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MENTAL HEALTH CARE August 8, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Personal Experience.
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The Olympics might be seen as the achievement both of physical health and special talent and skills.I have not appreciated the issue of mental health until I had experience with another person’s attempted suicide.

Admittedly, he was 95 years old, and I suppose it could be argued, as he was doing, that he had a fair run. If a person lives long enough then perhaps inevitably they will experience tragedy.I wish he had effective hearing aids, so that we were not engaged in a mostly one-way conversation. Because I had not seen it before, I did not recognize depression as acutely as I should have, and I was the last person to see him before he attempted suicide. Nor have I ever witnessed the shock on a face of a neighbour, who saw him lying in his shed. The police, the ambulance service and the surgeon did an admirable job, and our friend is not in rehabilitation and we hope to see him with his hearing in working order so that we can have real conversation.

There related issues. I suspect, or though I don’t know, the evidence shows that people do better living in their own homes, provided they get general assistance for example with grocery shopping. There has to be a balance between privacy, independence and community that often does not exist in nursing homes. To me elderly people are valuable because they represent the generations before and they are a link with the past. There experiences and mentality give an insight into what has gone before.

Of course, it not just the elderly who might experience depression and suicide. I will have to listen again, but from memory Norman Swan said that men over 75 then to be successful suicides.

Possibly because of recent shootings, The LA Times has run stories on mental health. We might consider a ban on spanking children. The evidence indicates, on reflection not surprisingly that children who experience such violence are more prone to mental health issues later in life. Then again we have a retributive system of justice, not to the extent practiced in the US. On the other hand it was reported:

Almost 5 million California adults say they could use help with a mental or emotional problem, according to a survey released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA. About 1 million of them meet the criteria for “serious psychological distress.”

However, only one in three people who perceive a need for mental health services or are in serious distress have seen a professional for treatment, the survey found.

The survey was conducted among more than 44,000 adults as part of the 2005 California Health Interview Survey, administered through the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Since the survey was conducted, the recession probably has contributed to worsening mental health for even more people, said the lead author of the study, David Grant.

The survey showed that lack of health insurance coverage was a major reason why people didn’t seek help — a situation that may be rectified somewhat by state and national mental health parity laws now in effect that require insurers to cover mental health conditions similarly to they way they cover physical conditions. (The final phase of the federal law went into effect on July 1.) However, stigma continues to be a barrier to mental health services. The survey found that men, people 65 and older, Latinos and Asians were less likely to seek help because of the stigma associated with mental or emotional problems. But being poor is the biggest barrier to care.

It is rare to get a direct insight into the lived experience of a person with a serious mental health problem. Anna Gorman relates the story of Keris Myrick who has “a schizo-affective disorder”. She writes:

On a recent Saturday morning, Myrick stood confidently before several dozen people in South Los Angeles for a discussion about mental health disparities.

She showed a photograph of a grocery store aisle lined with cereal boxes and told a story of what happened one day in her mid-20s. She was trying to decide which cereal to buy and the voices were telling her they were poisonous and would kill her. She kept pulling out different boxes, hoping the voices would say one was safe. They just got more insistent.

Then she heard a loudspeaker: “Pick up on aisle 7.” Unknowingly, she had torn the shelves apart and boxes surrounded her feet. She ran out of the store.

She felt frightened and ashamed. She had even been keeping the voices a secret from her family. “You don’t air your dirty laundry,” she told the audience. “You keep stuff at home. My home was actually in my head.”

After the cereal incident, she told her parents. Her mother advised her to argue with the voices. Her father suggested telling them to shut up.

Years later, Myrick, an articulate African American who dresses in stylish, loose-fitting clothes and has piercings all the way up one ear, speaks openly about living with mental illness. She recounts being locked in an ER psychiatric room without a bathroom or a window, being handcuffed and taken to a hospital in the back of a police car.

“I don’t know any other disease where somebody comes to your door, puts you in handcuffs and puts you in the back of a police car because you are not feeling well,” she told the group. “That’s how many people of color are actually receiving services, if you want to call that services.”

In Australia mental health care is a very contested area, as indicated by this report on Lateline in 2011:

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