60 Minutes’ coverage of mental health last night, Jan 26

Here’s the link: http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/  I don’t own a TV but someone sent this to me.

So I watched.  Here’s my reaction:

I’m afraid people are going to assume we’re all a bunch of dangerous criminals.  Only a fraction do anything violent.  A very small fraction.

In my 3+ decades of repeated hospitalizations, I was “violent” in a hospital once.  Only once.  I smashed a window, a teensy window put in the doorway area for cosmetic reasons, that had safety wires in it.  Now we’re talking about maybe 60 hospitalizations.  This was my third.  Must have been March 1983.

Weeks earlier, I had been on the ward, watching TV, and saw that Karen Carpenter died. I tried to tell these nurses that I, too, had an eating disorder and I got the usual blank stare.  There was nothing I could do and in three decades, although I begged and begged, I was never able to get “care” for it. Just that stupid blank stare.

I figured pills might help. Boy, was I wrong.  Most had no effect on me except side effects. I was always hoping that if I kept asking for medication, something might work.

Along the way, I ended up with the diagnosis “schizoaffective.” They’d given me so many drugs that didn’t work and by then, I looked “schiz,” as I heard them put it, cuz I was so drugged I couldn’t put a sentence together.

I am not a criminal.  But they lock us up and give us those disdainful looks.  Disapproval.  Hatred, even.  They have to contain us, manage us, beat us into submission, deceive us and threaten us so that we’ll agree to the drugging.

Now, they assume I’m violent without even asking.  I am never believed when I try to speak up.  I am feared and loathed in my community.

When I am treated with such discrimination, I feel despairing.  Yes, true.  I ask myself, how much hatred can one person take?

That, my friends, is the problem. I am one of the 99% that isn’t violent.  Yet we are loathed and there’s no basis for their fear.  Try doing that to anyone and their life is going to turn to crap.

Gus Deeds, I don’t believe in Heaven, but if you did, then I truly believe that’s where you are right now.  I’m sorry no one listened. It’s sad that so many turn their backs on us and don’t listen until after we’re gone.

I gotta stop here cuz I’m gonna start bawling.  And no, quit concluding that I’m “out of control” just cuz I shed a few tears. Another example of societal prejudice.

2 thoughts on “60 Minutes’ coverage of mental health last night, Jan 26”

  1. (in case you’re wondering, i arrived here via twitter.)

    ordinarily, i don’t leave comments, but i feel compelled to in this case because, if you’ll permit me the presumption, i feel i understand you. about fifteen years ago, back when i was only 12, i spent five or six weeks in a juvenile crisis intervention ward. the whole story is far too complicated to detail in a single comment and i wouldn’t dream of burdening anyone with such a wall of text, but suffice it to say that my reflections on the experience mirror those you’ve described above.

    i watched the story while having dinner with my family on sunday, and i was most struck by the fact the children they’re hospitalizing have no voice at all. it’s all about the trauma of being white, affluent, and having a fuck-up for a child. that’s the real tragedy of the piece: that the government and medical establishment are failing the good people of society. nevermind that the children in these institutions are being drugged, humiliated, and oftentimes abandoned; they don’t count.

    god, i still remember the sense of absolute powerlessness i felt struggling in vain against the doctors and even my own parents, who held me there against my will and tried, unsuccessfully, to bury me in a group home a hundred miles from the only home i’d ever known. as a 12-year-old boy, i didn’t even have the words to express how abused and betrayed i felt. in juvenile court, i tried to advocate for myself when no one else would, but only deep, heaving sobs came out. the memory of it still haunts me. it defines me. sometimes, it feels like it’s the only thing that’s ever happened to me.

    for me, the terrible, pitch-black joke of the program is that these people are advocating for legislation to increase the duration of psychiatric hospitalizations, citing the refusal of insurance companies to finance more than a few days of treatment, but all they’re working towards is _exactly what happened to me_. no mention is made of the quality or nature of that ‘treatment’; it’s sufficient – compassionate, even! – to call for ‘treatment’ and leave it at that. but what becomes of these people? does it even matter? does anyone care what they think about what others propose to do to them? in truth, all that matters is that good society is protected from the scourge of those it deems mentally ill. any other concerns are, at best, afterthoughts.

    finally, i’d like to add that, as dreadful as my experience was, it wasn’t anywhere near as terrible as the experiences of the other kids there, very few of whom had the good fortune of being white, male, and from a stable, affluent, two-income family. many of their families were distant or actively abusive, and they’d spent years bouncing back and forth between the street and various state institutions. in group therapy, many told stories of rapes and beatings they’d suffered, some in state institutions, others in more domestic settings, and through it all, you sensed that, apart from a few friends they’d managed to make along the way, they intimately understood that they were truly, utterly alone in the world. given that, it’s no wonder so many spoke of getting ’emancipated’: they’d already been deserted by their families; all they needed were the papers to prove it. overall, the true face of the juvenile mental patient isn’t my own, and it sure isn’t that of a senator’s son; it’s those kids, but you won’t find them in any 60 minutes piece. sadly, i expect the conversation will continue to be dominated by the same figures – all white, male, privileged, and, above all, violent.

    thanks for affording me the space to share my thoughts. i’m sorry i ran so long. i wish things weren’t what they are, but we can only live this one life. it’s a horror, but one we all live every day. digital hug!

Feedback and comments welcome!