Community Mental Health

risperidone prescription
My previous field of work was community mental health care and when we were downtown I spotted this prescription sticker stuck onto a bench in the park near the ‘before I die’ chalkboard. I instantly recognized the drug which is an anti-psychotic medication commonly used to treat illnesses like schizophrenia. When I was working it was a new wonder drug and very expensive. I expect it is generic now but still a useful medication.

Then I noticed the David’s surname which was Spanish and that the prescription was printed in Spanish. Mental illness affects people irrespective of income, ethnicity and circumstances but I suspect from his mother’s address they were first or second generation immigrants on a low wage. The script was issued from a hospital near the downtown area so it suggested that perhaps they could only afford to go to ER or it was an emergency situation.

David is not even 20 and my experience tells me that it is more likely the onset of schizophrenia rather than bipolar. It commonly presents in young men between the ages of 17 and 25. It can be sooner or later and slightly different for women. So why did he put the sticker on the bench? In retrospect I should have ripped it off because all his personal details were on it and made him a potential victim.

Was it a cry for help or a passive aggressive statement? More importantly, did he take the drugs? I wondered if his mother was sobbing, wondering what happened to her beautiful son and what to do next. The homeless people in Houston are often mentally ill and many self medicate with alcohol and drugs. I get angry and frustrated that there is so little community mental health care for parents or their adult children. When I volunteered at a local psychiatric hospital I was shocked by how many patients were brought in by policemen, sometimes at gunpoint. There has to be a middle ground.

Osyth commented in my last post that she was touched by the comment, ‘be happy’ (on the before I die chalkboard). Maybe David wrote that, in the hope that his illness would stabilize and he would be happy. I hope that he was still able to stay in his family home and not have to sleep in the parks, no matter how pretty they are.
art sculpture

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27 thoughts on “Community Mental Health

  1. A very difficult thing to discuss. I have been touched by mental health issues and still am on occasion but I am so fortunate that I have never been subject to this kind of illness. You are right though, it can affect anyone irrespective of class or creed and we must learn to accept it and support those that suffer.

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  2. Mental Health is an important issue in today’s society – it usually receives a bad wrap in the media. There are many people out there suffering who are never able to receive the help they deserve. Thanks Kerry for this great post.

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  3. Oh Kerry – I cry out for David and all the other Davids (and girl Davids) across the world. My brother in law is schitzophrenic. It started emerging when he was 17. He was due to go to the Yehudi Menuhin School to continue his training as a potentially world class violinist. That wasn’t to be. The care he now receives (he is a smidge younger than me) is fantastic. He lives in a secure unit which is funded by the money his parents left to him. He is very fortunate. The general attitude to mental health care in all the countries I have lived in is disgraceful. Mental health care is the poor relation in the medical family and yet I do not know a single person who is not touched by it – 6 degrees of separation? More like one or two or none in the case of mental health. This is a wonderfully incisive piece written by someone who I know is well versed as a sufferer and a professional. Long may you ride, lovely, decent, brilliant, caring, intelligent, empathetic and all around wonderful you.

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    • Oh Osyth, what a beautiful and thoughtful comment. I really appreciate it. Your brother in law is both very unfortunate and yet lucky to be provided for in such a secure way. Not many countries thought about what would happen when they shut the large psychiatric facilities. For some people it was the only home they ever knew.

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      • He is fortunate. His home was closed down and is now an upmarket housing development with its river frontage and its des res Oxfordshire address. But as a hospital it was his home and home to so many others. I used to listen to the do-gooders squawking at dinner parties about how dreadful it was but they were wrong. It was home – safe and secure as a home should feel. People balk at institutions but they fail to understand the reality of profound and incurable mental illness. For those affected the need us for safety, security, understanding and constancy. Medication as well of course and therapy but first they need to be welcomed and to belong. The problem is those places were closed down and nothing that can possibly work put in their place. Sorry …. I rant regularly on this issue. And I thank you for giving air to it xx

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      • I struggled very hard to get my clients into appropriate housing. Sometimes they were put into public housing next to drug addicts – that didn’t help their fears or voices. Finally, one of the better social workers agreed with me that they would be better off in an environment with older people. It was quieter and safer; both could help each other. Sometimes it worked but I knew many who were distraught at leaving their previous institutions.

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      • You ARE an angel. Thank you for struggling on behalf of those that needed you. But you shouldn’t have had to grapple – it is appalling that it is still a battle to get a reasonable outcome. And it generally still is – in fact I think that in many ways the best you can hope for is static and not regression in care for the vulnerable mentally ill

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  4. It’s also disturbing that he only had a 14 day supply of the medication, leading one to wonder if he received any follow up care. I have some catching up to do as I haven’t heard of the ‘before I die’ chalkboard.

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  5. Pingback: Community Mental Health – Mental health

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