Friday, February 10, 2017

The real cost of insanity

A meltdown in my doctor's waiting room; an informative post by a psychologist at ThinkProgress and a sanctimonious polemic from some preacher at Alliance Defending Freedom. These things have me thinking about mental health — my mental health and the stigma associated with it.

The simple facts are that, in order to put the brakes on an internal audit, an employee paid someone to (presumably) murder me. I was ambushed and shot from behind, point-blank with a .45. I will never fully recover from the injuries that I sustained. Worse yet, the employee (Angela Sugrim) was in a common-law marriage. Her husband made an incriminating statement to police outside the presence of counsel that could never be used. While Sugrim did a very short stint in prison no one was ever brought to justice for the violence perpetrated against me. There exists no one for me to forgive which is essential for closure.

My prosthetic hip is just an inconvenience compared to the PTSD that I will suffer from for the rest of my life. That meltdown in my doctor's waiting room on Wednesday is real. I cannot tolerate crowds of people and go nuts when I am jostled or when people repeatedly brush up against me.

That brings me to Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a psychologist who is on the faculty of Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Burnett-Zeigler wrote a very informative piece for Think Progress titled “Eliminating mental health coverage will create a crisis for millions — We should be expanding mental health care, not demolishing it.” Her theory is that mental healthcare will be the first casualty of repealing Obamacare. I think that she is correct. We are going to do many stupid things so that the wealthiest citizens do not have to pay their fair share of taxes while trying to write the black guy out of our history.

That loops back to me and my state when I arrived in Florida in 2010. The simple fact is that I was mentally incompetent for about two years. I was a danger to myself and others. I find it remarkable that, over that period of time, I did not injure someone and wind up in prison. I should be wearing an orange jumpsuit with a number stenciled in on the front. This is not hyperbole. I am not exaggerating just how ill I was. In the process I also destroyed a 30+ year relationship with a very good and caring person who died of liver cancer in 2010. The only thing that kept me from being behind bars or perhaps dead was an extraordinary team consisting of a psychiatrist who diagnosed and treated me with medications and a talk therapist.

Suppose that I was broke and uninsured. I would not have been treated and would have had the real potential to seriously injure someone. I am still mercurial and my anger has no rheostat. I can go from calm to batshit in the blink of an eye. I simply know how not to engage.

The nation's prisons are now dumping grounds for mentally ill people. People who probably would not be in the system had they received proper mental health care. When it comes to insanity treatment is, by far, the most economical option. On average it costs nearly $32,000 per year to incarcerate someone. In New York it is closer to $60,000 per year. That does not include their medical care, the loss of their tax revenue and participation in the economy as both an earner and a consumer. Nor does that include the costs of medical care and lost earnings of anyone that they happen to injure along the way.

A good talk therapist might bill out at $140 per session (presumably less on an insurance contract). Even twice weekly at the retail rate that's less than half the cost of putting someone behind bars and the patient is still a wage-earner and he or she hasn't hurt anyone. Over time (while otherwise still in prison) the health care cost drops to as little as one-eighth of the initial cost as patients go from twice weekly to once weekly to monthly. Moreover, people who are in the system tend to stay in the system. The national five-year recidivism rate is nearly 80%.

The economic logic is glaringly apparent. Good mental health care for all saves society countless sums that can be put to better purposes than locking people up.

That brings me to a moronic piece at Alliance Defending Freedom (the Christian legal group) written by Chris Potts titled “Amid the Sound and Fury.” Potts bears witness to the following events which he calls “fits of pique:”
Wednesday in a big city airport: a woman steps onto a near-empty elevator, dressed in an expensive silk blouse, floral pajama bottoms, and Muk Luks. It’s just before 6 a.m. She jabs one finger against a numbered button – then quickly stabs her finger into every other button on the panel, lets out a low growl, and slams her palm against the wall. She slumps over, back to the wall, hands on her knees, head bowed.

Friday afternoon in a suburban neighborhood: a van slides to a halt in the middle of a quiet street. A young man jumps out, leaving the door open and the engine running. He hurries up the steps of the nearest home and rings the doorbell. No answer. He seizes the bars on the security door, yanks on them, bangs on them, lets out a yell of frustration. Then he turns, runs back out into the street, jumps into the van, and roars off.

Sunday morning in a small midtown church: The sermon begins – a guest preacher, telling an anecdote to open his remarks. At the back of the room, a young man stands and yells: “What are you talking about? What does this have to do with anything?” Laymen converge on him, escorting him out to the lobby; his eyes are wild and bright with a chemical shine. “I’m going to have to get my guns,” he says.

It could just be that I bring out the worst in people. I was the only other one on the elevator, the only one in the house, and the guest preacher when these various eruptions took place. Maybe folks were just having a lousy week, or didn’t like how the NFL playoffs were going.
Or maybe (assuming this is not one of those proverbial “pastor stories” these are people in need of medication and/or counseling. People don't act out that way because they “didn’t like how the NFL playoffs were going” (you ignorant fool). A “fit of pique” occurs when someone is suddenly annoyed by someone else. Potts has no idea what is going on with any of these people. Had he observed my behavior on Wednesday in my doctor's waiting room he would make a similar idiotic evaluation from utter ignorance.

But it gets worse as he assigns the anguish felt by others to social ills:
It doesn’t help that this growing hysteria / paranoia / indignation – this great hurry to fury – is being aggressively stoked by those whose social and political agenda holds our culture in a death grip, through classrooms and message boards, movies and television shows, courtrooms and media conniptions. Enough people tell you how bad it all is, you start to wonder what they know that you don’t … and the wondering leads to more than multiplying ulcers and misanthropy.
Surely there must be a dynamic external cause for this aggression, one that we have some control over. Right? You just know what, predictably, comes next:
The cure for social dysfunction, we’re told, is self-destruction: unlimited abortion and the right to die, to precipitate a too-early end of life; same-sex relationships to inhibit its creation.
So we have gone from football playoffs to that nonsense. Of course we have because the good Christian has the real diagnosis.
These personal self-destructions, in turn, feed our national self-destruction, spurring unrelenting attacks on free speech and religious liberty … sublimation of the culturally uplifting to the crass and corrosive … a blunt dismissal of history and tradition … the coarse mockery of faith and duty and conscience.
And it follows:
One sure shortcut to national suicide lies in the denial of God. It is the dark path preferred by those sad souls hell-bent on our cumulative destruction, and it motivates their tireless determination to slam the door on our only hope, as individuals and a nation. It’s also what makes the efforts of Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies so crucial to the future of America, our children, their children. Religious liberty ensures that hope’s door stays open.
Opining about suicide? Seriously? And we all know by now that religious liberty is availed in abundance in America. They have perverted the meaning of the phrase to permission to discriminate against LGBT citizens. And somehow this relates to the distraught woman in the elevator.

This nonsense is precisely how we marginalize and stigmatize people with mental health issues.  We blame culture and society for their dysfunction with no thought whatsoever of what it might be like to be any of the three people that Potts describes (although the last of the three sounds like someone who annoyed Potts). People do not suffer from cancer because of same-sex marriage and abortion. It doesn't make any more sense to suggest that people suffer from anxiety or depression or personality disorders or paranoia or schizophrenia or PTSD because of same-sex marriage and abortion. Not one bit.

The simple fact is that religious observance is not, under any circumstances, a substitute for health care provided by qualified practitioners. The Devil does not make people ill and neither angels nor Lourdes make people well. That applies equally to mental and physical illnesses.

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