Archive for 2012

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Yep, still here.  Christmas was good.  I should post on it.  Just been busy.  Worked closer to 50 hours last week, than 40.  Then of course, holiday hoopla.  I’ll be back at another time and day for a general check in with feeling and detail.  Just not now.  Walking out the door in 10.

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My husband shared with me recently, something a friend of his had written and posted on Facebook that he had been moved by.  After reading it I agreed that I too was moved.  Traci’s message being my message, my message being Traci’s message.  So here are Traci’s words, directly off her wall, in all their eloquence, posted here with her consent.  Sometimes just knowing people with mental health issues is enough to allow you to know how rough we have it.

I had been staying away from the school shooting conversation. It’s too much…too tragic…too many emotions to try to muddle through to argue.

But yesterday, I heard sensible people, normally very compassionate and understanding, say terribly insensitive things in response to the tragedy. The discussion was about the mentally ill and even though “they were terrible, they should throw people like him into old fashioned asylums.”

Now I know people are looking to place blame. Moreover, I think they are wanting to see someone suffer to bring some kind balance their idea of justice. But I want to talk about mental illness and why situations like these are extremely dangerous to the mental illness community.

When we as a society look at such tragedy, we want a reason, an explanation that is easy to understand. We want something that we can fix so that there is a sense that this type of sadness can be prevented. But when I read the multitude of articles written about closer scrutiny on persons living with mental illness it clearly illustrates a great lack of understanding of those people’s lives.

From the very few articles I’ve been able to find, the shooter from the Sandy Hook Elementary school had no official diagnosis of mental illness. I omit his name, because I want to avoid glorifying this man by such a dreadful act.
From Huffington Post’s Dr. Harold Koplewicz’s article posted 12/17:

“Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped extensive speculation that [he] had Asperger’s disorder, or a personality disorder, and even obsessive-compulsive disorder. Much has been made of the reports that [he] was a smart but quiet kid who carried a briefcase to class instead of a backpack and felt at home with computers, perhaps more so than with his peers. By themselves these traits do not indicate any diagnosis at all, although we have been quick to dissect them in the search for meaning.”

Let me make this abundantly clear, for someone to do what he did, one has to be unbalanced. Your understanding of reality and what is right and wrong have to, in some way, become detached. That break in reality has to be there to do such a terrible thing. But that kind of mental break is not my reason for posting.

To turn the blame away from the person themselves onto an entire community of people with chemical imbalances is staggeringly dangerous. Every morning, thousands of people wake, go throughout their days, work, study, and live productive lives. They experience joy and sadness and confusion and beauty and they work to maintain balance in their lives.

The shooter last week, according to quotes from those who knew him, showed little warning signs aside from social awkwardness. So could this have been detected or prevented? For the average mental health consumer, finding assistance when they need it is often difficult. Our psychologists, therapists and counselors are often overbooked. For a person in need, to see a mental health professional can take weeks. The best option for many who are without a therapist is to have themselves admitted into an inpatient clinic. And having the foresight to get help when it is desperate can be a challenge.

So then what can we do to help our friends and loved ones? We aren’t helpless.

Well first off, listening can be an invaluable gift to someone in need. Being there to listen and let someone vent or have a safe place to come and explain what they are going through can be the support they need to get through a tough patch, Also, being conscious of their needs, their moods and being able to communicate if you notice a change.

Additionally, education can empower you to inform yourself about mental illness, the signs and concerns to be mindful of to help avoid any tragedy. Many advocacy groups and websites offer classes and provide booklets to help explain mental illness in easy to understand format.

But most importantly, knowing what resources are available can save lives. Advocacy groups and support channels are out there, not only for the consumers of mental healthcare, but also for their support and family members.

www.nami.org – NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness has a great number of resources for individuals and their families.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ – The website for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml – National Institute of Mental Illness
Please be open to reaching out to people instead of fear. Open your arms and hearts, give support instead of anger and you could save the life of someone you love and who knows how many else.

Traci, I’d like to thank you for not only what you had to say, but for allowing me to borrow your words and post them here for my community.

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In the days that have followed the school shooting, so much has been thrown around, fueled by anger. The anti-gun people, the mental health system needs fixed people, the don’t blame the mentally ill people. Everyone has something to yell about.

