Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Your Turn Challenge - Day 2 - Something That's Important

What to do When it's Your Turn is a book by Seth Godin.  It's been morphed into a writing challenge and you can click the book cover up there to find more information.


Day 2:  Tell us about something that's important to you.

Few things get me as fired up as the treatment of and discrimination against people with mental illnesses.  A majority of people will say, "That woman is autistic," or "That man is schizophrenic," as if the person is their illness.  He is not bi-polar; he is a person with bi-polar disorder (or manic depression).  You wouldn't say someone is cancer.

There is also a stigma attached to having a mental illness, that is not present with a physical ailment.  Think of when you hear of someone being referred to a 'mental hospital'.  We pigeon-hole that person as 'crazy' and write them off.  We wonder what happened to make so-and-so from that terrible story on the news do such a thing.  But we don't ask what makes someone lash out when their blood sugar is low.  Are we really afraid that being near someone with a mental illness opens us to the possibility of physical harm, more than just walking down the street?

I've been on both sides of the equation.  Having suffered from depression since I was a teen, I have taken various medications for more than a decade.  My mother could not accept it, but finally sent me to a LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) to 'find out what was wrong with me', then called the woman up and insisted she be told what we discussed during our sessions.

After having two children, I went to an employment counselor and expressed the troubles I had due to depression.  Her response was that I should just, "stop it and pull myself up by my own bootstraps"!  (If it were only that easy.)  I've never heard someone with a chronic physical condition to "just get over it and get back to work."

And while advancements have been made in the treatment of mental illnesses and mental retardation, there is still a long, long way to go.  I worked in a 'residential/teaching facility for adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities for four years.  I gained a second family (from my 'clients').  And it was the most fulfilling job I've ever had.  I was nervous about the administration 'finding out' that I was taking meds for depression -- until I found out that most of the staff was on anxiety meds.

There were enough rules (most often contradicting at least one other rule) that it was almost impossible to stay out of trouble.  There was a nagging feeling that the 'experts' were at least as interested in keeping their jobs, and making the right reports to the federal government as they were at actually improving the lives of their charges.  I went the rounds more than once with more than one of the various 'therapists'.

The funniest thing was when a supervisor came through and asked me what 'Pat's' level of supervision was (independent, field of vision, or arm's length).  I responded with "Well, I expect she's independent up in heaven as she died nearly two years ago."  (To be fair, he was new to the job, having been hired away from a local restaurant at the recommendation of his aunt, who worked in the offices.

I could go on.  (Just trust me on that one.)  But there is no easy answer.  I like to think I was a sensitive caring worker.  And a lightbulb moment came for me when I was giving one of the older residents (74 at the time) a bath one night.  My own mother was at a rehabilitation facility at the time (in another state).  I thought about how I would like her to be treated.

Maybe that's the key for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. We definitely need to think about how we would want to be treated and how we would want our loved ones to be treated.

    Stigmas are definitely still there.