Recently I was reading the comments at WMUR Channel 9 on a story about the change of focus on gun control to one of mental health reform….one poster made refrence to an incident at Elliot Hospital, Manchester, NH where a person on involuntary psychiatric treatment was left in an ER bay for lack of inpatient beds in the state. The article highlighted several recent mass shootings.

My comment, which would not post, is below…

Mental health treatment has been cut and cut over and over, causing so much misery it is nearly impossible to get well and stay well. Yes, funding for treatment needs to increase! Having PTSD (which I do from domestic violence) does not have to mean you can never go hunting. If you take a diabetic and randomly shut off the supply of insulin they need, provide only one endocrinologist for an entire county, and refuse to require insurance to cover meters you would have just as many gun deaths from that disease. That is what has happened, in this country and in this state.

Even the worst mental illnesses are treatable. There will probably always be that 1 out of 10, 000 that cannot live independently who need good guardians, case managers, and more. There are always going to be 1 out of 100, 000 that need constant supervision. The vast majority of us however, just need to be treated humanely,  and have our efforts at recovery supported and funded in a manner equal to that of cancer and diabetes.

Go to a http://www.namiwalks.org event.
Visit a peer support center (http://www.tricitycoop.org/nh-peer-support-agencies.html).
Check out the nearest MH clubhouse, here in NH that is Granite Pathways.
Talk to the director of the only Peer Respite Center in NH.
Tind out what a Warmline is and why having one staffed 24 hours a day can stop violence, suicide, and pain.
Get educated about Suicide Prevention.
Learn how thousands of mental health consumers use Wellness Recovery Action Plans so that when symptoms flare up in the incurable diseases (like repeated trauma PTSD) the person’s family, friends, and medical team can step in and get them quickly treated or supported so the violent outburst never actually happens.

If you do, you will see just some of the things that work that have been level funded or slashed every single legislative cycle for years.

Facebook me at Brenda Eckels Burrows, aMGC, and I will share:
* as a Medication Officer I helped teach people with severe mental illness to manage their medications, keep track of when they took them, and how to celebrate being a proactive part of their own recovery.
* as a Clinical Case Manager I and countless others designed, wrote, implemented, and documented treatment plans that had real, measurable, and repeatable effects on recovery and stability
* as a mental health consumer, I have fought for years to gain access to the slight and underfunded mental health services for this “no tax” state. I will also share how I stand on the brink of achieving that goal, but only if I allow the state to place an incorrect “dumpster diagnosis” into my permmanent medical record. Imagine only being able to get your diabetes treated if you let the hospital code you as having Parkinson’s Disease.
* as a family member I watched my Dad have one psychiatric crisis, and then enjoy all the services he needed in a consistant manner with the same team of professionals for close to 20 years. He never had a second crisis. He had excellent executive level cadillac insurance. In our family alone, I can showcase how some classes of Americans are treated better than others, even within the same company.
* as a volunteer board member at a peer center I spent countless hours in education on how to run our organization better, only to discover years later the local community mental health center’s executive leadership didn’t.
* as a lay Franciscan religious I run a small non profit and for years saw everyday the misery caused by untreated mental illness, and how often all I could provide was a prayer and to hold their hand while they sat for hours in an ER.

I can also tell you about the mental health consumers who do own guns, do store and use them safely, and who should not be denied a constitutional right just because a few people with mental illness are not well enough to have access to guns.

Learn how bad it is to have a brain disease, and how much worse it is to have a brain disease in the United States.

Go to Elliot’s ER in Manchester, NH and imagine being handcuffed to a gurney in that bay for 3 days with no medication, no doctor, no treatment, little food, no ability to have drinking water, no place to urinate … even if you were perfectly healthy, how long could YOU bear it? That wasn’t a random, rare thing…it happens in this state and country over and over.

Take a look at the fancy kidney dialysis centers around and compare them to the community mental health centers, which are nearly impossible to get into.

Go into the wheelchair entrance at Concord’s state offices main building, stroll toward the elevator, but suddenly take any one of the little door lining the hall. Walk into that cold damp place, and peer into those black cells where the flow of water from the ceiling in the corner meant it was either raining outside and you had best get under it and shower, or that the poor person in a cell above you had just gone to the bathroom. Old history, you say? Think again! There are people still alive that were locked up in those cells!

Considering that last example of how stigma, hate, and Americans refusing to fund proper mental health care, this next one may not be a surprise. Can you imagine what is was like for us consumers and family members in 2011 when a GOP member, State Senator Martin Harty suggested we be exiled to die in Siberia?