While I don’t have a single thing I want to take back, I do have something to make clear.

This guy was most likely mentally ill. Mentally balanced people don’t gun down a couple dozen children.

But the mental health community is in an uproar over that thought. Which is understandable. You can’t blame the mentally ill. Blaming the entire community, is like blaming every bathtub ever made because someone happened do drown in one.

Look, there are millions of mentally ill people who fight every day to get better and who will never be a threat to anyone ever. No matter the diagnosis.

And there are thousands or millions or billions of mentally ill who want to get help but can’t because they don’t have insurance, or they are wait listed, our there isn’t a bed in an inpatient ward no matter how much they need to stay.

This world has not made it easy for those who need help to get it and afford it.

But this doesn’t make mental illness the monster. It. Does. Not.

What does need to happen is the system needs to change. Mental health care is not a luxury. It can’t be. It has to be a priority. So many of these cases you never would have seen it coming, fine. But the lack of ability to receive proper care does cost lives.

Maybe this kid never tried to get help. I’ll grant that concession.

But what about those who try for help, can’t get it, and take their own? Less of a blood bath, still tragic. Won’t quantify the tragic. I’ve already removed those in my life who have tried to. (Oh those 20 kids didn’t die, therefore it’s not as bad. Seriously? I’m sorry they didn’t die to better my point?)

My point is, any premature death, or life threatening injury, is tragic. 1 or 27. And if lack of proper care is what’s allowing this to happen, then the system is broken.

I’m not done on this. You have not heard the last from me.

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This is what Morgan Freeman has to say about the shooting on Friday.  He has it so very right. (Edit: turns out it isn’t Mr Freeman. All very right.)

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

In so many cases this is the truth.

We all can name Osama Bin Laden.  We could all pick him out of a line up, if he hadn’t been found.  Name one of his victims.  Sure many people can.  Many people are related to one.  But that many is not the majority.

Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Columbine, Aurora, The Unabomber, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper

Name one victim for each, off the top of your head.  Using Google is cheating.

But the men behind the horror?  Are men of legend.  Not positive legend, mind you.  But still legend.

And going back to what I posted earlier and Mr Freeman finished with, tell me about the mental health of everyone named above.

 

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I remember when I learned about Columbine.  I was sitting in my living room, about 15 years old, in High school myself, when Total Request Live with Carson Daily was interrupted for breaking news.  I sat there in shock, horror and awe.

As I finished through high school, shootings weren’t common, but they were a thing.  As I’ve gotten older and become a parent, I’ve always worried.

But I also always figured I had until at least my kids were in middle school before I had to lose sleep over it with my own babies in mind.

Friday’s news changed that.

I watched my twitter stream in horror, shock and awe.  I clicked news page after news page, from my chair at work, hurting that I couldn’t wrap my arms around my babies then and there, refusing to ever let go.

And then I got angry.  Sure I’m angry at the shooter, but I’m also angry at some of the reactions I’ve seen.  Mothers, fathers, self proclaimed experts calling for this and that.  Gun control.  GUN CONTROL!  Their child’s safety is far more important than your access to guns.  Yes, yes it is, but…

Alright, I am all for gun control and regulation.  I don’t know the current laws, but I’d actually be pleased to hear that with my list of mental issues I’m banned from every purchasing one.  I have been locked away for being suicidal after all.  Twice.

But this isn’t a gun control issue.  Say there were no guns ever.  There would still be knives, swords, crowbars, etc.

Clique but: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  And this kid wanted to kill.

This kid killed his mother who taught at the school.  I’m no shrink but with the majority of his victims being her students, if I had to give a guess I’d say this is a mental issue stemming from jealously of perceived, “She loves them more than me!”  She wasn’t even in the school at the time.  He went out of his way.  He had a grudge against those children.  Those 5-10 year-olds.  They didn’t have it coming but he sure thought they did.

The real issue.  The real reform needed isn’t gun control, it’s mental health reform.

Too many view mental health help as a luxury, a privilege, and a bartering tool on the floor of our nation’s capital.  But that only works if ignored mental health issues and cries for help don’t lead to senseless, mass, tragic violence.

