Monday, August 1, 2011

Did I really just hear that?? Mental illness vs. physical illness

I try REALLY hard not to blog about work at all. I enjoy my job, but I don't really have a job where details can be discussed with outsiders - HIPAA and all that. But today I went into the breakroom to eat my lunch, and the conversation I overheard sent me right back to my desk as soon as the microwave finished.

Background/disclaimer: I understand that the combination of the city's busiest ER and the close proximity to the homeless shelter can be frustrating to the staff here. I understand venting. That in itself does not bother me at all; I'd much rather the staff vent to each other instead of to a patient. Another disclaimer: I work at this facility, but am not employed by this facility.

Anyway, as my lunch was heating, two men at the table were having a political discussion. They were covering all the big issues: budget crisis, Socialism, Medicare, Social Security... you know, the hot buttons.

Quick aside: they were saying that there is enough money in the country, but it's distributed wrong - too many people making too much money for "nothing." Just as I was thinking that so many conservatives feel this way but are so opposed to Socialism, although their solution is the very definition of Socialism, one man said "Better not say that too loudly, we'll get called Socialists or Communists." At least he's a little aware...

But back to the issue. As he was ranting on and on, he wondered how many of his patients on disability or Medicare or Medicaid ever worked. Then he said if a patient is really sick, he doesn't care one bit if they work or not. A person is a person, "What would Jesus do?" Then went on to say but if they're just here because they're drunk or overdosing or suicidal, he doesn't care, get out of his way so he can help the real sick people.

I ALMOST pointed out that the second part of his statement totally goes against the "WWJD" part  - if I remember correctly from all my years of VBS, Sunday School, church, and the whole growing-up environment... Jesus didn't discriminate between physical illness and mental illness. He didn't say "Bring me your sick, but only if they're physically sick and insured."

Sadly, this is a prevalent attitude toward mental illness in our country. Not many people seem to be interested in treating these people, but instead want to hide them away or write them off as "you asked for it."

Here are some facts about mental illness from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):
You can see how vital treatment is of mental illnesses. It's not an uncommon problem, either. Did you notice this line? "One in 17 Americans live with a serious mental illness." One in 17. Think about that for a minute. Do you know 17 people? Then odds are someone you know lives with a serious mental illness. Wouldn't you want your friend or loved one to get the help they need?  That they deserve?

Some resources for support or information:
Dept of Veteran Affairs 
Other mental health resources


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I've suffered from depression most of my life. I've had many people - including medical professionals, family and guys I'd dated - tell me that I just needed to get over myself and deal with it.

    Um. No. I need medication to stay stable. I need medication to make sure I can get out of bed in the morning to take care of my family. Without it, I would find it next to impossible to get out of bed most mornings. I wouldn't care if my kids destroyed my apartment. I wouldn't think any of it mattered anyway. (And yes, I've been there too... There have been far too many weeks when I've thought, "Hey, I'm ok. I can do without my meds." and it's gotten me into trouble.)

    I really just wanted to come in and say thank you. Thank you for advocating and putting the information out there for people to find quickly.

  2. Thank YOU so much for your comment! It means so much to me, as this is a subject close to my heart. My best friend in high school suffered from manic depression and wouldn't stay on his medication. This January I went to his funeral - his final suicide attempt. He had been making attempts as long as I had known him. I watched his children gather around a slideshow of photos.

    I just wish everyone could get the treatment they need. I am so glad you have a medication that works :)