Sermon for Juneteenth

 

PROLOGUE: 

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in GalvestonTexas in 1865 to assert control over the people and ensure that all those enslaved were freed.

By the time Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia, 360,000 Union soldiers —-some of them Mainers, by the way—- had given their lives for this.  Two months after Appomattox,  U.S. General Gordon Granger stood on Texas soil and read General Orders No. 3: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

This is a moment worth celebrating. Before the war,  as Abraham Lincoln had described it, America had been half slave, half free. There had never been a time in American history —-or world history, if it comes to that—-when slavery had not existed, but there had also never been a time in American history when Americans had not recognized it as an injustice, opposed it and even given their lives to the cause of ridding this still-new nation of an ancient scourge. 

For decades after that day in Galveston, the United States would join with Britain and France, spending blood and treasure in the fight against the slave trade that still went on, as ever, in Africa and the Middle East. The effort continues, because slavery is still going on in those parts of the world, even as it resurrects in the form, for example,  of forced labor in China. 

Humanity is not done with slavery, in other words. Perhaps we will never be wholly done. 

But Juneteenth nonetheless represents the blessing that emerged out of the tragedy of America’s bloodiest war. 

The human cost of the Civil War was not confined to Virginia or Texas: It extended all the way to Maine and doubtless even unto our little town of Lincolnville. 

Was it—-the war, the cause, Juneteenth—- worth that cost?

Brothers and Sisters, let’s make it so.

SERMON:

“Possession by demons” was the way that acute mental illness was described in ancient times, and thus in the story of the Geresene Demoniac we heard this morning.  Having had a fair amount of experience one way and another with mental illness, this makes sense to me. 

The schizophrenic, manic-depressive, clinically depressed person often appears, even to himself, to have been taken over by some alien force. Addicts and alcoholics will speak of their addiction in anthropomorphic terms: “My addiction wants me dead,” an addict told me once, exactly as if she was talking about Satan.

Looking around, these days, you might be forgiven for thinking that the demons are multiplying. 

“We are legion,” they said to Jesus, and boy, are they!  That impression is not wrong: Mental illness and addiction are indeed increasing and intensifying. There are more overdoses, more suicides and yes, more mass-casualty attacks, like the school shooting in Uvalde, or the vehicle attack on the Christmas Parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, that left six people dead and over sixty badly injured.

The stats are solid: You’re not imagining things. You’re not nuts.  

My daughter and I were talking about this the other day, after I’d responded to yet another bizarre incident up in Presque Isle, one which I’ll tell you about in a minute. 

My daughter asked whether mental illness—-that is, the constellation of neurochemical disorders that afflict the brain and so the mind—— are these illnesses actually becoming more common? 

Or is it that the context has changed? Persons afflicted with neuro-chemical disorders are having to manage within a society that has become less helpful, less supportive, less healthy?

It was a great question, and my immediate answer was: Heck yes! After all, even those of us whose brains work more or less as designed have found the last few years, a bit challenging. 

Haven’t we? The mentally ill and addicted are the canaries in the coal mine, but all of us are beginning to find it difficult to sing as sweetly as we once did. 

The obvious recent change in how our society functions or fails to came with COVD and the COVIDian Lockdowns, but some studies point first to the rise in social media and the way human social life —-designed by and for a face-to-face species—-is increasingly mediated by screens. 

If you take a society already glued to its I-phones and computer screens, and lock it down in such a way that even more of life happens virtually—-virtual school, virtual dating, virtual work, virtual church, virtual hospital and nursing home visits, virtual AA meetings, virtual doctors’ visits and psychiatric appointments—-  the unsurprising result will be anxiety, depression, alienation and a profound loneliness.  

Indeed, and ironically, our response to COVID may one day be recognized as a Great Un-healing, with the million COVID deaths dwarfed by the human life-years lost to premature deaths of despair, suicides, overdoses, even homicides.  Yup: among other casualties, we might count at least some of the victims of a nationwide increase in murder. Homicide is complicated and variegated in its origins, if depressingly uniform in its outcome. Still, when formerly peaceful, rural parts of the country are seeing a 25% increase in homicide, it is worth asking whether the Great Unhealing has made its contributions to this as well.

