Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday thoughts

This has been a difficult week.  For many reasons and I will not go into detail. I decided to take this morning to catch up on my recorded TV shows and relax before I clean my house.

I just watched the recording of "Katie" from yesterday. First, let me say, I have a new appreciation for Will.I.Am. He is so smart and his story is very inspirational, coming from the projects, riding a school bus for 90 minutes a day to a charter school, and being inspired to use his talents to work hard and become successful. It says a lot about the importance of having good teachers who believe in their students, and having a place that celebrates and values differences and unique personalities.

Second, I love Taylor Swift. She is funny and full of heart. I like most of her music even though they are geared more towards the teens who are just learning about love and heartbreak. But her song "Ronan" that I first heard on "Stand Up 2 Cancer" still makes me cry when I hear it.

I could tell she was truly moved while she was singing it and it prompted me to find out if this was perhaps about a little brother or someone from her family.  I am curious that way, so I "Googled" her story and learned about Ronan Thompson from Phoenix, a 4 year old who had died from cancer, and his remarkable Mom who writes about him on her blog, Rock Star Ronan. Taylor read about his story and wrote the song in his memory, using words she read on his Mom's blog. in addition, she has donated the proceeds to the Ronan Thompson Foundation to help raise money for childhood cancer.  This story has touched my heart, as it has many, many others.

It got me thinking again however, about the millions of people who have diseases that are not visible to others, except through their behaviors, which are not always good.  If fact, most of the time the behaviors are bad.  I am talking about mental illness.  Not just the well known versions like schizophrenia either. Depression, from mild to clinical affects so many more people every day and carries other more visible by-products with it.  Like addiction. Addictions is so very complicated.

I have said so many times that I am leaving the mental health field because I am so burned out.  I am not sure if I have compassion fatigue or just plain tired of the same discussions and facing the same hurdles over and over and over. But then something happens that kicks my ass and says, "If YOU don't talk about this and advocate for those affected, who will?"

Well - many people are talking about it, but for some reason it is so much easier to fund something like cancer than mental illness. Yes, cancer is ugly and sucks.  My Dad is struggling with cancer now; I have had many friends and relatives die from this horrible disease.  But I know many more people struggle daily with mental illness and addiction; some of them ALSO have cancer.  While funding is increasing for cancer research (that is wonderful), funding for mental health and addiction is decreasing at alarming rates. Which is a crime.

The mental health "helping system" is broken and I believe that is one reason why funding is decreasing. Who wants to continue to pour money into a system that is not having the desired results? We shouldn't! But, what is it going to take to fix it? When will we figure out what really helps those with mind diseases, without causing worse side affects? We will never know until our budgets reflect the value of the health of the human mind. We will never figure out the right balance while the same people who control the money are in charge of where it goes.

We need more people like Taylor Swift for mental health advocacy. People who understand, but are not so tired from the daily challenges of living with people who have this disease. We need to fund more research of the brain and how it functions. We need more charter schools and teachers who embrace challenging students all through the educational process, and don't punish them for their differences, fostering self doubt in the minds of those already feeling like failures. We need a balance of unconditional love and logical consequences from the beginning. We need employers who will give people opportunities to work when they have served a sentence for drug related crimes - most of the time a manifestation of a mental illness. We need less prisons and more appropriate stress centers.

Families need a variety of support, not just more talking about the same stuff.

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