Posts Tagged ‘government

19
Sep
13

America’s Mental Health System Drives You Crazy

So we have another shooting, this time at the Naval Shipyard in our nation’s capital.  All reports say the shooter had exhibited clear signs of not only mental illness, but violent tendencies.  He had been arrested for incidents involving suspicious use of a firearm, but neither was his gun taken away, nor did  the police make any connection with his behavior with mental health issues.  We also have the stabbing death of a professor in Seattle by a homeless crazy person who is representative of the type of person that due to lack of mental health facilities, ends up in prison or on our streets.  Our mental health system is ridiculous and encourages very ill people to act out in desperation.  The way the system is set up, you won’t get any real help until it’s too late for the person with mental health problems or for an innocent bystander.

Following is a composite typical scenario that I created from my own experiences as well as the experiences of others in dealing with the nonsensical and unhelpful system as it exists at least in my state.

Jane had an extremely abusive childhood which understandably left her with major depressive disorder and violent anger issues.  Despite this, she was intelligent and driven enough to put herself through school and graduate from university.  On paper, she seems fine.  However, due to her issues, daily life is a constant struggle and her problems are like a pebble in a pond, radiating repercussions to everyone around her and society at large.

Although smart enough to be employed (at least on paper credentials), she could not cope with daily stressors well and didn’t get along with others, alienating friends, family, and coworkers, sabotaging her ability to make a living and provide for herself.  She tried to seek help, being self-aware that she had major problems.

What typically happens is that when you are low income, you see a primary care physician that generally has little to no training in mental health.  You get a fifteen minute appointment and assessment and then out comes the  prescription pad.  Like most doctors today, the physician had drunk the kool-aid of the pharmaceutical industry and prescribed a pill as the cure to all ills.

The influence of the pharmaceutical industry as well as inadequate funding of our health care system and the American consumer way of thinking led to pill popping as a quick and cheap way to sweep mental health problems under the rug.  Too bad that even the “miracle drugs” SSRIs (Prozac being the most famous of the group) aren’t really that effective, with only about 30% of patients responding positively, which is the same rate of efficacy as the sugar pill placebo.

Not to mention that these drugs have a long list of side effects and that not only are they over prescribed, but wrongly prescribed by doctors that didn’t spend enough time with their patients to give an accurate diagnosis.  These pills can do more harm than good.

Some of the side effects of the antidepressants prescribed are extreme weight gain, severe acne, and hair loss.  Seriously!  If I wasn’t depressed before taking pills, I sure as fuck would be when i became 300lbs, bald and with an oozing pizza face!  Some give you a feeling of “electric brain shocks” when getting off meds that are so excruciating that some patients end up being lifelong users, not by choice.  How hypocritical that our pharmaceutical industry can turn us into drug addicts for life, but our government wages a war on drugs that aren’t controlled by big money corporations.

Back to Jane….Pills were dispensed like candy, but no pill can cure the underlying thought and behavioral problems that accompany mental illness.  No therapy was available other than an hour every two to three weeks with a community therapist that is not a psychiatrist and doesn’t have the expertise to treat people who are severely ill.  Even to get this shitty amount of care, Jane was on a waiting list for three months.

When she was working, it was often as a temp, which provides no benefits and the insurance offered was exorbitant, covered nothing, and made no provisions for mental health.  If there was employer insurance, again, it covered nothing but meds.  Besides, bound to a Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule, she would never have the time or leeway to see anyone anyway.

Jane couldn’t work more than a year at any job without experiencing a severe breakdown.  The best she could do was to work a year on contract, grit her teeth to tough it out and collapse into another major depressive breakdown.  In the months leading up to it, it was clear to see something was wrong.  Unable to sleep at night, constantly tormented with increasingly angry and violent thoughts, her appearance was disheveled, she was hostile and short-tempered, and often blew up at strangers and was surly with those she knew.

During periods of unemployment, she was unable to access any care as even receiving $1200 per month from unemployment disqualified her as too much money to get any government health care.

After years of this cycle, and intermittently seeking help and getting only a prescription that didn’t work, she gave up and tried to just soldier on.  Eventually, her issues caught up to her and she ended up nearly losing everything before she at last qualified with DSHS to get help.