Mental health reform starts with having therapy, just someone to talk to when stressed, or sad, being a common practice.  Yes I think everyone should have a therapist, even if they don’t visit them even monthly.  And these visits should maybe even enforced when there is a clear sign that someone might actually need it.  It can’t be a matter of can someone afford it.  It can’t hold stigma.  It can’t be viewed as something to vote on or barter over.

When you ignore mental health issues you later read about them in the news.  You see it on live TV.  You lose people all too early in movie theaters, shopping malls, and now apparently elementary schools.

Can every shooting be avoided?  No.  There are crimes of passion.  There is no predicting for Ned walking in on his wife Nancy in bed with his best friend Jim.

However, you can’t tell me that the people behind these horrendous crimes don’t have issues beyond having access to too many guns.

When you barter with mental health, you barter with lives.

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Ok. So “OMG WHEEE” of the royal pregnancy aside, the real drama llama of the situation is the prank call.

There are two parties to this: The radio DJ’s and the hospital.

The DJ’s?  Never excepted to be put through.  Of course they didn’t.  Who in their right mind would have actually thought they could have pulled that off?  They were expecting to place the call and get a laugh from their epic fail.  The DJ epic fail, not the hospital epic fail.  They were looking to get laughed at over their own failure.  Not what actually happened.

And the real failure, the prank actually working, took many people, most of whom where in the hospital.

It is tragic that the nurse took her life.  I attribute her death to shock, heart-break and humiliation.  And while yes, she was the first to fall for the prank, she by no means was alone.

1. Why didn’t the hospital have some serious policies in place?  It can’t possibly be that easy to fool a veteran nurse.

2. Why didn’t the nurse the call was transferred to, do anything to confirm.  Nothing wrong with a second back-up confirmation.  In fact, had it really been the Queen and Charles, I imagine they would have expected to be fully interrogated.

When my daughter went to the urgent care to get stitches last month, I had to set up a password that anyone calling in to check on her would need, to get through to someone willing top provide information.  And while my daughter in my world and my Princess, very few in this world would agree with me.  And yet, tight security.

Look, this was a fail.  A fail that turned tragic because one of many guilty parties took all the blame upon herself.

I don’t think, however, the DJ’s should shoulder as much blame and endure nearly as much finger pointing as they are.  How the hell did they even get through? They weren’t expecting to.  And they are feeling enough self-appointed guilt as it is.

I do think however, it’s time for a staff wide training session on the security practices they have in place, or to put some in place in they don’t already exist.

Because the truly guilty party is the lack of a policy or a hospital wide lax attitude towards it.  Unless it was a fluke the DJ’s got the one nurse who doesn’t stick to the written law of the hospital.

Oh, and with their ultimately being no real harm, aside from a breach of confidence however life endangering it was, this death is a horrendous waste of human life.  Nurses are what makes the hospital go round.  To lose one to something like this, someone should be ashamed.

I just have trouble, serious trouble, believing it should be the radio DJ’s.

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As things slow down around here and I average a handful of posts a month instead of the handful a week or even day I use to produce, I ask myself, in moments of weakness, why I continue on.  Why not shut this place down?

Oh, I always pull myself out of that.  Too many hours spent here to just pull the plug.  Too much relevant information even if I’m not adding daily personal stories.  This blog surely has some life, some good even if it’s just in the background.

Monday I found this in my twitter stream.

 

I, of course, followed the link to find (Link no longer valid, but led to her discussing her recovery).

I quickly shared my pride in Michelle, thrilled to have someone new to the fold of recovered.  But then, Michelle quickly turned the tables to make sure I had some pride in myself.

 

My promise to Michelle, myself, and everyone who has read or will read this blog in the past, present and future is to not lose sight of that right there.  With all the misery my mental health has put me through over the years, if I can use it to give back to my community then it helps make some of it worth it.

Nothing can make all of it worth it.  But knowing I can help others does help.  More than just about anything else can.

Thank you Michelle.  Now go forth my friend and use your news skills, understanding, but most importantly your experience, to help others along the path.  To many have to fend for themselves with only those of us who have been there able to understand what they are truly going through.  You’ll find your means and method of using your past pain and anguish to do good.  I know you will.  And it will make you all the stronger of a healer.

Is that not, after all, what we both are?