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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Newtown: Horrible Tragedy, and a Time to Discuss Stigma

What has happened in Newtown is a tragedy (you can watch the news reports, listen to the radio, read the papers for more about it). Whether the shooter had an illness was brought up in the earliest broadcast. It always is when there is an emergency like this.

Please spread the news: A diagnosis of a mental illness does not absolutely mean that that person will be violent. It does not absolutely mean that s/he will harm themselves or others. It is rare. Early treatment and detection help to control many aspects of different mental illnesses. Since this happened in a school, we have the opportunity to move forward by educating children about mental illness as an illness, not the stigma that is generalizations and spreading assumptions as truth.

I encourage readers to, at the least, learn a little about mental illness and what it means for most people who have them. Read this blog. Look at NAMI’s response and assistance in their article “The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy.” Read other pages on NAMI’s site. This is a chance to bring up, in conversations already happening, the reality of mental illness, and the need of early detection, support systems, health care.

It is also a time to talk about your experiences with mental illness – if you have one (or more) or a family member or friend does. How does it affect you? What were your assumptions about mental illness before you met someone with that illness, and did anything change?

As far as gun control is concerned, I was sent a petition to sign. This is my response to the person, who knows that I have a mental illness, who has been one of the greatest supporters of me, my life, my bipolar, and this blog. I may still sign the petition, but I have a real problem with the language that creates stigma in one place when genuinely trying to make a difference in another:

My response to the petition:

I’ll have to think about it. I really don’t like the text:
I don’t have a gun. I don’t want a gun. I don’t need a gun. But somehow the guns always wind up in the hands of people crazy enough to use them irresponsibly and dangerously. This HAS TO BE STOPPED.
I’ve heard reports on the radio – this morning, quoted on NPR (not by NPR newscasters themselves). I’m “one of those people” that shouldn’t have guns. I don’t think anyone should. I think that adding in the petition that the “people who are crazy enough” should just be “people.” I don’t want this to create stigma about mental illness – this is when it is really important to say that we need education and early detection and available health, so that we can help people with mental illness before it gets to this. Because it doesn’t have to.

My heart and prayers go out to those who were killed, their family, friends, and community. And to the shooter, and his family and friends. And to people with mental illnesses who feel like they were just shut out a little bit more, and may not think that they can speak about how they have a mental illness.

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Stigma: Judged For Being a Consumer

I am not paranoid. Tend toward hyperbole, yes, especially when telling family stories. Psychotic, not for years. But, when:
**talking with an insurance company about claims and they won’t give me access to when I submitted the last ones; or
**speaking to my mail order medication company about why they say they need authorization on a medication (that I’ve been taking since 2000) but that I can’t order the script more than two days before it’s due, and, therefore, I’d run out if I didn’t keep a few in reserve; or
**knowing that every claim I send in will be refused at least once, even if I fill it out while on the phone with that company’s rep

I know that I sound like I have paranoia.

I speak down, and slowly, to whichever rep is on the other end if the line. I bring up scenarios (documented) of when someone said the same thing and the result was the opposite of what’s promised. I add “sent on (date)” to my scrips, order forms, and the envelope before I mail it all out – and keep a photocopy.

It all gets me so frustrated. I’m trying to keep track of the paperwork. And I feel like I’m being judged because I’m calling the behavioral health claim center, or because the pharmaceutical rep has a list of all of the medications I’ve ordered this month. I feel like being frustrated and asking questions and comparing current answers to past ones results in me being judged, rather than just a consumer.

Why can’t it be the same phone conversation as when I am buying any other product? A little less judgement on both sides? Ugh. Ordering a refill of Lamictal just isn’t the same as ordering a sweater.

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