October 22, 2009

Went to visit my sister-in-law for the first time today since her admission into the Maricopa County behavioral health system last week. I really didn’t know what to expect – after all, my only exposure to psychiatric institutions (probably like everyone else) was watching Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. I mean, until you live this kind of thing how would you know?

Those who frequent this site have probably figured out I’m no big fan of government by nature. I believe Ronald Reagan was right – government doesn’t solve problems, government more often than not is the problem. So to me, the less government, the better. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see a need for government to protect this nation and take on certain responsibilities to ensure the general welfare of those who cannot take care of themselves.

And that’s where the Maricopa County Division of Behavioral Health comes in. Look, I have no way of knowing whether putting your county’s or state’s mental heath system under private contract is a good or a bad idea, and I can’t speak for every psychiatric hospital that might be under the County’s jurisdiction or every other behavioral health system across the country, but I will say that from what I saw today, my sister-in-law could not be in a better place or treated by better people. The doctors, nurses, attendants, and social workers where she is staying could not be more professional and caring, the hospital itself any cleaner and more conducive to quality care than what I saw. Sure, it may be government-run, but in this particular case Maricopa County should be given kudos for providing the kind of care and treatment I witnessed today.

Don’t get me wrong – Tam is hardly staying at the Omni Royal Orleans. But in her condition, and the condition of those who share her unit with her, it doesn’t need to be. But it’s very clean, very secure, and the program she is in very structured. It may not be The Ritz, but can sleep at night knowing she’s in good hands.

What stood out to me more than anything else was how mental illness knows no particular demographic. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male, female, white, Asian, Hispanic, young, or old – I saw them all. And you can’t help but wonder about all their stories: how did they get there? What is their situation? What is their long-term prognosis? How do their families handle their situation? I mean, it just astonishes you and, yes, it breaks your heart.

I’ve always wondered how fine the line is between sanity and insanity, but I will tell you I’ve come to view that line being a lot wider than I once thought. Yes, I can communicate with my sister-in-law once again, but there’s something different about her now that leaves one quite uneasy. Over a week ago we thought she was just troubled and needed time away from the horrible situation she was extracted from; now there’s something else going on there that leaves one with the inescapable sense that she is truly mentally ill and psychologically incapable of being anywhere else than where she is right now.

It’s a sad and humbling thing to see, but I’m sure glad that she’s where she is right now.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:30 | Comments (3)
  1. Welcome to my world and this is the reason I dod the work that I do. Do yourselves a huge favor and find the local NAMI support group…education is the healthiest weapon in understanding mental illness…no one is exempt and ask people and there is someone in their family who is battling some form of mental illness. Read about Tammy’s dianosis, learn all you can, ask questions of her doctor/social worker. Support her and each other with good, solid information and of course, feel free to ask me anything at all, any time.

    Comment by Jana — October 23, 2009 @ 6:01 am

  2. Thanks for the advice, Jana – don’t worry, we’ve got some good resources assisting us and providing good council. We’re learning a lot, I can tell you that!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — October 24, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  3. As Doug knows, I’m a lawyer. Recently I’ve started representing ther mentally ill in their bid for disability benefits. It is an eye-opener. You can be sitting there speaking with someone that seems perfectly “normal” and then they tell you what’s going on and what they’ve been through. It breaks my heart.

    Comment by Jerry — October 29, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

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