What is Mental Illness? Mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, (NAMI): Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.
These types of mental illness are not curable. However you can recover from the symptoms and lead a quality life. Most people in the United States suffer from some type of mental illness. The problem is, people are unaware or refusing to admit that something may be wrong. The largest contributor to Alcohol and drug addiction is due to some level of mental illness or traumatic experience. Mental illnesses are common in the United States.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans, about one in four adults, suffer from a mental disorder. The 2004 US residential census population report state’s about 58 million people suffer from mental illness. Consider this only counts the people who filed a census form in 2004. This number continues to grow every year.
Mental illness is UN-categorized in Monroe County. As a result, the mental health facilities are under staffed with the correct professionals to handle the overwhelming amount of patients who require help. If you are a labeled an alcoholic, drug addict, or mentally ill; and then considered by the police to be a danger to yourself or someone else; Monroe county hospitals can hold you for an unlimited amount of time while you wait for an evaluation of your condition from a psychiatrist.
Consider the facts here. You are not diagnosed by a professional doctor to be a danger to yourself or someone else, you are assumed to be, by a police officer who doesn’t want to deal with you. They don’t care why you are in the saturation you happened to be in if you call them. Their requirement is the quick solution. This is to throw you in the psych-ward at the hospital and let the staff there deal with you.
A quick story from a woman who called 911. She felt afraid because she was experiencing flashbacks and visions due to her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Jane Doe suffers from PTSD, Anxiety and Panic Attacks. She has been under a doctor’s care and in therapy for the last 18 months. She recognizes her symptoms as she shakes uncontrollably, and her heart pounds through her chest. She has a history and understands her symptoms. She becomes frightened and calls 911 to ask for help. She fears she may suffer a blackout or panic attack and needs a doctor to help her. From her past experience she has lost time and is in fear of a heart attack or stroke because of her stress levels.
She is suffering from a traumatic experience from the day before, which left her with unable to sleep the night before and unable to eat or stop feeling victimized. The police and EMT’s come to her home to help her.
She explains to them what her symptoms are and why she feels she needs to go to the hospital. The EMT’s put her in the ambulance and the police follow to Strong Hospital. As soon as she gets there, she is taken off the gurney and told to sit in the seat by the elevator. She is never seen by a nurse or a doctor when she arrives at the hospital. The Police and the EMT’s leave. Soon another police officer steps in front of the chair she is sitting in and tells her to stand up. He probes her for weapons as the elevator door opens. A woman from the elevator comes out and directs her into the elevator. They go to an unknown floor and the woman tells Jane Doe to sit on the bench until someone comes to check on her. She sits there for about five minutes when another woman who introduces herself as a Social Worker takes her into a private room to discuss her problem.
Jane Doe explains her symptoms and why she is there. The Social Worker tells Jane to sign a paper agreeing for treatment. Then she is told to to wait in the waiting area in front of the nurse’s station that is completely enclosed for the safety of the staff.
It is 10:30 in the morning when Jane Doe is put in the waiting room at Strong Hospital on the undisclosed floor. While she is there she witnesses a violent drug addict flip out while being evaluated. She also witness numerous people who are very sick wandering in circles, and smelling of alcohol. She listens to them complain about how they have been there for over 12 hours and some have been there for more than 24 hours. She witness alcoholics and drug addicts being brought in through the same elevator in hand-cuffs, and then being let free to wait in the same waiting room.
Her anxiety begins to rise even higher and panic sets in as she is informed she is in the psychiatric ward at Strong Hospital. They are unsure how long it will be until she sees a doctor for her condition. They also tell her she is not allowed to leave until she sees a psychiatrist. She is in the waiting room at the hospital trapped until almost 3:30 am the next day. When a psychiatrist finally realizes she is not a danger to herself or anyone else, she helps her to leave as quickly as possible with an apology.
Jane Doe leaves the hospital realizing she can never call 911 if she is symptomatic again. They will simply lock her up, which doesn’t help her with her illness.
Jane Doe is on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist since living in Monroe county with PTSD. A psychologist has been assigned to her but she is rarely able to get the appointments she needs to continue her treatment. She has been on a waiting list in Monroe County for about 6 months to date.
All mental illnesses are not the same. Each case is different as with each person who suffers from mental illness. Monroe County may find it beneficial to evaluate patients accordingly. Separation of the self-destructive from the non-self-distributive is overlooked and mentally ill patients are continuously grouped together and discriminated against regularly. It is no wonder why most people will not seek help until it is too late.
Separation of people with addiction from the people without addiction is necessary to correctly triage potentially dangerous emergency cases from the non-dangerous emergency cases. If Jane Doe was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and cooperative, then why was she grouped in with people who have those issues and are clearly a threat to other patients?
Stereotyping is discrimination in this case. It does more harm than good in Jane Doe’s situation. How does this treatment help people suffering from mental illness who are in recovery? If you are mentally ill and symptomatic; you ask for help. Do you deserve to be punished or locked up?