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Letter to the Editor: Mental Health

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This post is one that is very personal to me, in that I am posting a letter I wrote to the editor of the Warren Times-Observer in response to this linked article I had read on their site.

The letter is one that tries to shine a positive light on the mental health community, while also touching on a prominent myth about people with mental health issues. I also share a story about a personal encounter I had while shopping to help show how the myth impacts the mental health community.

Peace be with all who read my letter!


“Holocaust survivor on civil rights: ‘We’re back where we were’”

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This August 4, 2015 MSN News article talks about one Holocaust survivor’s perspective of discrimination issues in the United States including but not limited to voting, women’s access to birth control, and others mentioned in the article.

“When disability and race intersect”

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This December 4, 2014 WICU-WSEE Erie News article talks about an opinion on what sometimes happens when police are arresting someone who is disabled and how the persons race and disability could be targeted for discrimination either intentionally or unintentionally.  The article primarily focuses on things like “fat hatred” and how someone who is obese is potentially treated differently then someone who isn’t by the police.

Disclaimer ….  By posting the link to this article, I am not saying I approve or disapprove of the practices in this article.  I am simply sharing it because I feel that it offers some insight that could be useful.  I would also like to note that by posting this I am NOT saying that all police discriminate against people who are different then themselves, just acknowledgeing that it does seem to happen at times, and that while the only police that seem to be in the media are ones who are somehow corrupt or discriminate against others, I do acknowledge there are also some awesome


WSEE-TV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

police out there who often go above and beyond the call of duty and will do everything they can to treat people they encounter with dignity and respect.  This is not a one-size-fits-all article.


“In talking about mental health, ‘people-first’ terminology eases stigma”

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This November 22, 2014 Providence Journal article talks about why person first language is important to all of us, and the dangers of referring to someone by their illness as opposed to referring to them as a person.

“Mental health conditions cause greater stigma in families than physical problems”


WHO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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This November 28, 2013 article on the Psypost.org website talks about findings of research done by the World Health Organization (WHO) into stigma and mental illness.  WHO looked at 28 countries to gather their data and found that human rights violations and discrimination against the mentally ill is happening worldwide.




“When Doctors Discriminate”

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This August 10, 2013 article found on the New York Times Sunday Review website talks about what is happening because doctors often give inadequate care to those with serious mental illnesses.


“Havertown residents oppose mental health facility”

Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital 5

Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital 5 (Photo credit: spokospoko.org)

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This August 1, 2013 article on the MAINLINE media News website talks about an issue I find disturbing.  This article talks about an outpatient mental health facility that is getting a very cold shoulder from its potential new neighbors.    It’s as though people want those with mental health issues to get treatment as long as it isn’t in their neighborhood or town or county or state …. like its ok to treat folks who need help as long as they aren’t seen.  As I read this particular article, I had to wonder if the residents in the area near this former school considered that there would likely have been students attending the school who had mental illnesses, not to mention it’s possible that there could have been employees who worked at the school with mental health issues, or for that matter, parents of enrolled children who may have had mental health issues and been in the area to pick  up their child.

I grew up playing in fields that had once been farmland for a state hospital, I played basketball in a court that was a combination basketball/tennis court.  I rode my bike on the grounds, and from time to time would come in contact with patients while I was on the grounds.  Today, the property I grew up on has probably increased in value since I was a kid, and yet the state hospital is still there.  I don’t recall ever feeling threatened by the patients, nor do I recall it being an issue involving patients bothering homes that bordered the state hospital property.  I know that it wasn’t uncommon for patients to sneak off grounds to go to a local coffee shop, but to my knowledge there wasn’t a huge amount of friction between patients and the community.

Having grown up next to a state hospital where the people who were being treated at the facility were likely in the worst mental health condition they could be in, otherwise they wouldn’t have needed to be in a state hospital, I would have absolutely no problem living near an outpatient facility, especially knowing that while yes, folks receiving outpatient services may stop taking meds, I also know that the folks receiving outpatient services are likely in better shape mentally then those I came in contact with as a kid on the state hospital grounds.  So when I read articles where the response of a community is to basically say ‘yes, you can treat people with mental illnesses, but you can’t do it in my neighborhood’  I have to wonder if the not in my neighborhood folks consider that approximately 1 out of 4 people has a mental illness of some sort, which means for every 4 people who person encounters on any given day, the odds are good that at least 1 person they meet has a mental illness.  The people who would be receiving treatment at this particular facility, based on the article, would be receiving some job and skills training, which tells me that the agency is looking at ways to help their folks become more productive and fit in with society’s expectations.  So when I think about that, it makes me feel that the people who are complaining about the facility and giving the ‘not in my neighborhood’ type responses, likely would say they are for treatment of the mentally ill as long as the mentally ill weren’t visible.

As I type this post, I would like to point out that I live within about 3 blocks of a pediatric outpatient mental health facility, and have actually lived near the facility for about 8 years or so, and have yet to have any problem with any of the folks who receive services there.  I would actually not have a problem with living directly next door to the agency, because I know from experience that the issues people conjure in their minds about what it might be like living next to a mental health agency are typically worse than anything that reality ends up presenting.

I also know that people will claim their property value will decrease, or that the traffic will increase, or any number of cosmetic issues, but the reality is that the folks most adamantly raising these concerns are afraid to have a neighbor that involves the mentally ill, but because of anti-discrimination laws, people don’t say it’s because they don’t want the mentally ill in their neighborhood, they will grasp at straws and claim that everything from property value to traffic patterns are why they don’t want the agency/facility in their neighborhood.  I also know that there are people who will tell me I’m wrong about my assessment of this, but the reality is that I have a mental illness, and I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to be discriminated against because of my mental illness and to not be given a fair chance, so when people tell me they aren’t trying to dodge outright discrimination by using other stuff as a coverup, I see right through it, because I know it happens.  These ‘not in my neighborhood’ articles tend to make me furious, because I know that discrimination against the mental health community is very much alive in our society.

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