Some of us were and remain more vulnerable than others.  If, by some combination of luck and virtuous living,  you are healthy and well, the loneliness and alienation of the past few years is uncomfortable but not lethal. But if you were broken already…? Even just a tiny bit cracked?

Over the past few years, in northern Maine, a young man named Jacob was begging for help in dealing with his mental illness. Last week he was shot and killed by a police officer.

Jacob’s mother did not channel her understandable grief and pain into anger toward the police. She knew, better than most,  that the officer had been given no choice.  

Jacob had a long criminal history. He had been to prison. The day he died, there was a warrant out for his arrest on a gun charge. During his last hours, Jacob was on the phone with police officers who were trying to persuade him to give himself up: Instead,  he made multiple, quite open threats. He said he would kill cops and force them to kill him.  

Let’s recall, here, that this was going down in Presque Isle, Maine: Everyone knows everyone. Jacob was not threatening strangers, but people whose names and faces he knew. The cop on the phone knew him: He addressed him as Jake. 

That evening, Jacob—-Jake—- tried—-with unmistakable determination and vigor—-to kill the cop he knew,  it was with a car not a gun. As the Christmas massacre in Waukesha (not to mention the massacre in Nice, France in which 83 people died) a vehicle is a more-than-adequate murder weapon. Jacob tried his best to murder with it, and came close to succeeding. Because the officer was trained, skilled and lucky, he shot Jake and stopped him.

And now his heart, too, is broken.

The young man that his mother described afterwards, in interviews, might not have been a saint, but he was more than his worst moment. He was an average kid, one who tried to help people when he could, and one who actively sought help for the demons that had come to possess him. 

But the mental healthcare system—-such as it was—-was thrown into chaos by COVID 19. What long-term treatment that might have been available before COVID was reduced or gone, hospitals experienced staff shortages, and people presenting at the E.R. with mental illnesses were sent home or into the streets. The lucky were placed on long, long waiting lists for the few behavioral health beds that remained.

 The Bangor Daily News recently reported that Aroostook County received its 2022 Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment Report. Contributors to the report cited lack of available providers, use of the emergency department for mental health care, long wait lists and a high number of youth suicide attempts in The County.

Jacob attempted suicide four times in the year that preceded his death. 

Like the Gerasene Demoniac, Jacob needed Jesus and a miracle. Failing that, as Jacob’s mother stated accurately, her son needed a year or two in a hospital.  Long-term treatment works, by the way. Recovery, real healing, real hope… can happen, but it takes time. A mere week or two of in-patient “stabilization” let alone a couple of hours sitting around in the ER won’t do it. 

 Ironically, Jacob received his only reasonably long-term, residential treatment the way too many others like him have: He went to prison. It is the criminal justice system that, alone provides long-term, supportive housing and mental health care for the seriously mentally ill and addicted.  We should not be proud of this.

When Jacob had not committed a crime, or when his crimes were not prosecuted, then he, along with thousands of inoffensive and non-violent mentally ill people would be sent back to “the community,” back to the graveyard, the tombs and the rattling chains. 

Jacob’s Mom said: “I have fought for over two years now.  I have called everybody there is. I begged the system, ‘Please do something. My son is going to die if you don’t do something,’”  She was right.

 

 

The context for mental illness and addiction has changed. It is getting worse. So many of the approaches claimed as compassionate “progress” —-like “decriminalizing” or failing to prosecute low-level crimes of the sort the mentally ill tend to commits as if waving frantic red flags—-have the effect of regress: Absent a miracle, a person with a serious illness can die, untreated, on the streets of 21st Century America exactly as if he and we still dwelt in the first century country of the Gerasenes.

Jacob was more than his worst moment—-and I say this as someone who knows, in detail,  just how bad that worst moment was, and even how much worse it could’ve been.