She had a psych evaluation with a real psychiatrist who diagnosed her with Major Depressive Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.  I picked BPD as the example because while it is a severe mental disorder, it isn’t a delusional one, like Schizophrenia, and there is effective treatment with high success  and low relapse rates that exist.  It is also a condition that is not helped by any medications, so the meds prescribed which she had stopped taking after her initial experiences with SSRIs would have done more harm than good to her overall health.

The government assigns you the status of General Assistance-Unemployable, or GAU.  This gives you medical insurance for a short term condition expected to last six months to a year.  It qualifies you for food stamps of about $200 per month.  There is no government housing subsidy, but a charity provides funds for that.  There is no cash subsidy.

Jane found that after being diagnosed and recommended for a specific type of treatment , the GAU insurance disqualified her from accessing that treatment.  All she had available was the inadequate and scanty therapy from a community clinic.

After six months, her case was reviewed and she was assigned to Aged, Blind, Disabled (ABD), which is a condition expected to last a year to death.  So finally with this change, she could get the specific treatment recommended for her.  Despite, this, on attempting to find a doctor, she was repeatedly told there was a several month waiting list again.

In fact, one administrator told her frankly “Look, if you haven’t at least attempted suicide at least a couple of times, you aren’t going to get in.”  Other administrators told her to at least show up at the emergency room several times as suicidal to document those visits as proof of the need for help.  What a waste of time and money for everyone!  Emergency room visits as we all, now help drive up overall health care costs for all.  To actually have people who work in the system to encourage this wastefulness as the only way to establish some severity and urgency to getting care says a lot about how broken our system is.  Not to mention, subtly (or not so much) encouraging suicide to the patient.

Even worse, though help for her condition was accessible, due to ABD giving her Medicare which is federal, this disqualified her from the charity which subsidized housing which is only for Medicaid recipients on a state level.  She now got a cash subsidy of $197 per month instead which isn’t going to pay rent.

Ok, so if you are really mentally ill, you won’t get the medical help that was prescribed for you for six months to a year, but you have housing, food, and no cash.

After that, if you still aren’t well, you can access the specialized mental health care you need, but then have no place to live.  If you work at all, you get no cash subsidy, and you can’t make more than $1040 per month gross without losing insurance.

There is no low income housing.  In my state, they actually shut down the waiting list to sign up to be eligible for housing for three years now due to overwhelming demand.  Most of the severely mentally ill have no friends or family to help them and no where to go.

The only recourse is to apply for Social Security Disability.  Attorneys tell you it’s standard procedure for them to deny your first claim-no one gets it.  Then 80% or more get turned down for the second claim, and still a third time.  The next step is a hearing request that takes typically a year or more to get to trial.  And you’ll still probably get turned down.

Jane isn’t a hopeless case.  She wanted to get into a year long intensive program that had over 75% success rate in rehabilitating patients. and rejoin society as a productive member.  Instead, she is a drain on the public coffers, taking unemployment too long as the only way to be able to provide basic needs while having time to recover in the short term to be able to work sporadically.  Or while receiving insurance, the system leaving no recourse except to be unemployed in order to keep access to care.

Basically, its the government putting the screws to you.  How sick are you?  You have to be willing to be completely destitute and on the streets before you can get the help you need.  I liken it to being sent to prison for a non-violent drug possession.  If you weren’t corrupt when you went in, being in those conditions will make you far worse by the time you’ve endured all that and get out.  Sick, desperate people who are tortured from their mental suffering, with no recourse, no help, no options are more likely to act out.  You trap an animal in a corner and repeatedly poke it with a sharp stick, what do you really expect besides that animal lashing out in violent fury in an attempt to escape?

And my fictional example is a best case scenario of someone who is “high functioning” and not delusional, psychotic, beset with hallucinations,  or drug addictions which are often an attempt to self-medicate.  And someone who is “high functioning” can be pushed by circumstance or bad luck into becoming even more ill.  Our current system is a waste of resources as well as human potential, not to mention the pain and suffering of the afflicted individual.  As I said, pebble in the pond-that person’s pain has repercussions throughout society in their circle, and can expand to encompass many people in their wake.  Multiply that one person’s effect by millions and all people suffer from the effects of untreated mental illness.  Any one of us can have a series of tragedies and ill luck befall us and fall into depression or have an undiagnosed condition triggered by life’s pitfalls.

