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The Power Of Community

“When you’re down and out, When you’re on the street, When evening falls so hard, I will comfort you” Paul Simon 

Perhaps the hardest thing about mental illness is the alienation that a person feels with the disease, that one is all alone in the world. 

shaking hands photoAs a person who is openly mentally ill, I am by nature an activist on behalf of all those that suffer from psychological disorders. I have gone so far as to document my struggles in my memoirs “More Than The Madness.” As such whenever I go for a job interview a simple Google search of my name will show that I have a mental illness.

When I was in the psychiatric hospital it was my fellow patients that brought comfort and help, much more so than the staff. To be perfectly honest there are some people who shouldn’t be in the business of psychology. My first psychiatrist was absolutely terrible to the point of being criminally negligent. He would meet with me briefly simply asking how I was. I would always answer ‘fine, can I get out now’. The less than two-minute meeting was billed for a tidy sum.

Some of the staff tried to help me, others ignored me. I recall one person studying for his master’s degree. He would sit and read from his textbook. When I tried to engage him in conversation he would get irate and belligerent. On the other hand, my fellow patients were a comfort. Together we would pass the lonesome hours, talking, listening to music and pacing up and down the halls to relieve the boredom.

One blessing I received was when I went to a mental health outpatient program. Again the staff wasn’t stellar by any means but some cared. I recall hearing the story of one of the workers visiting a store in the vicinity. The owner of the store hadn’t seen one of the patients and inquired with the worker about the patient. The worker replied, “Who cares it’s just a job.” But at this outpatient program, I made many good friends. These people filled my life socially and I had interactions with them outside of the program. I still talk to one of them on a regular basis.

Being part of the mental health program brought me into an accepting community. It was great support, mostly to know that I wasn’t alone in this world. That I had people who I could relate with that understood exactly what I was going through because they were going through it themselves. In the final analysis a psychiatrist, psychologist, or whoever is only on the outside looking in. It doesn’t matter how much experience they have or how long they’ve studied they do not know mental illness firsthand. It’s like trying to explain to somebody who never experienced water what it feels like to get wet.

I want to take the power of community one step forward and look at the mental health of society in general. There is the general philosophical question as to what is the purpose of society. Some of the answers are that society is created to help the general public. Another answer is that society is created to enable commerce. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive they are often in conflict.

I believe that society should be constructed to help people. In the United States will spend hundreds of billions of dollars on waging war yet we don’t adequately take care of the veterans who return home. It is reported that about twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. Probably the real number is higher than this. Veterans are a disproportionate percentage of the homeless and mentally ill community.

Unfortunately, our veterans are carelessly cast aside in a disgraceful way. We can develop expensive new weapons systems but not take care of those who fought the wars. Certainly, the corporations that profit from the endless wars isn’t sharing their money in a significant enough way. I go back to my experiences in the psychiatric hospital. We shouldn’t be looking for help for those who are running things but rather from one another.

The people need to organize together to form an accepting community to build up and uplift all. If we look for the government to do the right thing we will be waiting forever. Individuals need to get involved and look out for their fellow man, it’s as simple as that.

I have learned in life the truth of the Bible when it says “one will reap what they sow”. At some time in your life, you will need some assistance. If you’ve never helped others then why should others help you? The greatest people in this world aren’t those with the most money but rather those who have helped their fellow

Please check out my memoirs “More Than The Madness.” It details my successful struggles with mental illness.

The Power Of Community

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2019). The Power Of Community. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Jan 2019
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