Jacob deserved more than to die the way he did. His mother, his family, the police officers, the community of Presque Isle deserved better. A human being should not have to battle those demons alone. Mental illness cuts across all racial and class lines: If there was ever an issue, an aching, gaping human need we could, united, try to meet it’s this.  If we can’t actually end all sin and sorrow then at least we could provide the balm, improve the context within which suffering must be endured. 

Stories in the Bible help us distinguish the novel problem from the ancient one: Like slavery, mental illness is ancient. 

Ancient doesn’t mean permanent.  Juneteenth is a day to remind us that an ancient, vexing, miserable problem can be solved.  Not everywhere, perhaps, or for all time but surely here? And now? In America. 

Holy God, Jacob is with you now. He sits beside Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, freed of his demons and healed of his sufferings. 

His name, his face, his life and death will remain with me, throughout my days: On this Juneteenth I re-dedicate myself to the relief of human possession and human suffering and the cause of human freedom and  human love.

Amen

Published in Religion & Philosophy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 19 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Condolences and prayers for Jacob’s mother and for the officer that had to shoot Jake.

    • #1
  2. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    Condolences and prayers for Jacob’s mother and for the officer that had to shoot Jake.

    Thank you, Doug. It was an awful scene—worse than I could take the time to explain in a sermon even if the congregants would’ve wanted to hear about it.  

    Use of deadly force incidents used to be incredibly rare in Maine. Not so any longer. The only upside (?!) is that the officer who pulled the trigger on this one has four nearby peers with similar experiences to commiserate with, and a much more experienced chaplain CISM and chaplain corps to turn to. 

     

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Sigh. 

    I’m always grateful to people who can talk about this subject sanely and briefly enough that they can influence others. 

    I think I will pray for you, that you find the time to talk to others. You do it so well. 

     

    • #3
  4. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    A terrible thing and tragic. My prayers for Jake’s family.

    Years ago on Ricochet (it might have been the podcast) I was introduced to the book, My Brother, Ron . Which tells the story of how the de-institutional of mental health occurred in the US. That legacy is why we have few beds or even institutions today.

    The left ruins everything.

     

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    What an infusion of money into the mental health piece of our social services spending might be spent on and why people who have mentally ill family members and/or friends should feel hopeful about the future:

    There is an amazingly successful program at Boston University: The Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. This is a program that has lifted up thousands of people. Other communities could replicate it if there were enough money to do so.

    The best book I found on schizophrenia was actually written by Alexander Hyde. There are some good reasons why he would understand the problems, which will become apparent when people read his book. I had the privilege to work with him for a few years in caring for my schizophrenic friend, and his “ten rules” for daily life guided me. His advice enabled my friend to live a normal life for twenty years. Dr. Hyde looked at the problem as very similar to living with any other chronic condition such as diabetes.

    Also, I just read a great book by Gil Winch (who lives and works in Tel Aviv): Winning with Underdogs.  It’s a powerful book about the need to open up employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities, including severe mental illness. Dr. Winch’s audience is the entire world. I hope and pray he succeeds.

    A diagnosis of severe mental illness is not a death sentence (it used to be–when I started out trying to help my friend, 50 percent of schizophrenics committed suicide), and we know so much more now than we did in the past. Exercise, for example, is key to good mental health, and particularly so for people suffering from severe mental illness. It straightens out a lot–such as the disturbed sleep-wake cycle –that we thought was beyond our ability to fix.

    To readers who worry about a family member or friend who is suffering from extreme mental illness: know that we are making progress in this field. You should feel very hopeful about the near- and long-term future.

    People are afraid to get involved with mentally people too closely, a fear I completely understand. It’s a lot to handle. I’ve often thought we could arrange the social support needed if we looked at this as a committee project rather than an individual project. Essentially, a severely mentally ill person would have three or four caregivers, not just one. And each person would take one job involved.

