Recipe for Disaster

Dora Calott Wang, MD in Psychology Today describes what we all know– cutting back on mental health is costing us all…

As a psychiatrist, I remember when I once did everything in my power to keep a disturbed patient stable, and society safe. I’d see the patient every day, or hospitalize the patient for months, if necessary. Needless to say, this degree of attention is impossible today, given limited resources, and the fights my staff and I regularly undertake with insurance companies to get even routine care approved.
For decades, the American health care system has prioritized profits, often by excluding the sick. This travesty is now coming to roost, in the form of mass violence, such as the recent shootings in Tucson, at Virgina Tech, and in communities across the country, including my own. Medical care for our most disenfranchised citizens will never turn good profits-yet basic health care for everyone, is necessary for the stability of society.

She points out that it’s easier to get a gun than to get mental health treatment. Arizona had cut budgets for mental health, and most other states have as well.

People with mental illness are more likely to be poor, more likely to lack connections or influence. When we cut the social safety net, they suffer first. Most people with mental illness don’t act violently, they suffer quietly.

Dismantling the very small first steps toward health care reform will do nothing to help people whose illness keeps them from being able to get a job with good insurance, and tax cuts won’t take the place of coverage for the care they need.

Every tragic incident makes us more scared, more angry. This isn’t random, it’s predictable. Neglecting people in trouble brings trouble for the rest of us.

4 thoughts on “Recipe for Disaster

  1. Going back to about 1972,one night my mother in law had one of her schizophrenic episodes and completely lost it-she was getting commands from Jesus to purify the house with fire and had made a newspaper torch and was trying to burn the place down-you probably know how strong really crazy people get,so when I tell you it took myself,my brother in law who routinely benched over 400 lbs,and my sister in law’s husband,an ex-football player to subdue her,you’ll know I’m not exaggerating.We secured her hands and took her to a hospitl.they wouldn’t admit her,even though she’d been confined to Bellevue twice before.The doctor said she could be managed at home.I asked if he’d like to manage her at his home.he ignored that.We took her home(she’d been sedated) and she went off again the next day.This time we got a doctor to visit(there was a Bronx County service for this)-she kicked him so hard she broke three toes.That got her admitted for a short stay.
    It’s never been easy for mental health patients.Get cancer like me-people treat you much,much better.

  2. That’s awful. Your mother and your family were really let down by the people who should have been helping.
    Two things that get shortchanged, mental health and dentistry.
    People die for lack of both kinds of care.

    1. It was my mother in law.My mother never had any mental health problems.
      My wife and her siblings suffered terrible abuse and some bad injuries at their mom’s hands.My wife the most,because as the oldest she ran interference for the others.
      Guess what-she and the one of her sisters who also had children have been great mothers and grandmothers-very caring and protective,particularly when the kids were little.
      My wife’s father was(is)a gret guy,but because he was in the Merchant Marine for 32 years he was almost never home.His wife would calm down when he was home and he didn’t really know what was going on.

  3. I can think of someone in my extended family who has schizophrenia and who is living a very peaceful life now. . .but I am trying to remember the name of the mental health worker who died in Johnston while doing a home visit. The worker was stabbed by the client…A friend of mine also worked for the same agency.
    There are no easy answers, but given that certain thought disorders are NOT rare, we could devote much more resources to the research.

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