Not In My Backyard!

If anyone ever wonders why there are untreated children with mental illness in their communities, then wonder no longer.  Here is an article from my local paper that explains why a neighboring community refused to open a day treatment center that would offer services to children with mental illness.  Keep in mind, when children with mental health issues are not treated, the results are mentally ill adults.  So, the next time a person with mental illness does something awful and the news sensationalizes it for the world to see leaving “sane” people scratching their heads, wondering aloud, and spouting off judgments like, “What kind of crazy-ass person goes and does something like that to innocent people,” please remember that it’s “sane” people who are depriving innocent children of these services in the first place by blocking the permits that would allow community-based programs to help the most vulnerable young ones in their own communities.  Stigma, ignorance, and just plain ol’ NIMBY (not in my backyard) are what motivates these actions.  It’s great to help the depressed, schizophrenic, manic, or eating disordered as long as they live somewhere else.  Maybe in Africa or something.  Send a check.  Get a tax write-off.  Brag about it at your book club or your small group.  Heaven forbid you might actually see a child with mental illness in your own town! What if your child meets one? Isn’t it bad enough that the autistics seem to be taking over the public schools? What now? You have to put up with those manic depressives? What about those schizophrenics? Don’t they have multiple personalities? Aren’t they violent? You can’t have that in your community! They might kill you or get in the way of your sledding fun!

Though Golden Valley’s police chief told the council she was comfortable with the LifeSpan proposal, during citizen testimony some neighbors said the 5- to 18-year-olds who would be in treatment at the site pose a danger.

One man warned that neighborhood children sledding on a hill behind the building could be at risk. He called LifeSpan’s description of its program “gentle and sugarcoated.”

“This is not a time to be PC,” he said. “Everyone is at danger … they have problems that pose a risk to other human beings, and we are those other human beings.” (Star Tribune: Golden Valley Rejects Plan to Treat Mentally Ill Children)

This attitude is common.  This is why children and teens who experience mental illness, by no fault of their own, are exiled and alienated.  Grace has one friend.  One.  She can no longer attend her own church youth group.  Why? She is weary of being shunned and treated like she has a communicable disease.  What this man said at a public meeting, however, is representative of many people–mentally ill people are a danger to other human beings.

NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! DAMMIT, NO!!!

Ignorance, stigma, and fear are dangers to other humans because the ignorance and fear of the people who prevented this project from being approved will now prevent hundreds of children and adolescents from getting the treatment they need so that they can go on to be successful as adults.  These programs don’t exist just to serve the children.  They educate and support their parents, too, and the caregivers of children with mental health needs must be supported because we live in the trenches.  When the storms break in the lives of our children, we take a beating.  These facilities provide support networks not only for the kids but for the caregivers as well enabling entire families to be successful! Communities are not entities unto themselves.  They are composed of neighborhoods and businesses, and these neighborhoods and businesses are made up of smaller groups which all come down to families.  If families are supported and set on a successful trajectory, then entire communities are moving in better directions.  Communities cannot thrive where self-interest is god.

Here is the irony:

  • When children and adults living with mental illness cannot get mental health services, they often end up using more health care resources, such as emergency rooms.
  • Treatment works and while recovery is possible, long delays occur—often years—before people get help. There is an average delay of 8.5 years between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment for people living with schizophrenia. When treatment is delayed, conditions may become more severe and more resistant to treatment. A psychotic, manic or depressive episode may result in lasting cognitive impairment, emergency room visits, hospitalizations—even incarceration or suicide.
  • As a nation, we lose one life to suicide every 15.8 minutes.  The vast majority of those who die by suicide live with mental illness—often undiagnosed or untreated.
  • Protection and strengthening of state and local mental health services are needed to save lives. For people living with serious mental illness, life expectancy is 25 years less than that of other Americans.
  • One in four adults experiences a mental disorder in every year.
  • One in 17 adults lives with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • One in 10 children lives with a serious mental or emotional disorder.
  • 50% of lifetime mental illness cases begin by age 14, 75% by age 24. Treating cases early could reduce disability, before mental illnesses become more severe.
  • Patients with diabetes and co-morbid depression have health care costs that are 4.5 times higher than those without co-morbid depression. Despite their prevalence, mental disorders in people with chronic health conditions often go undiagnosed and untreated.
  • As community mental health services decrease, hospital CEOs report a dramatic increase in the average length of stays for patients requiring emergency, psychiatric admission.

When people are deprived of the very community-based treatment programs that are so badly needed, we see more illness, more deaths, intractability, and rising healthcare costs.

What happens when people are given access to proper treatment through community-based programs and support?

  • Assertive Community Treatment, (ACT) is a proven, cost-effective, coordinated team approach that combines intensive treatment and support services. In Oklahoma, the number of hospital days dropped 73 percent and days in jail fell 64 percent within a year after one group of 229 individuals living with mental illness was admitted to an ACT program.
  • Collaborative, team-based care in treating older adults for depression have demonstrated both lower rates of depression and severity of symptoms and lower use of medical care services.
  • People with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders have high rates of recovery when integrated dual disorders treatment is provided. Integrated treatment leads to dual recovery and reduces costs, yet in 2005 only 8.5 percent of 5.2 million adults with co-occurring disorders received treatment for both problems.