    • #5
  6. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Let’s face it government can’t deal with these kinds of issues.  The Federal government obviously can’t and shouldn’t deal with anything but borders and defense, which we’re seeing, with time, they don’t want to deal with. Some things human society always  struggles with unsuccessfully, and the only government tool we have,  law enforcement and  incarceration don’t work well for these kinds of problems, but not using them is obviously even worse.  We’re too big, too spread out, too disconnected. If individuals don’t want to deal with their very real problems, and if folks won’t create accountable non government institutions to deal with them, It means law and order.

    • #6
  7. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Kate, why do you think that explaining bizarre or destructive behavior as “mental illness” is more accurate than explaining it as “demon possession”?

    Since this change in conceptualization of the problem occurred, has the problem become more or less widespread?

    • #7
  8. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Kate, why do you think that explaining bizarre or destructive behavior as “mental illness” is more accurate than explaining it as “demon possession”?

    Since this change in conceptualization of the problem occurred, has the problem become more or less widespread?

    As I said in my sermon, I’ve got a lot of experience with mental illness, one way and another. It does not make sense to me to describe as “demon possession” something that can be induced or healed with drugs —for instance, I have a friend with type 1 diabetes who, when his blood sugar drops below a certain point, has delusions and even hallucinations.  He is not “demon possessed” at that moment. 

    Nor was my loved one “demon possessed” when she, in the midst of a manic episode, was hallucinating and delusional. 

     A person who has spent her entire life treating other people kindly and then, with the onset of dementia, punches a nurse in the nose is not “demon possessed.” Her brain is broken. 

    I could keep going: The brain is the organ that mediates behavior. It can be affected, afflicted and damaged and it can be healed. 

    • #8
  9. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    As for whether mental illness is more or less widespread: It’s hard to say. Mental hospitals used to be pretty darned well-populated places. 

    What has changed—among much else—is that when people (especially on the left, it seems) decide to “address” mental illness, they generally screw it up. The most extreme form of this, of course, was Hitler bumping off the mentally ill on the grounds that they were “useless eaters.”

    But even less draconian approaches are too often unhelpful. Either they pathologize normal behavior (rowdy boys diagnosed with ADHD; girls who object to sharing a dressing room with Lia Thomas offered “counseling” for their “anxiety”) ignore, enable or normalize the pathological (gender dysphoria, of course, but also homelessness) or taking resources that could be used to treat the severely ill and directing these toward those who are more numerous (and vote?) are of course, are far easier to treat.  

    • #9
  10. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    If you read the story from the New Testament about the Gerasene Demoniac, you might notice something it has in common with Jesus’ other healing from demonic possession: The “patient” does not ask for healing. Jesus knew the difference between a blind man actively choosing to see ( actually and/or metaphorically) and someone with a broken brain who has lost the capacity to freely choose anything.  

     

     

    • #10
  11. Steven Galanis Coolidge
    Steven Galanis
    @Steven Galanis

    There is no doubt that what has transpired in society over the last  2 1/2 years has created the conditions for bad to become worse for the mentally vulnerable. There are a lot of people coping with life who seriously wonder whether it can end well for them.

    Perhaps many do have a neuro chemical imbalance,  but is that presupposed by  self destructive behavior or  accurately tested and determined to be the case? Doubtless there are some people with a neuro chemical imbalance in their brains living highly productive lives and not seeking treatment.

    Also, the nature of the mind seems to  lend  itself to the idea of self treatment better than bodily ailments do. Of course we are open to self deception with a mindset like that.

    Furthermore, relationships have a great deal to do with mental health, which is why i believe community in the broad sense of the term (church in the very best sense if it) is at least as critical to mental health and wellness as psychiatric care might be.

    Thank you for sharing Jake’s story with us. It is well told. I sense the depth of collective grief of members of your community and in that grief,  hope for those suffering with mental illness.

     

     

     

     

    • #11
  12. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Steven Galanis (View Comment):
    Furthermore, relationships have a great deal to do with mental health, which is why i believe community in the broad sense of the term (church in the very best sense if it) is at least as critical to mental health and wellness as psychiatric care might be.

    Absolutely agree, Steven. If I’d had more time, I would have (and perhaps should have) asked the congregation how they could make our community more supportive, helpful and healthy for everybody, with the mentally ill serving, as I say, as the canaries in our little coal-mine?

