Let us be clear, we are talking about the seriously mentally ill -
- Who cannot meet their basic needs or access services which provided for them.
- Who cannot fend for themselves on our unhealthy and unsafe city streets.
- Who cannot diagnose or treat their own illness.
- Whose interactions with police, service providers and other citizens may be fraught with peril for both parties.
Compare the plight of the mentally ill in our society with that of the mentally retarded. With the latter, we don't do a very good job, but at least we don't condemn them to wander the streets alone and helpless. We provide for their basic needs.
The situation of the mentally ill is quite different. In the name of personal liberty, we condemn them lives of squalor, abuse and loneliness. This is an unsustainable state of affairs
My own nephew is schizophrenic and has been living on a hellish merry-go-round of a kind that many listeners will recognize. For a time he will be in a stable living situation, taking his meds and living a fairly normal life. A kind and spiritual person when he is on his meds, soon enough he decides that he doesn't need them anymore. Then the voices convince him that someone is trying to get him. A fight ensues, he lands in jail or a mental health facility, remains there for a few days, until he is stable enough to be released. Then the cycle starts all over again. His mother has witnessed this series of events for decades now. All involved can only watch helplessly while the story is repeated year after year. A terrible toll falls on the family of such persons.
Yes, the situation before was also bad. Some facilities allowed patients to be neglected and abused. But that need not happen again. We can and must provide the mentally ill with the stability, security, services and medication they need. With long-term treatment, many can recover and resume independent lives. That rarely happens in the current system because we've allowed wishful thinking and denial to prevail over truthfulness and compassion. Liberty? The chronically mentally ill are not free in any sense of the word, but enslaved by both illness and circumstance. Let us finally have the courage to stand up and end this insane status quo.
- Ian Macrae
posted 3 years ago
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