Who wrote these policies?  I am always amazed and appalled at the lack of common sense in these statutes.  Who’s really crazy?  Did the politicians even read these regulations that they passed?  How does it make sense that we have a two tier system that provides inadequate medical help, or no wherewithal to be able to access medical care without becoming homeless?

The media focuses on gun control, but for me it’s a case of which came first, the chicken of the egg?  Gun violence is a symptom and result of the underlying mental health issues that drives some people in desperation to such acts.  Basically in America, you have to be a danger to yourself or others before you can get any real help.  When you have a policy that leaves the mentally ill with the choices of the rock or the hard spot, it shouldn’t be a surprise that desperate people can do desperate things.  The real surprise is that more people don’t act out violently, and instead just turn inward and needlessly suffer, living lives of quiet desperation or committing suicide out of hopelessness.

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16
Sep
13

America’s Universities Produce Educated Idiots

My best friend, who I’ll call Mac (Makes Assloads of Cash) is a network engineer who plans on getting an MBA.  He has his choice of jobs anywhere in the world and always makes six figures.  He’s also the stupidest person I know.  He knows all there is to know about whatever he does with computers, but otherwise, is completely ignorant in every other way.  He has an atrocious vocabulary and is prone to making up words a la George W., has no knowledge of history, literature, art, philosophy, the major ideas and events that have shaped world development, is totally uncultured, shallow, doesn’t analyze, or reflect.  In short, he is a creature of our higher education system and is a good little brainwashed consumer.  He knows how to make money and spend it and that is the sum of his life.  He is the epitome of the Modern Educated Idiot that our educational system now churns out.

To be fair, that was the way he was when I first met him.  The reason we were able to be friends is that he appreciates the truth and isn’t afraid of criticism.  He’s Indian (dot, not feather) so he’s used to an angry woman yelling at him, criticizing him, and hitting him and was unfazed by my vehement, blunt tirades.  If you give him a good reason, he is more than willing to admit his mistake, which is rare enough, but even more miraculous, would CHANGE!  And although he was ignorant as a stump, he has intellectual curiosity.  Too lazy to read a book, but happy to have someone explain it and be interested.   As for me, although I am harsh and angrily blunt, he respected that all my rants were based on logic and reason.

It’s all those college papers.  For instance-my thesis statement “You are a fucking dumbass!”  Which is then supported by at least three reasons with evidence and examples, followed by “in conclusion” or “therefore”  “You are a fuckwit.”.

On the other hand,  I am the Classic Educated Idiot.  I was a history major who also took a lot of English lit, psychology, sociology, dabbled in drama, art, mythology and folklore.  Yeah, if it’s esoteric and has no practical application, that’s my forte.  I’m the head in the clouds, ivory tower dwelling intellectual academic type.  Everything I learned had nothing to do with the real world and real jobs.  I have no practicality whatsoever, no technical or math ability, lousy spatial relationships, and loathe business and commerce as the venal pursuit of filthy lucre like a cockroach, greedy and rapacious, eating and tainting everything in it’s path.  Of course, I’m poor as ass and have no career as the things I love to do and am good at have no value in this world.  Besides my antipathy, I also have no ability for the things that make money in our society.  Just like athleticism, it takes a certain type of person to have a talent for those things, and I suck at commerce.

So from his education, he initially saw me as a total loser as I wasn’t a career or commercial success and wasn’t rich.  From my educational standpoint, he was a pathetic, soulless, brain dead waste of a meatbag that was barely human.  Ah, the irony that we became besties!  But it works because we are a good yin/yang combination.  He’s good at the things I’m bad at and vice versa and we bolster each other’s weak points and benefit from the other’s strengths.

The problem with our higher education is illustrated by Mac and I representing the extremes in producing graduates and citizens that lack a complete education to create a well-rounded individual that can contribute both humanity and practicality.

Why do you suppose bankers, financiers, and CEOs are such rapacious, greedy monsters with no conscience?  They have no balance, no appreciation for anything besides making money.  If they are taught nothing of the humanities, of course those are the people who will cut funding for any arts programs since they have no appreciation for those things.