How would you feel if the same was said about your Grandma’s diabetes? We got him removed from office, but he’s never been formally and publicly kicked out of the Grand Old Party by the other Republicans either. Former head state prosecuter now Senator Ayotte has never called for our current DA to have him arrested for hate crimes.  If he had said your diabetic 10 year old should be sent to die in a frozen wasteland, would you be ok with the guy still carrying the right to run for election, to go to a national party convention? Wouldn’t you be just a little suspicious when Senator Ayotte holds a press confrence about her concern for people with diabetes on the same day she refuses to fund expanded Medicaid to cover poor diabetics? Welcome to the bizarro world mental health consumers and their families live in.

Consider the similar situation the SSPX had with Bishop Williamson. You have an organization (SSPX / GOP) who not only accepts into membership, but promotes into a leadership position a guy (Harty / Williamson). This guy holds beliefs, and expresses these beliefs publicly, that are not only contrary to the group’s rules and beliefs, but they are considered by the very mention of them to be hate crimes. This guy’s publicly stated beliefs include targeting, dicriminating against, and harming a particular group of people. What do you do?

As messed up as an ultra-conservative breakaway branch of the Roman Catholic Church can be, these breakaway Catholics actually were the winners over the GOP. They called a meeting of the other leaders, locked this guy out of the meeting, and officially stripped him of membership. Then those leaders went public on TV, radio, and news wire and announced what they had done.  What did the GOP do? A few sound bite statements, and then silence as those God fearing Republicans prayed for some other calamity to occur and take over that slot on the front page.

This is what mental health consumers deal with everyday:
* A coworker harrasses a woman who must take 2 hours off every Wednesday to see her counselor. She complains about it to human resources, and the company …. moves her cubicle to a far corner of the room.
* A man arrives via ambulance at the ER complaining of stomach pain. The attending sees in the chart that the man has schizophrenia, and waits 30 extra minutes for labs to see if the man is taking his anti-psychotic and anti-hallucinogenic medications before running gastro tests.
* A teen suffers from depression in silence as Mom and Dad watch Family Guy and rip off jokes about Van Gogh’s ear being Stewie’s rattle. Two months later, a grieving Mom says “I wish she had told me what was wrong.” Over her daughter’s casket, arranged to cover up the suicide wound.
* A woman disabled with Lupus meets a physiatrist for an initial intake, and based on the fact she keeps a detailed health book in a 3″ binder, the physiatrist diagnoses the woman as being overly fixated on medical issues due to her OCD.
* A stuffed animal company comes out with a teddy bear in a straightjacket, and the commercial triggers flashbacks and nightmares in former foster kids who were restrained with one.
*A mental health consumer discovers that her diagnosis was not included in the contract the state signed with the community mental health center for DMH funded services. She is advised by other mental health consumers who do get services that she should fake symptoms and get incorrectly diagnosed with something on the list. As she is desperete and homeless, she does so. The agency uses only one worksheet tool and less than an hour investigating. Two years later, the services have helped enough that she is back to work, has an apartment, and is stable. Suffering a neurological side effect to a new medical medication, the incorrect diagnosis in her records leads the ER doctor to administer a drug that she doesn’t need that affects all areas of her recovery and stability.

We all need to change. All Americans need to commit to stop fanning the flames of delusion that the mental health of this country can be improved with ever smaller pots of money. All Americans need to stop being ashamed of the mental illness history in their families. Friends need to wear a silver ribbon for more than just suicide funerals. All Americans can do a better job of preaching the truth about mental illness. Finally,  all voting age Americans can do something easy that can have a great effect on the quality, funding, and outcomes of people with mental illness. You can call or email your representatives and senators…some talking points:

1. If You Aren’t Sinnin’, Then Why Are You Afraid Of The Light? The most recent bill on gun control was mostly about tightening and enforcing existing laws, with an extra needed dollup of purchasing regulations.

To get welfare in this country, you must show a picture id, a birth certificate, a social security card, your current and past employers, everywhere you have lived in the past, proof of income, proof of all your bills, bank statements, the same info for everyone in your household, and then sign multiple forms saying you agree that if you lied on any of it a judge may put you in prison.

Here in NH, hundreds of law abiding citizens go through all that just to get $13 a month in food stamps. Buying a gun should be at least as complicated as getting welfare. Give the politician 2 things to brag about next election. They can be a friend to the poor and tie the amount of benefits to the volume of paperwork required, at say $100 worth of benefits for every 10 pages/items. They can cut down on seriously mentally ill people buying guns by using the same rules. Turn in 10 pages of identification, life facts, and financial data, get approved to own any gun you want that is valued $100 or less.

Seriously, have you ever seen the contract the US Army has to sign everytime they buy machine guns? If 5 star generals have to read, initial, and sign 100 pages before Pvt. Jane gets a machine gun for war, well Dick Cheney and his friends should have to do the same.

