Every year during the holiday season we are likely to be asked by friends or loved ones what we’d like the most for Christmas. We oblige and I know for me I typically say I don’t need anything until I’m pressed and then say what I’ve really been holding out for. I’m not going to go into detail about what I asked for this Christmas but instead I’m going to write my wish list for Santa. Things that I think are important and perhaps things only a true Santa could change. So here we go with my list.
1. Remove mental illness as a pre-existing condition in any new health care bill that may be passed in the US. This is a huge deal not only for me but everyone that currently has been diagnosed as having a mental illness. The loss of a job, or life change could prevent you from having your mental illness covered by health insurance, or worse yet you could be denied insurance all together. We cannot allow this to happen!
2. Institute comprehensive education beginning in grade schools all the way through college. Education isn’t just the key to ending the stigma it’s also the key to saving lives. If we mandate that mental health be taught not just one year but every year we don’t know how many lives may be saved by chance. Think of your child in school that may recognize their friend exhibiting behaviors that are described in a class, could they become a hero? We can’t rely on teachers and resource officials to be the net that catches every student with a mental health crisis. There should be educational classes offered at each school for the parents of the students. This not only educates the parents but allows them to be involved with what is being taught to the students. Again this can’t be a one year course. This needs to be taught every year.
3. Re-evaluate the treatment of mental health patients in hospitals designed more for physical health issues. I believe there need to be more treatment sessions that are designed specifically for mental health issues only. This will allow for patients to be grouped with patients of a like diagnosis. Having spent many weeks in an inpatient unit at a generalized hospital I can speak to the feeling you have when you are locked into the mental health floor. You are grouped with individuals that have completely different diagnosis as you. There is not enough staff nor doctors on the floor to properly educate and converse with each patient. In most cases you see the psychiatrist 5 or 10 minutes a day. It’s more of a prison feeling than that of a treatment center. We must do better in creating centers that make patients feel more comfortable rather than feeling more afraid.
4. Offer incentives to private psychiatrist practices to take on more difficult patients. We already know there is a shortage of psychiatrists but the issue is compounded by those who only want to treat the easy fixes. We need to find a way to eradicate this mentality. Currently we offer credits to companies that hire people with a disability why can’t we come up with some sort of program to offer incentives to practices that are willing to take on any patient.
5. Develop a law that requires patients that were admitted involuntarily to a hospital for mental health reasons to attend out patient treatment for a minimum of 90 days. I attempted suicide 6 times in 18 months and not once was I required to attend a follow up session. I was scheduled with an outpatient location but I wasn’t required to attend. The way I view this is simple, if we can take the rights to own a gun from those who attempt suicide then we should be able to require that they attend follow up treatment for a minimum of 90 days.
6. Better education for patients while they are in the hospital. Not once during any of my stays did I receive any education on medications, treatment plans, what my diagnosis meant or even how to talk to my family and friends. Most patients leave not realizing that it may take another week or two or longer for their medication to reach its full affect. All doctors are concerned about in the hospital is that you do not have an adverse reaction to the medication, not whether it’s meeting your need. And honestly how can patients not be taught how to have a conversation with their family and loved ones? You just tried to leave them and now you have to face them, most likely ashamed and have no idea what to say or even how to start the conversation. This only compounds the problem!!
7. Any crime committed against a person with a mental illness should be considered for a hate crime. Based on rhetoric you see on TV after unfortunate mass shootings the media and their consultants immediately begin to use terms like psycho, nut job, wacko etc to describe the assailant. This does nothing but drive those with a mental illness further into hiding and perhaps even prevents them from getting treatment they need. With this rhetoric comes consequences and if there are crimes against someone with a mental illness simply because they have a mental illness then it should be considered a hate crime.
8. Finally since this is my wish list for Santa I’d like to see the elimination of the Stigma!! Everyone in the mental health world knows what the stigma is and how damaging it is not only to those who have one but to those who may have one but are afraid to seek treatment because of it. We must find a way to knock down walls, stand up and speak out, and move the needle in 2019 so that the next generation isn’t fighting the same battle we are. We have a responsibility to fight!
It’s been an interesting 2018. I’m so lucky to say I’ve regained my relationship with my now 9 year old son after not seeing him for 2 years. I’m lucky to finally have a stable place to live that I can call home. I’m fortunate to have made so many friends through my twitter account @tonyk10933. And I’ve been blessed to have built stronger relationships with those I call my family.
To all of you have followed my blog I say thank you. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and hope 2019 turns into the year that changes your life for the better. I’ll see you all next year!
REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!