech is horrific, and so are the lives that are lost to Mental Illness.


Sharon said...

Well-said, Julie. It's a hard road for both of you. Bravo for your courage and grace.

Pat K said...

It takes a lot of courage and character to put yourself out in public like this. Bravo to both you and your daughter. And yes, mental health care -- or I should say, the distinct lack of consistent available care -- is definitely an issue that needs a lot of work.

Roxie said...

Back in the 60s, budget cutting closed a lot of the public mental institutions and threw fragile people out of sheltered, regulated situations. Most of them had neither the ability nor the training to survive in the "real world." they quit taking their meds, and spiraled right down the drain. Heck, a month of living on the street would make anyone seriously crazy.

Really, I would be willing to pay more in taxes to get people the help they need. Mental illness IS an illness. Often it's a chemical imbalance. That's why I'm on Prozac. This isn't something that can be fixed by, "Cheering up."

Blessings on you and your daughter. What can we do to help?

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

Well said. Thank goodness your daughter has you for support and understanding. I haven't used our mental health services [yet], but I know it's available for 50 weeks a year if needed ... but then, it SHOULD BE available to everybody who needs help.

Kim said...

Well-said, Julie. I had already been thinking that mental health screenings should be highly encouraged for college-aged populations (since mental breaks tend to happen in mid-teens to mid-twenties) but I hadn't thought about medical care and insurance coverage.

knitncycle said...

I couldn't have said it better. Our mental health care system needs a serious overhaul. Incidences like those at Virginia Tech are sad and tragic reminders of that. Thank you and your daughter for sharing your struggles and experiences.

AlisonH said...

Having a lifelong friend who's married to a paranoid schizophrenic, I admire you both for your courage in talking about it here, and her for her courage and ability to bounce back. It's a long hard road--but life is worth the struggle.