Just don’t but both gun permits and welfare applications in the same office. NRA members would never be able to tolerate the hot windowless rooms, the staff behind 2 inch glass with a broken microphone and loudspeaker, the hours of waiting for your number to be called….we have enough NRA members shooting off guns for any darn reason, no need to get innocent standby poor people killed!

2. No, Actually It Isn’t His Fault. This one should be simple, but one week of watching Jerry Springer etc will prove there are some incredibly stupid parents out there. Mothers who live with adult kids who have severe mental illness may have a legal right to own a bunch of guns, but they do not have the right to leave them around unlocked! This is the beauty of using welfare applications for gun permits. Once that household info is sucked into the database, it would take the antiquated computers at state offices mere hours to kick out the form letter informing Mom that her permit has been denied for that new shotgun because Her unstable, unmedicated, out of control kid who won’t go to a counselor with a record of violent behavior is there in the house with her, and she might get shot. Now I remember when my adult kids were back under my roof, and I managed with a brain full of MS lesions to remember which one was there, if she was allergic to gluten or hated caffine, what school they were attending, when they were born, and I feel very confident in saying if any of them had serious mental illness I would have been able to remember that too. And yet, just in the past year we had a supposedly “with it” semi affluent Mom who could go gun shopping enough to work for the National Guard, but couldn’t keep this one tiny parcel of information about who lived in her home straight. Now, she is dead, he is dead, and a bunch of others are dead. Put in a bill that any gun sale must have an application that lists everyone in the household and make the waiting period as long as the slowest Dept. Mental Health system in the country.

3. Gangs and abusive ex-partners alone account for a huge amount of gun deaths, and both leave not just dead and crippled bodies but damaged and crippled minds, including many child victims, in the wake of the deadly games they play. Personally, considering you can’t board a plane without Homeland Security seeing your spleen, I think it entirely reasonable that when you apply for a gun permit you get fingerprinted and every tattoo on your body gets photographed and matched against known gang/KKK/Nazi ones. As a domestic violence victim, I know it will be impossible to stop abusive men from getting their mistresses to let them use the handgun “just so she knows I am serious” just as I know it will take more than killing off FOX TV and making Feminist Studies a required high school course to get stupid American women to stop giving said handgun to the guy they are sleeping with behind his wife’s back.

Is it too much to ask, really, that before you buy that gun your criminal record is checked, and any conviction, restraining order, or even just 15 calls to police because you follow your exwife around town be used as grounds to keep that gun out of your hands?

4. Remember Flanders Field. Red Poppies. War sucks. Being a soldier in a war sucks. No matter how many tacky plastic banners you buy at Walmart to hang on your house each July, you owe that soldier more than you can ever repay. This country owed that Veteran not just for his military service, but for his service at 9/11, and everytime you elect a representative who refuses to sign a budget or who refuses to fund mental health care, guess what? The blood is on your hands!

Put through a bill to expand Veteran’s mental health so no Vet ever has to walk more than 15 miles to get the specialized professionals she needs. Tack a surcharge on everything sold at Tiffany’s and Target, or start a federal registration fee for any boat over 20′, and diamond over 2 carats, and every wall street transaction over $100, 000. Trust me, Paris Hilton, The Kardashians, Bill Gates, Rappers, and Pro Sports players waste so much money they probably won’t know it is gone. Even if they do, just remind them that it’s for the soldiers, and hand then a tissue paper flower as you say thank you.

5. Put Your Treasure Where Your Mouth Is. Stop playing word games. Put psychiatric inpatient beds in every county in the country. Fund a full treatment center, partial hospitalization, day programs, group homes, peer support centers, Wellness Recovery Action Plans, coverage for medications, counseling, hypnotherapy, and one on one workers.

Any politican who fails to do this has to take thier kids (or grands) and have them live in a Chicago or Detroit tenement building, sleep in beds against the outside walls, and walk to and from school in the dark each day to a school with a broken body scanner. While it is true that Mormons generally have an abundant supply of kids, they also happen to be particularly attached to keeping them. I am guessing a fair number of Mitt Romney types would sign the bills just at the thought of having to move the kiddies from the fancy homeschool setups.

The moral of the story is that these news stories are not just jumping points for bloggers to run free with. These are real human beings killing other real human beings, and while the spotlight is on the mental health of the shooters, everyone is ignoring the big pink elephant in the room: Both in our words and in our deeds, we caused this. Every one of the recent shootings that has a shooter suspected or known to have mental illness could have been at least slowed down, if not stopped. It is more than probable that if they had been able to have the kind of treatment my father’s Executive Cadillac Plan Insurance provided, some of them would have never picked up a gun with malicious intent in the first place.

Start treating mental illness as a disease not a disgrace, and not only will these headlines be much less common, you will have a bounce in the economy you can’t imagine as thousands of health care professionals go to work and thousands of mental health consumers do too – safely.

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