    Because I think that my own mentally-ill loved one was well-served by her family and community, not to mention access ($) to really good residential care, I’ve got a standard in mind that I wish the culture as a whole could shoot for. 

    And one thing I wish more people knew about mental hospitals: Yes, there were a few patients who had to live their whole lives in what amounted to a nursing home for the disabled. But even before the drug regimens and other therapies had improved, people got better.  The stability, security, predictability and –yes!—kindness (often explicitly Christian!)  on offer allowed at least some minds to heal. 

    • #12
  13. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Another thought re: Demon possession…a person with a mental illness may look as if he or she is “possessed.”  

    But if I had to choose someone to label that way, I’d choose someone like Hunter Biden. Or maybe his dad. Harsh, I know, but if what we’re talking about is the more or less willing and deliberate choosing of evil over good, dark over light, in someone who is self-possessed…?

    Yeah.  Plenty of candidates, and none of them would improve with a nice stick of thorazine, and a year or two in supportive residential housing.

    • #13
  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    And one thing I wish more people knew about mental hospitals: Yes, there were a few patients who had to live their whole lives in what amounted to a nursing home for the disabled. But even before the drug regimens and other therapies had improved, people got better.  The stability, security, predictability and –yes!—kindness (often explicitly Christian!)  on offer allowed at least some minds to heal.

    Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts was one of the oldest state mental hospitals in the country. It was not a good place:

    The original plan was designed to house 500 patients, with attic space potentially housing 1000 more. By the late 1930s and 1940s, over 2,000 patients were being housed, and overcrowding was severe. People were even held in the basements of the Kirkbride.

    While the asylum was established to provide residential treatment and care to the mentally ill, its functions expanded to include a training program for nurses in 1889 and a pathological research laboratory in 1895. In the 1890s, Dr. Charles Page, the superintendent, declared mechanical restraint unnecessary and harmful in cases of mental illness. By the 1920s the hospital was operating school clinics to help determine mental deficiency in children. Reports were made[who?] that various inhumane shock therapies, lobotomies, drugs, and straitjackets were being used to keep the crowded hospital under control. This sparked controversy. During the 1960s as a result of increased emphasis on alternative methods of treatment, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population started to decrease.

    Massive budget cuts in the 1960s played a major role in the progressive closing of Danvers State hospital. The hospital began closing wards and facilities as early as 1969. By 1985, the majority of the original hospital wards were closed or abandoned. The Administration Block, in the original Kirkbride, building closed in 1989. Patients were moved to the Bonner Medical Building across the campus.

    The entire campus was closed on June 24, 1992 and all patients were either transferred to the community or to other facilities.

    My friend was involuntarily committed to a locked ward for several weeks in the early seventies at Danvers State Hospital. It was a disgusting horrible inhumane filthy frightening place in which patients were locked and from which they could never escape.

    Please do not imagine a state “hospital” for the insane to resemble McClean’s or Bournewood’s beautiful hospital campuses. When the state is doing anything like this, it is a prison, not a hospital. Wealthy people have always had good options. For the poor mentally ill, I think homelessness and death are better. If they have not committed a crime, they do not deserve to be imprisoned.

    I would love to see assisted living centers built to help the poor mentally ill people, and most of the poor mentally ill people I have known would welcome that kind of decent help. We wouldn’t need to lock them in. Long-term community care can work.

    • #14
  15. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    MarciN (View Comment):

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    And one thing I wish more people knew about mental hospitals: Yes, there were a few patients who had to live their whole lives in what amounted to a nursing home for the disabled. But even before the drug regimens and other therapies had improved, people got better. The stability, security, predictability and –yes!—kindness (often explicitly Christian!) on offer allowed at least some minds to heal.

    Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts was one of the oldest state mental hospitals in the country. It was not a good place:

    The original plan was designed to house 500 patients, with attic space potentially housing 1000 more. By the late 1930s and 1940s, over 2,000 patients were being housed, and overcrowding was severe. People were even held in the basements of the Kirkbride.

