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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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Helpful Tips from NAMI, Post-Sandy

NAMI posted Helpful Tips for Recovering From Hurricane Sandy.
It’s a really really bright red and yellow, but otherwise helpful. Geared toward New Yorkers.

Word Out: Helping Friends With Mental Illness

I just called in to The Brian Leher Show on WNYC for the segment on helping each other through the storm:

Said that if you know someone with a mental illness, this is a very high-stress situation and episodes may be preventable.

It’s important to stay on medication/meal/sleep schedule. If you have a friend or neighbor, invite them in for a meal, or call to check in on them.

***I was on NPR, talking about mental illness! Major life goal achieved.***

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Here’s Where I Am

I’m doing pretty well because of the support I’ve had, and because of the support I’ve had, I’m doing pretty well.

Here’s Where I Am, sung by Tiffany Taylor. One of my favorite songs, perfect for rounding out the week.

Infographic from @GOOD

@GOOD has posted an Infographic: Facing Mental Illness by the USC School of Social Work.

What have you found for National Mental Health Awareness Week?

National Mental Health Awareness Week!

It’s National Mental Health Awareness Week!

If you’re reading this, you’re reaching out already. Go ahead and give someone a link to this blog. Or look up how to help family/friends/co-workers on the NAMI website. Or invite a friend with mental illness for a walk. Or … lots of options. Have a great week!

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NYTimes Op-Ed: Romney’s Sick Joke

A reader asked me to post this, a New York Times Op-Ed by Paul Krugman, titled “Romney’s Sick Joke”

Author Paul Krugman says:

“No. 1,” declared Mitt Romney in Wednesday’s debate, “pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” No, they aren’t – as Mr. Romney’s own advisers have conceded in the past, and did again after the debate.

Mr. Krugman continues: What Mr. Romney actually proposes is that Americans with pre-existing conditions who already have health coverage be allowed to keep that coverage even if they lose their job – as long as they keep paying the premiums. As it happens, this is already the law of the land. But it’s not what anyone in real life means by having a health plan that covers pre-existing conditions, because it applies only to those who manage to land a job with health insurance in the first place (and are able to maintain their payments despite losing that job). Did I mention that the number of jobs that come with health insurance has been steadily declining over the past decade?

What Mr. Romney did in the debate, in other words, was, at best, to play a word game with voters, pretending to offer something substantive for the uninsured while actually offering nothing. For all practical purposes, he simply lied about what his policy proposals would do.

How many Americans would be left out in the cold under Mr. Romney’s plan? One answer is 89 million.


(The photo is not from the Op-Ed piece, but from a photo library – And it really matches how I feel about this issue. I apologize that I don’t know who to credit it to.)

Superhero Shout-Out: Health Insurance

Today’s Superhero Shout-Out goes on to health insurance. When I moved home to my parents, after my second mental ward hospitalization, and was finishing my college degree remotely, and transitioned from one job two another, etc etc, there were nights every single week – for years – where I could not fall asleep because the thought of what would happen if I lost my health insurance absolutely terrified me. I could be denied care for bipolar disorder if I lost insurance and the new company denied me for a pre-existing.

This may not sound exciting in a presidential debate. But it’s scary as hell. It is Hell. Without health insurance, I couldn’t participate and contribute to society. I can do it now because I have double physical, mental, and dental insurance.

What I don’t understand is how the politicians – local, state-wide, and national – have not been affected by illness. There’s mental illness, like mine. There are many others. Mental illness does not discriminate for economic status, education level, or race. Do people in government not know anyone with a mental illness? Because, truly, that’s not possible.

So what happens on the floor? What happens to compassion, empathy, the knowledge that people like me are in charge of medical reimbursements as my main chore?

#obama: Step it up. Go ahead and attack. If you want to help people with illnesses, talk about it specifically. Not just the elderly, not just children. Talk about cancer, learning disabilities, addiction, emergencies, ER visits that costs thousands of dollars and most are oddly just written off, for no reason I can understand. #obama, fight. If politicians are agreeing on limiting health insurance, they’re denying someone that they know who has an illness. That’s not honorable or helpful.

People shouldn’t cry themselves asleep because of fears of losing health insurance, after a day of checking off lists to monitor their illnesses.

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