By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
There has always been a mental health problem in America. European colonialist brought their false interpretations of mental illness as signs of witchcraft or demonic possession. As our nation became more enlightened, those suffering from mental illness became the “eccentric” living in the backroom or up in the attic. For most of the 20th century, society placed a terrible stigma placed on mental illness like the Mark of Cain or the Scarlet Letter. Today, while mental health has come out of the shadows, it’s still quite taboo within many religions and communities of color.
When a kid breaks their arm, we rally around them and sign their cast. A neighbor has a heart attack, and we organize to make sure their lawn gets mowed. Someone finds an abnormal lump in her breast, we help with the kids, wear pink, and shave our hair in solidarity. A spouse’s pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin and we change our lifestyle and learn a new way to cooking for them. We start having mental health issues and… we’re on our own.
I have lived and struggled with mental illness/health issues most of my life and probably will for the rest of it. Parents don’t want to see it/think it reflects poorly on them. You don’t know what’s going on with yourself. Shit keeps piling up and getting packed away until one day the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, and you have to start dealing with it ALL. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. You’re in crisis and there’s a crisis in our nation’s mental health care.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver took a deep dive, as only he can do, into the current mental health crisis in America.
Take it from someone who has been there, done that, and starred in Mental Health – the musical (the production numbers a crazy), our mental health system can be frustrating and upsetting especially if you’re already in a bad headspace to begin with. Based on personal experience, here are some pointers that may make navigating the system a little easier and get you the help you deserve a little quicker.
- Find an advocate (i.e. a social worker) through a professional organization, community center, support group etc. to guide you through where to go and the red tape of insurance. They are an invaluable resource.
- Find a therapist you connect with is paramount. It may take a few tries but if you’re not on the same wavelength, it won’t help.
- A good place to start is PsychologyToday,com You can filter your search by just about anything.
- Check your local LGBTQ Center/Health Center. Many have excellent mental health programs and/or can provide referral lists. Be aware the intake process can move slowly.
- Don’t be afraid to confide in the right people that you’re having mental health issues. You know who can trust with this kind of information. You might be surprised who is going through it too. In fact, they might be able to help you get connected with someone.
If you’re a young person, The Trevor Project is available to help 24/7
If you’re a Veteran, there’s the Veteran Crisis Line. They’re outstanding and available 24/7 to get you through today and connected with help and resources in your area.
If you’re reading this and in crisis right now call the new nationwide crisis hotline.
Most of all if you’re not feeling safe, please dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
When any part of our body gets an illness or stops working right, we do everything we can to fix it and get better as soon as possible. Why wouldn’t we do the same for our brain, the part of our body that runs all the rest and makes us who we are?
(main image: screen grab)