    While the asylum was established to provide residential treatment and care to the mentally ill, its functions expanded to include a training program for nurses in 1889 and a pathological research laboratory in 1895. In the 1890s, Dr. Charles Page, the superintendent, declared mechanical restraint unnecessary and harmful in cases of mental illness. By the 1920s the hospital was operating school clinics to help determine mental deficiency in children. Reports were made[who?] that various inhumane shock therapies, lobotomies, drugs, and straitjackets were being used to keep the crowded hospital under control. This sparked controversy. During the 1960s as a result of increased emphasis on alternative methods of treatment, deinstitutionalization, and community-based mental health care, the inpatient population started to decrease.

    Massive budget cuts in the 1960s played a major role in the progressive closing of Danvers State hospital. The hospital began closing wards and facilities as early as 1969. By 1985, the majority of the original hospital wards were closed or abandoned. The Administration Block, in the original Kirkbride, building closed in 1989. Patients were moved to the Bonner Medical Building across the campus.

    The entire campus was closed on June 24, 1992 and all patients were either transferred to the community or to other facilities.

    My friend was involuntarily committed to a locked ward for several weeks in the early seventies at Danvers State Hospital. It was a disgusting horrible inhumane filthy frightening place in which patients were locked and from which they could never escape.

    Please do not imagine a state “hospital” for the insane to resemble McClean’s or Bournewood’s beautiful hospital campuses. When the state is doing anything like this, it is a prison, not a hospital. Wealthy people have always had good options. For the poor mentally ill, I think homelessness and death are better. If they have not committed a crime, they do not deserve to be imprisoned.

    I would love to see assisted living centers built to help the poor mentally ill people, and most of the poor mentally ill people I have known would welcome that kind of decent help. We wouldn’t need to lock them in. Long-term community care can work.

    You’ll note that the young man I described in my sermon had indeed committed crimes. More to the point, he actually wanted treatment—there just wasn’t any to be had.  What you’re describing is a wealth gap that actually leaves out most of the population: You have to be really rich—top 1%—to be able to afford a place that costs a hundred thousand dollars a year.

    Community care can work…if the illness is not either violent or too acute—and if the community—beginning with the family—is functioning at a fairly high level and has resources.  The difficulty is that, for a sufferer like the one described, the illness was both acute and violent and the family was not functioning at a high level.

    Even if it starts out rock-solid, an acute, violent and complex mental illness puts a huge strain on a family. A friend, whose son was a drug addict as well as mentally ill, described the family situation as one of attempting to keep a raft afloat while one member was jumping up and down on his side, forcing everyone else to endlessly  counterbalance.  The shifting and re-shifting of priorities, the endurance of “scenes,” the destruction or theft of belongings, the sick-making fear every time the phone rang: Something happened and this time it is something  we can’t recover from…

    Even a stable family will begin to break down under this kind of  pressure, and even assuming all members are not, themselves, suffering from addictions or illnesses, marriages can nonetheless fall apart under the strain, and other kids can start acting out having correctly adduced that their embarrassing, difficult, abusive, destructive sibling is sucking up all the resources available.

    When my friend’s son went to prison, she told me she was relieved. There, at least, he was safe. And there, believe it or not, he got in-patient, long-term residential treatment.

    That doesn’t mean that all long-term residential treatment would have to be prison-like. I should think most patients would be essentially voluntary, the way most (?) nursing home patients aren’t residing in those places against their will.

    I would imagine that public mental hospitals, like public regular hospitals, public schools, public clinics and any other public—that is, state-run—-institution will suffer from the usual defects. Historically, I gather,  mental hospitals varied a lot from state to state and probably institution to institution and even era to era. The crummier and more corrupt the government, the lousier the hospital is likely to be.

    But this is true for community care, too: Poor communities tend to be dysfunctional communities (particularly now, when to be “poor” usually means “dependent on welfare.”) Yes, it would be much better for a mentally ill person to receive excellent care from qualified professionals while living securely in a home under the supervision of  reasonably stable, educated people who love him, a family supported by a community willing  and able to provide casseroles, perspective, respite care,  rides to the clinic when the family car breaks down, help with paying for medications…

    How many people actually have this? Or anything approaching it?

