Thursday, November 17, 2011

When "cutting spending" results in tragedy

As many of you know, I've been a long-time advocate of mental health issues. My ex-husband is on permanent disability due to his bipolar disorder (which was well-treated until insurances changed and he had to switch to a doctor who I personally believe is responsible for making my ex-husband into a man who can no longer work). My daughter was diagnosed with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder (NOS - Not Otherwise Specified), ADD, and other issues. I have battled with the demons known as depression and anxiety nearly as long as I can remember. I had severe postpartum mood disorders after the births of both of my children.

So believe me when I say that I feel strongly about the issues surrounding mental health insurance coverage, stigmas, access to treatment, and so on.

As someone who has worked for many years within the interests of postpartum mood disorders, I've unfortunately become familiar with those rare but tragic cases in which a mother suffering from psychosis has harmed her child. I've also tried to educate myself about other issues tied to the health and well-being of families.

A trend I've noticed getting worse in our tough economy is that there is more violence against others, both within the family and outside of the family. In so many of the cases in which someone goes on a shooting spree, or abuses a spouse, or harms a child, we find that the perpetrator of the violence is experiencing high levels of stress and very often has an untreated or poorly treated mental illness.

When so many people are struggling just to find or keep a job, struggling to feed themselves and their families, struggling to make ends meet, it seems completely irresponsible to cut funding to outreach programs, to affordable mental and physical health care, to eliminate or greatly reduce the availability of support systems in place to help the very ones who need it the most.

It seems that whenever our governments - from the national level down to the local level - need to cut spending, the first thing on the chopping block is the absolute LAST thing that should be cut. We need to encourage our leaders to offer support to those in need, not pull the rug out from under them. We need to reach out to our communities and ensure that there are options for those who are struggling financially, so that they can at least maintain their health.

Until we start making the mental health of our people a priority, start making mental health services available everywhere to everyone that needs it, we'll keep seeing a rise in crime. We'll keep reading tragic stories about parents harming or killing their children. We'll keep seeing suicides rise.

Without affordable, available mental health care, we take away what is already so hard to come by in these trying times - hope for a better tomorrow.

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