Source: NAMI

With all the evidence supporting community-based programming and treatment not to mention all the evidence delineating the results of not providing these much needed services, why would a community go to such lengths to see to it that an organization which exists solely to provide care, treatment, and services to children and teens with mental health issues be blocked from doing so in their neck of the woods?

Now that’s the magic question, isn’t it?

George Carlin might have been a foul-mouthed, controversial comedian, but his dirty mouth also pronounced some profound things.  I think I’ll let George Carlin comment on this situation from here on out because, honestly, I think he might be right.  People might be ignorant.  People might be afraid.  Frankly, it might be something a little more base than all that.

“We got something in this country.  You’ve heard of it, it’s called “nimby”.  N-l-M-B-Y, “Not In My Back Yard!”  People don’t want anything, any kind of social help located anywhere near them.  Try to open up a little home for some retarded people who want to work their way into the community, and people say: “Not in my back yard!” People don’t want anything near them….especially if it might help somebody else.”  George Carlin, Jammin’ in New York, 1992


8 thoughts on “Not In My Backyard!

  1. Thank you for writing this post. It touches our life this week. I spent an afternoon this week speaking with a social worker about vocational rehab placement for our daughter. Because of her mental illness, she has only one option for vocational evaluation/work experience…a thrift store located in the most crime-ridden/poverty stricken area of town. We’re fine with her working at a thrift store (there are many in much safer locations)…but why would place ANY teenage girl (with or without a mental illness) into a dangerous environment for her first job experience? So it looks like we will move forward without vocational rehabilitation unless they can provide a safe alternative within the next couple of weeks. So thank you for another great post. I love the George Carlin quote as well.

    • I am so sorry that THAT was her only option. I’m sort of choking and sighing at the same time. I really get upset over these things. Not a lot gets me riled EXCEPT for things like this. This hoarding of resources by those that don’t need them. Does your district have an intermediate district? Grace is in a school that offers vocational training IN the school. It’s a huge facility with a store and cafe, and it’s student run so the students receive training while they are in school. It requires an act of God to get into the school, but once you’re there the services are amazing. It’s an intermediate district which means that all the other districts pay to be a member of the district. It’s not well-known. I suspect that’s deliberate. Districts don’t want parents in the know about it. But, this district exists to pick up services that cannot be served by a student’s home district. I just wonder if your area has anything like that. Sometimes there are hidden resources that schools won’t inform you about. That is VERY common in our state.

      • That sounds like a great opportunity for Grace. I’ve been completely unaware of programs such as the one you mentioned. Our daughter recently passed the GED so we are looking at options offered by the state…also considering an adult PSR program as she is now eighteen (she participated in PSR through a children’s behavioral health program). Your reply encourages me to dig deeper in terms of options available to her before tackling it on my own (which I don’t mind doing).

      • Have you ever had a case manager? Case managers are often tied into and aware of a lot of state programs. All of Grace’s services, for example, are paid for by the state through grants since she has what the state has called an SBD–severe behavioral disturbance. These sorts of mental health DXes often have benefits tied to them like social security benefits if you fall under a certain income. If you check out your local chapter of NAMI there are often support groups, programs, etc. Depending upon your state, there can be some really good programs. You just have to know where to look and who to talk to. Even school districts have resources up to the age of 24 or so. It’s just that districts often don’t share the information. You have to start doing the research. Also, there are mentoring programs, too, depending upon your daughter’s interests. For example, there’s a theatre company in our area run by a therapist. The actors and crew usually have bipolar disorder and SCZ spectrum disorders, major depressive disorders. It’s for teens and young adults. It’s a workshop experience, and it’s great for people who are highly creative–as so many people with mental health issues tend to be–but have little mentoring or support in their lives. When you start digging around–and I mean DIGGING–you start to find stuff. And often it starts with what interests your daughter. I’m still amazed at how ill-equipped the trained clinicians are to come up with relevant treatment plans for kids on the SCZ spectrum. I start talking cognitive symptoms, and they start derping. It’s just weird. So, I’ve taken the lead in a lot of this, and with the help of our case manager, we’ve found some resources. There just must be something out where you are that’s better than that one opportunity.

  2. This made me think of the TED talk I sent you…and her journey, being shunned and then learning how to deal with her illness and become a functional member of society. It’s a shame that this is how it is.

    And eff I love George Carlin…boy is he on the money nearly EVERY TIME.

    • I love Carlin, too, although I had no oversight as a kid so I ended up watching him as a LITTLE kid. I am now forever haunted by his version of the Olympics and that weird cartoon drawing of that one odd sport he suggested–“Rollerf*cking”. I think I was 8 years-old when I saw that? Sometimes when I can’t sleep I lie in bed at night and wonder what the Olympics would be like if George Carlin had his way. And then I laugh…it’s probably better that he wasn’t. But, I really wish he had his way on a few other things.

  3. Reblogged this on I'm Taking a Nap and commented:
    Too many people are afraid of the mentally ill and create the stigma of all mentally ill people, especially teens, being violent. As a teenager, I suffered from depression and anxiety. At the age of 13, I tried to kill myself by taking an overdose. Three kids in my school killed themselves that same year. We need to be honest with ourselves and realize that the best way to get the problem solved is by opening up more facilities and educating the public about mental illness.


Share your thoughts

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s