If our leaders studied history, perhaps they wouldn’t repeat the glaring mistakes of the past.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” as the saying goes, and our leaders are doing exactly that.  They are looking to make big bucks in the short term without care for the consequences to people or society.  They ignore the fact that all these policies are the same old tools of oppression that caused untold suffering of the masses, and in the end, resulted in revolution of some sort.

If anyone studied history, the direct parallels between the Industrial Revolution and the social and economic conditions during the Gilded Age at the the turn of the century and today’s Technological Revolution are plain to see.   Vast income inequality, power in the hands of the wealthy industrialists that controlled the laws of the government keeping workers subservient and without rights.  The suppression of unions and the ability of workers to organize.  Crony capitalism and the use of government to further the interests of the elite and use of civil and military force against it’s citizens were rampant in 1919.  Check out the history of labor riots, race riots, immigration riots, and the state of America during that time.  As for globalization and exploitation of foreign workers?  Back then it  was known as colonialism.

The decline and fall of the Roman Empire had all the same elements as the conditions America is living with.  Globalization and displaced workers with high unemployment due to cheaper labor sources.  We have outsourcing and offshore companies, they had conquered peoples and slaves-but most of us are nothing but subjugated wage slaves.  The Roman Senate became a corrupt institution run by an oligarchy who took bribes to further the interests of  preserving the obscene wealth and privilege of a minority upper class.  Hmm, we even have the same name for that same corrupt institution-the Senate (gee, what a co winky dink) as well as the House, the Presidency, and an increasingly corrupt Supreme Court where judges hold their position for life.  Supplicants are now Lobbyists.  Rome propagated it’s own mythology as a Republic where all had the rights and privileges of citizens.  America has it’s bullshit Horatio Alger rags to riches mythos of a meritocracy.  Rome provided free bread to the unwashed masses to prevent riots from desperation and hunger.  Every society is three meals away from revolution as the saying goes.  Rome sponsored dazzling spectacles of chariot races, gladiatorial combats, and elaborate productions to keep  the populace distracted.  America has cheap fast food, a token provision of food aid, and the vast circus of the media to keep people beguiled with the trivial, distracted with the sensational, and fed misinformation and propaganda to keep people ignorant, apathetic, and keep voting against their own interests..  Rome had a massive immigration problem and was eventually sacked by pissed off immigrants living on their borders.  Theirs were Germanic, ours are Mexican.

We are constantly hectored to get a college degree.  But realistically, if we all got one, it would be worthless.  I’ve felt for a long time that an undergrad degree is the equivalent of a high school diploma in the 1950’s.  You need the piece of paper that says “I went”, but other than that, it’s worthless.  You can’t apply for a lot of shitty, low wage office jobs without it, but the return isn’t always worth it when the world is flooded by a mandatory degree.  More doesn’t mean better.

Besides, not everyone is suited for college, they don’t have the interest or aptitude for the type of learning and work skills you learn at university.  If everyone went to college, who’s going to build things, fix things, do all the practical labor that needs to be done in the world?  So is the future going to be filled with janitors that all have a college degree?

Universities also need to balance their teaching of humanities and arts with real world practical skills as well.  Absolutely nothing I learned in college is really applicable to real work.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  In college, you are encouraged to think outside of the box, be an individual, take chances, think for yourself, challenge accepted notions.  The real world mostly demands obedience and is totally rigid and you are a prisoner of group think, dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator working in teams.

Other than going to grad school and becoming a teacher, there are no other outlets for me to use my history degree.  The divide in our educational system which is reflected in the values of our society shows in the type of pay we reward CEOs even when they fail, compared to how much we pay teachers, daycare workers, health workers who take care of people.

Without a venue for higher thinking and encouraging the arts, we are limiting creativity which inhibits new ideas of not only products and services, but for a different way of life altogether besides our slavish devotion to capitalism.  But then again, that’s what they want.  When ideas, principles, philosophy is absent, all that is left is materialism-that which you can see and hold in your hot little hands.  Bereft of higher thinking, we are reduced to mindless animals-consume, buy, own, eat, drink, sleep, fuck.

America has got to find a happy medium and well-balanced curriculum that creates well-rounded people with practical skills and preparation for the real world.  You  also have to give people the ability to think about things to have valude outside of consumerism, that values ideas and feelings as well as material goods.  Otherwise, you end up with the Unethical Educated Idiot and the Esoteric Educated Idiot.