Harris County, Texas, And The Nation

Below is a list of ‘highlight’s’ James Hamilton added to the article, Harris County: Let’s Go Crazy, he penned awhile back on Mental Illness in Harris County, Texas.

I thought I should repond to each “highlight” point by point, and I proceeded do so. Further, I don’t think this is a specifically Texas, or even Houston area, problem, but it’s a national problem, and the solutions to this problem are going to overflow the borders of any specific county. I have lived in Virginia, and I presently live in Florida, and we find some of the same problems existing in both states.

Some “highlights”:

1. JULY is “Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month”. (Non-minorities: it’s O.K. to be nuts)
2. I’m going to make you mad. I welcome the discourse.
3. The numbers of mental illness cases are climbing due to street substance abuse, alcoholism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. But, the number of those trained to treat mental illness is on a rapid…DECLINE:
4. There are approximately 500,000 adult Harris County residents who experience a mental health condition each year;
5. Approximately 140,000 of those suffer a severe mental illness, such as severe depression, bipolar disease and/or schizophrenia;
6. Almost half of adult Harris County residents who suffer from a severe mental illness could not access treatment; and
7. Approximately 20 percent of inmates in the Harris County Jails have a history of mental illness.

Responses to those “highlights”:

1. Minorities: it’s not O.K. to be nuts. I hope you can manage to get over it. (Whatever it is?) Non-minorities: ditto. July is also Mad Pride Month. It’s much more O.K. to show a little Mad Pride gumption and spine. Mad Pride has the potential of getting you out of about any ditch you might happen to get stuck in.
2. You don’t make me mad. I’ve, like, been there, done that. Discourse is all too often the regurgitation of official hogwash, and you won’t get that kind of thing from me.
3. ‘It’s the economy, dummy!’ Uh, it’s the economy when it isn’t a business. The expanding business of providing mental health services. This business is often the business of treating people who have had their lives wrecked by a bad economy. You say the number of trained mental health professionals is in decline? Good. I’ve seen so many people who couldn’t or wouldn’t walk away from the mental health system, I find that facet of the matter refreshing.
4. More or less? As a mental health consumer provider once said of state hospitals, “If you give them more beds, they will fill them.” You could define mental health condition, too. NAMI, the MHA, and their ilk claim 1 out of 4 people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives, but most of those people seem to get over it.
5. Alright. I will give you another statistic. 20-25% of those who are homeless reportedly have been labeled mentally ill. It’s a hard life. I’ve heard of people who’ve gone to jail to get a meal and a roof over their heads. I’m not saying all of those 20-25% are actually coo-coo. State hospitals also have kitchens and beds. I’m just saying do something about homelessness and poverty, and you do something about ‘mental illness’, too.
6. Some people are just lucky I guess. Or is it unlucky?
7. There are better places to house people than in jails. Believe me! Less expensive places, too. The trend of dealing with problem people by putting them in jail is not the solution to our mental health problems in this nation.

Other related issues involve:

Making people labeled ‘mentally ill’ the scapegoat for perpetuators of violent crime, regardless of whether these violent criminals bear psychiatric labels or not, does not represent the best course of action for us as a nation to take. Most people in mental health treatment are not violent criminals. The news media would have you believe otherwise while politicians, law enforcement officials, and others have made ‘the mental health issue’ part of their personal agenda because of a few cases that do make the news. This is primarily a prestige thing, and the measures that come of these agendas are neither likely to lower the mental illness rate, nor are they likely to lower the violent crime rate.

You are not going to have less people labeled mentally ill, and in the mental health care system, by testing the general public for problems and issues. Mental health screening has an incredibly high false positive rate. What did we say about hospitals and beds? If you go looking for people in need of treatment, well, you are sure to find some. Perhaps you will even find some people who don’t need that treatment so much, but whom you will be treating anyway. Keep going, and what do you have? An even higher rate of mental illness. Hmmm. On a more positive note, the market for self-help literature will probably be rising proportionately.

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