My Mental Health Christmas List
I have a mental health Christmas list. There's a popular Christmas song called My Grown-Up Christmas List. In the song, the musician sings about a desire for healing, peace, and friendship. In keeping with that spirit, here is my mental health Christmas list.
Mental Health Christmas List 1: Adequate Mental Health Budget
When I was in the state hospital, I kept a detailed journal of the things that went on and my observations (What The State of Indiana Doesn't Want You To Know). One of those observations was that a lack of adequate funding was visible everywhere. We didn't have enough chairs for group therapy. The bed linens didn't fit the beds. Water leaks were frequent and sometimes went unattended for days. Staff frequently worked double shifts, and when the State cancelled their Christmas bonuses, several declared bankruptcy.
This experience is not unique to the state hospital. In Indianapolis, the largest provider of mental health services is the county jail. When I was discharged from the Army, I had to wait three months before seeing a private psychiatrist that took my insurance. The mental health system is stretched thin due to a lack of funding and people.
What are the results? Turn on your television. Many mass shootings are speculated to have mental illness as a factor. Suicide is common; there's a popular hashtag about veteran suicide called #22aDayIsTooMany. We have a broken mental health system, largely because we do not want to pay for an adequate one. We have to ask ourselves, "What are we willing to pay to ensure there's an adequate safety net available?"
Mental Health Christmas List 2: A Way to Survive Winter
We've all heard of post-holiday depression. HealthyPlace has some excellent articles on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is depression caused by lack of sunlight. Light therapy is a popular treatment. But what about non-weather related depression that seems to flare up during the winter? What if winter is a trigger because of a death, as it is for me (Coping with Trauma Anniversaries and Anxiety)? What if the holidays cause anxiety? We need a way to survive winter.
Sometimes it isn't enough to know that this, too, shall pass. Sometimes we need the support of a counselor, a friend, family members, or medication. We need coping skills to survive the winter. We need coping skills like meditation, self-distraction, safe place imagery, and so forth.
During the winter it is helpful to remember what makes you happy. It is equally important to remember your friends and loved ones. Winter should be a time of healthy reflection, not a time of morbid thinking about the transient nature of life. We must develop healthy coping skills and use them during winter.
Mental Health Christmas List 3: An End to Mental Health Stigma
Recently I saw a Facebook meme describing the Charleston shooter as "a window-licking retard with a bowl cut" responsible for the loss of Southern heritage, and that San Bernardino was therefore grounds for banning burqas, closing mosques, and banning the Qur'an. Think about that for a minute--racism, religious bigotry, and ableism in the same meme. Why is it okay to use a term like "window-licking retard"? While we're at it, why is it okay to call someone a "psycho" or a "crazed killer?"
That's how deeply stigma is ingrained in the minds of people. We get upset over racism and most forms of religious bigotry, but we ignore ableism, especially when it comes to mental health. While racial slurs are unacceptable and religious bigotry frowned upon, mocking people with a mental illness is perfectly acceptable in our society (Discussing Depression and Mental Health: Why Language Matter).
Education is key to eliminating stigma. People need to be taught that mental illness is not something you mock; it's something you battle and overcome. It's not a character defect or lack of faith; it's a chemical imbalance. We're just like everybody else with a disability--we're human beings with a challenge who can rise to the occasion and live and work alongside you.
That's my mental health Christmas list.
Oberg, B. (2015, December 7). My Mental Health Christmas List, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2015/12/my-mental-health-christmas-list-2