When Times Tough, They’re Even More Tough for Folks with Psychiatric Illness

As the recession continues, unemployment remains at 9.6%, and now government budgets are being slashed. Not surprisingly, mental health services are some of the first to get cut when times are tough.

In a recent New York Times article, the implications of this are starkly illustrated. When mental health care is sparse, folks go unsupported and crises are more likely to emerge. When there is no therapist or peer counselor or clubhouse nearby, or even a psychiatric emergency room or mobile crisis team for urgent matters, family members call 911 for assistance.

Police officers are increasingly trained in how to work more effectively with people in a psychiatric crisis– but let’s face it– cops carry guns and clubs, not exactly therapeutic tools! In the NYT article, one officer admits that it is sometimes cheaper to send the troubled person on a bus out of town, than take him or her to get mental health care.

I fear that this economic downturn will result in increasing criminalization of people with psychiatric illness. When the police are called to intervene with a troubled person, it becomes a criminal matter.  It’s easier to make an arrest than to take the person for psychiatric evaluation. And, when people with psychiatric illness become “criminals” stigma is exacerbated and therefore less likely to be funded.

Ugh! I am feeling pretty pessimistic right now, sorry readers.

My next post will be filled with promise.

I promise !

Jessica Arenella, ISPS-US Membership Chair & Blogger

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2 Responses to When Times Tough, They’re Even More Tough for Folks with Psychiatric Illness

  1. paying_attention says:

    This reminds me of something I’ve read in a book entitled WIN YOUR CASE by Gerry Spence. Here it is: “We are given choices- we can seek a kinder world, a better place in which to work, a better corporate community, a society that refuses to condone profit over human life, a civilization that puts human life above all else, or we can join the unenlightened who have preceded us at the expense of justice. The final argument will at last define both those who seek justice and those who provide it.”
    I watch the people march on Wall Street. It’s a start. Somebody is paying attention. People are geeting squeezed too tightly. It is even more so with the disabled population, specifically the mentally ill population, severely mentally ill population, uneducated minority severely mentally ill population– I can go on all day. Many are stigmatised as less than human, lower in intellect, dangerous, “bad”– many diagnosed feel compelled to hide in shame and fear, hoping to not be discovered, or else “refuse” to be ill, not take care of themselves and deteriorate afraid and alone. Insurance here in NY is lessening- psych patients have to jump through hoops to get meds that they need to take, many that are necessary for everyday functioning. It is taking weeks, and people are getting hurt and hospitalized. Professionals won’t accept the meager payment that is being paid out, mobile crisis teams and outpatient hospital programs are overwhelmed as their “consumers” fall through the cracks by the truckload. In this economy they cannot find a job, and if they did, it would be difficult to hold on to it. They are sent to the Goodwill, who send them to the Social Security office- who give them all of this complicated nonsense to go through to apply only to be rejected because their is no x-ray, or blood test that can say, “Yep- definitely mentally ill, all right!” And with bad insurance, no doctor and no med regulation, they are sent to the HRA, who sends them for a physical (8hours), two interviews (16 hours), and a job assesment (4 visits of at least 2 hours each), to either be told to go back to the Social Security or else report to their assigned worksite. All of this taking so much time- no work, no MD, no therapy, no meds, no $ which equals no shelter, no food, no stability whatsoever– One can turn on the television and every other commercial is a lawyer offering services to help navigate the Social Security- what they don’t tell you is that sometimes the process can take up to 5 years to remedy and there is still a chance of being denied. And what of those who are elderly? Or do not speak English well? Or are psychotic and cannot compose themselves? Jail. Jail for the people whom the State has victimized. Or death. Or suicide. The pee smelling guy in the library humming to himself. The screaming half dressed filthy woman on the subway. And the ones who sit still and go inside their heads- never to be heard from. The people surrounding them disgusted and irritated by their existence, jeering at them, pretending not to notice. I get the feeling that something terrible is on the horizon, something that really needs a call to action.

    • moderator says:

      Hi Morgan,
      Thank you for painting such a stark picture of the byzantine and punishing way that people are provided “help”. It is dizzying just to read about it; living it can only be a trillion times harder. As you allude to, jails have been the largest mental health institutions in this country. There are more people with psychiatric problems incarcerated than there are in psychiatric wards or hospitals. So much for the “deinstitutionalization” of the 1960s. Its just been a transfer of institutions, because there are not enough supports in the community. Community based services have been decimated and health care has been so complicated and change so frequently, that it is virtually impossible to have any continuity of care. Maybe we need an OCCUPY MEDICAID offices movement…
      –Jessica Arenella

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