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written. And I did distinguish in my comment what you’ve said here: there is a difference between the criminally insane, who, in Massachusetts, are committed-sentenced to Bridgewater State “hospital.” So let’s put those people aside in this discussion.

    There seems to be, because of the book My Brother Ron, a wistful longing for the old institutions, a belief that the closing of these places was a terrible thing because so many mentally ill people ended up homeless and in dire straits. I disagree vehemently with the first, and I lament the latter.

    When deinstitutionalization occurred in Massachusetts, the social workers found that half of the people inside these places didn’t even need to be there. Today we would describe these patients as “developmentally disabled” or “severely disabled.” These patients had been committed and forgotten because their families dumped them there. No one in these institutions cared. These people were locked up like animals. This is what happens when the state is given this kind of power and how society abandons and enables the state to do whatever it wants to. Never let the state operate in the dark.

    My only point in my earlier comment is that we need to work harder on community care buttressed by private hospital care when needed–housing, health care, social life, and occupation–and not give ourselves the option of state-run locked-ward institutions. Republicans often deride Democrats who say, “We know there are problems with socialism. We just need to put more money into it and do it better. Then it will work.” Republicans reply, “It will never work. And we can’t give the government that much power.” The Republican sentiment is exactly how I feel about state-run mental hospitals.

    As Massachusetts does now, states need to work with private hospitals. That’s where we need to spend our time and money.

    I’ve seen the difference. My friend was involuntarily committed three times over a thirty-five-year period. The private hospitals were not great–she was on Medicaid–but they were a million times better than any state hospital can or will ever be.

    We do need more psychiatric facilities with a therapeutic and positive focus throughout the country. We do not need any state-run mental hospitals. They will never work.

    • #16
  17. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I hope I haven’t offended you. The work you are doing to keep this issue on the front burner is invaluable. I admire you greatly. 

    I have seen some assisted-living setups for mentally ill people that I greatly admired. They are expensive, for sure, but I hope they will be the solution for the future. The antipsychotics have made it possible for many mentally ill people to live to old age, and social workers, not knowing where else to put these special patients, are placing them in assisted living facilities. It seems to be a workable solution going forward. 

    • #17
  18. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I hope I haven’t offended you. The work you are doing to keep this issue on the front burner is invaluable. I admire you greatly.

    I have seen some assisted-living setups for mentally ill people that I greatly admired. They are expensive, for sure, but I hope they will be the solution for the future. The antipsychotics have made it possible for many mentally ill people to live to old age, and social workers, not knowing where else to put these special patients, are placing them in assisted living facilities. It seems to be a workable solution going forward.

    Of course you haven’t offended me, @MarciN! I admire you—and in any case, we agree.  I think you’re right to caution me (us) about assuming that what went before deinstitutionalization was so peachy-keen that all we’d have to do is resurrect that system. I’d prefer something better—and more flexible, with the advances in medication and therapy permitting even long-term care to be, for most people, nonetheless temporary.   

    • #18
  19. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I hope I haven’t offended you. The work you are doing to keep this issue on the front burner is invaluable. I admire you greatly.

    I have seen some assisted-living setups for mentally ill people that I greatly admired. They are expensive, for sure, but I hope they will be the solution for the future. The antipsychotics have made it possible for many mentally ill people to live to old age, and social workers, not knowing where else to put these special patients, are placing them in assisted living facilities. It seems to be a workable solution going forward.

    Of course you haven’t offended me, @ MarciN! I admire you—and in any case, we agree. I think you’re right to caution me (us) about assuming that what went before deinstitutionalization was so peachy-keen that all we’d have to do is resurrect that system. I’d prefer something better—and more flexible, with the advances in medication and therapy permitting even long-term care to be, for most people, nonetheless temporary.

    Thank you. My friends mean much more to me than any of my opinions. :-)

    • #19
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.