I heard something the other day and it just really messed with my prevention, early intervention mindset. It was a Ted Talk by DJ Jaffe and he was compelling. So, I bought his book, Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill. It’s not easy to read (hard facts) but I think one of the most important topics for me to understand. Serious mental illness has an onset in early adulthood and prevention programs have little to no effect.
Thinking about my own experience with a brain tumor and the rapid response compared to someone with the brain illness of Bipolar or Schizophrenia with multiple trips to the hospital, doctor’s office, mental health provider and then jail without ever getting the stabilization that returns the brain to normal functioning makes me cry. They were waiting for the person to want to kill himself or someone else before intervention. You might say “Linda! You are exaggerating!” but you know it’s true. Our system is flawed. And it’s wearing us out and creates fear that is unnecessary and horrifying. Not just for our families but our whole community.
I am an advocate for reform. I am so thankful that the Department of Corrections in Alaska is providing mental health care; I wish that mental health care (for the seriously mentally ill) didn’t have to happen in jail. Fairbanks Reentry Coalition would like to see reentrants who are stabilized in prison find the care they need on release, maybe with a family member, peer specialist or case manager meeting them on the morning of release with a ride to public assistance for Medicaid, to a warm place to sleep and to a Doctor to get the next prescription. The goals that we are setting in our work groups all lead to stability for the reentrant by closing gaps and overcoming barriers.
I am going to leave you this morning with these statistics: “There are forty-three million Americans over eighteen affected with “any mental illness” and ten million with “serious mental illness.” At least 140,000 of these seriously mentally ill are homeless. Some 397,037 are in jails and prisons. An additional 755,360 are on probation or parole, and many of them will return to jail or prison multiple times. At least 95,000 who need hospitalization can’t get a bed because of a deadly shortage. More than 5,000 kill themselves every year. Their mental illnesses make them more likely to be murdered and more likely to be victims of violent crime than the mentally healthy. They die up to 25 years earlier than others. While most people with mental illness do not become violent, those with untreated mental illness are more likely than others to become violent. Their victims are most likely to be members of their own families.”[i]
Action items: Finish reading Insane Consequences… Join NAMI Fairbanks and the National Shattering Silence Coalition….Follow NAMI and NSSC on Facebook and Twitter.
[i] DJ Jaffe, Insane Consequences, 2017 by Mental Illness Policy Org., pages 20-21.