This post has nothing to do with gun control. The cartoon above is only to show how easy it is for someone to purchase a high-powered weapon compared to how easy it is to find quality mental health care.
Now here’s an all-too-familiar story that is frustrating, sad, and scary.
Pat Milam testified before a panel of law makers and mental health experts about his son, Matt, last week. Matt struggled with severe paranoia and spent most of your his young life going in and out of psychiatric hospitals. The facilities always released him after only a few weeks. During his last hospital stay, he told staff he wanted to kill himself and blow up his house. Even though he was still deeply troubled and his father begged the hospital to let Matt stay, they released him because Pat’s insurance would no longer pay for his treatment.
In October 2011, just a week after his release, 24-year-old Matt blew up his bedroom with gas and propane tanks and finally made good on his promise to kill himself, and he almost killed his parents in the process. Only after losing his son did Pat Milam find out that his doctor at Oschner Hospital wrote that Matt had an “extremely high risk of suicide or another bad outcome.”
Heaven help you – literally – if you need psychiatric help. It’s hard to write a blog that encourages people to get help if they need it when there is so little assistance to be had.
Where I live, the phrase “mental hospital” or “psychiatric facility” makes most people think of one particular place, and they almost always roll their eyes. I refer to it as the “conveyor belt of psychiatry” because they bring patients in, give them a patch job, and send them out the back door. They are known for medicating before evaluating. Sometimes they don’t even evaluate, they just re-prescribe. If you try to advocate for your own welfare and speak up about your concerns over, say, being prescribed a particular drug, you will be told to move along and find someone else.
If you try to kill yourself, you spend three days in the psych unit. Three days. It truly is preventative medicine: they try to prevent you from shooting yourself, but nothing more. There is no getting down to the nitty-gritty. It’s like teaching a child his vowels but never teaching him how to form whole words.
“I really do think that America does treat illnesses above the neck differently than they do the other illnesses below the neck,” said Dr. Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute.
Ya don’t say! As a diabetic, I can tell you that most doctors don’t just give you a vial of insulin and a box of syringes and walk away. I have a nutritionist, a diabetes educator, I’ve taken classes – including the kind that help you with the psychological aspect of having a chronic illness– and I’ve had meal plans and exercise plans drawn up for me.
You know what too many psychiatric patients get? They get asked if there’s anyone they can stay with, so someone can babysit them. They get a script. Someone in a white coat suggests they get some counseling. Ciao! Hope we don’t see you in the obituaries!
Not every case is like this. There are some wonderful doctors out there, and some fantastic hospitals. I was blessed with a great doctor who understood bipolar disorder and psychiatric medications. He took the time to talk to me, I was never rushed, and he was not afraid to pray with me. I have also been blessed with good health insurance. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, I had a cold and aloof psychiatrist as a teenager, who prescribed me a little blue pill and then seemed to ignore the fact that I was sitting in her office once a week. It angers me to think that hospitals consider three days to a week to be ample time to treat someone as an inpatient who was just miserable enough to actually try to end their own life.
The demand is high – beds are needed.
There’s not enough money to fund a decent mental health care system – people receive sub-par treatment.
People are afraid to admit they need help – not enough advocacy.
We’ve got the ultimate advocate: Jesus.
All that’s missing are people who are willing to stand up and represent Him.