Writing & Research: Aaron M. Weis
To say that Sacramento county is suffering from a severe mental health crisis would be a grave underestimation of the situation in general. Estimates indicate that on a statewide level, one in six adults in California have a varying form of this particular affliction, and Sacramento is a prime exemplification of this reality.
Growing up, I personally experienced the tremendous impact that such conditions have on a family. Throughout my city, to many of my neighbors and residents in the nearby area, my parents were viewed as these kinds of divine saints for adopting not one, but three children with special needs; my youngest sister has fetal alcohol syndrome coupled with an IQ around 60, while my other sister has Schizophrenia, and my little brother to whom has ADHD.
The causality of this sort of upbringing has been that I have become painstakingly aware of the Psychiatric system that they’ve been indoctrinated into as the result of nothing more than a genetic disposition like the back of my hand. Subsequently, I can genuinely attest to how the current methodology is one that is still a long ways away from providing viable solutions in terms of addressing the issue of mental illness as a whole.
This truth is seen in the countless number of monthly Psychiatric appointments needed to maintain a sense of stability for the individual with a disease of the mind, which is what a mental illness is. Not only that, but this is coupled with the fact the pharmaceutical options available are likened to blunt tools attempting to fix a very serious problem. That doesn’t account for the fact that finding the quote, unquote write regime of medications requires the Psychiatrist to play a sort of neurochemistry, constantly changing the patient’s brain chemistry in the aforementioned process, with these pills that have serious long-term effects on various organs.
On the matter of these available pharmaceutical options, what we often see is that in some cases, such as in many of the mood stabilizers, that they are toxic in the sense that enough of it can basically blow out a person’s kidney over time, and in the case of the anti-psychotics, that the effect the heart and even the person’s white blood cells, but they are presented with the problem that there is no other alternative to treating their ailment, and there are other extremely severe ramifications to these medications such as permanent muscle twitches or think of the Thorazine shuffle, and how the individuals on these regimes are often compared to zombified creatures, which isn’t that surprising when considering that they are essentially horse tranquilizers. And if that doesn’t sound horrible enough as it is, there are honestly extreme cases in which several of these types of medications, in some cases five or more, are leveraged to treat the likes of Schizophrenia leaving the individual in a less than cognizant state.
To make matters worse, the county-level departments available to treat this particular demographic are often times these abysmal, bottom of the barrel type services, with hospitals that are in horrible shape, and that in many cases may actually be to the patient’s detriment. For example, in many cases, upon first arriving, the patient is placed on a kind of medication vacation so that the doctor can assess their potential diagnosis without the presence of said variable.
One cannot emphasize enough how horrible this is to the individual in question. Anytime that someone goes off the medication that they’ve been prescribed for their specific ailment, the byproduct of this process is that it literally reduces the person’s brain baseline, and this only adds to the already monumental problem in that the average person with a severe mental illness usually attempts to go off their medications due to symptoms or feeling that they are cured approximately twenty times in their lifetime. And that only scratches the surface level as to the type of strife and tribulations that these people face.
What presents itself as the most overwhelmingly obvious illustration as to the degree of the problem that Sacramento faces in this regard is that of what could be considered as arguably the biggest socioeconomic issue in its homeless populace which is ranked as the fifth worse in all of California. It is common knowledge that the vast majority of this specific demographic is either mentally ill or war veteran to whom probably have one mental illness or another, such as PTSD or generalized anxiety, just to name a few.
According to various sources, such as the Sacramento Bee, this matter of growing concern has reared its nasty head in a number of different ways. The most eye-opening statistic worth mentioning is found in the way that the number of mental health-related calls or service to the Sacramento police department has been on the rise, with approximately 11,000 calls made last year alone, which averages out to about 34 related calls a day. In a way, this speaks volumes of the tremendously poor quality of the current mental health pedagogy or paradigm, in that cops are, on the most rudimentary of levels, becoming a last line of defense to combat the situation, and it shows, as is indicated in how they are now required to take a 40 hour course to deal specifically with mental health crisis scenarios, and collaborating exclusively with various mental health departments in order to do so.
With everything being kept in consideration, there are a plethora of other complications that those affected by mental illnesses face, which only make this dilemma harsher on the people of Sacramento. One of the most glaring, or most noticeable, is the sense of monumental stigmatization, ostracization, marginalization, and demonization that surrounds the topic in and of itself, which makes it extremely hard for those affected to reach out. Not to mention the fact that are society basically teaches us that we shouldn’t do so in the first place, although the truth of the matter is that it takes serious personal strength to admit that you need help; any doctor will tell you so.
Moreover, there is the problem in that many of these individuals make up the vast majority of patients on Medical or Medicare insurance, to which it can be extremely difficult to find clinicians that will help them treat their ailments in the first place.
For those that have, or know someone with a severe mental illness, it is essential to be aware of as many resources as possible in the Sacramento area to assist the people that you care most about and to get them the help that they need. Some worth mentioning is that of NAMI, or the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Alta California Regional Center, which is located in Sacramento and provides services for those that qualify for a lifetime, just to name a few.
To conclude, it is of the utmost importance that we collectively come together to find a viable solution to this heart-wrenching problem that affects so many. There are serious moral and ethical issues at play when you really stop and think about it in this regard. The person who is afflicted with these issues, that is mentally impaired, or that can not take care of themselves; the same person that is suffering from visual, audio, or any other type of hallucinations, and the likes should not be living on the streets which are only making their mental state worse.
This is not an issue of the old argument that if you teach a man to fish, or that they are simply lackadaisical individuals that are a burden to society because they aren’t productive, or that they don’t contribute by conventional standards. And in all honesty, perhaps it may even mean re-examining are methodologies, and constructing new ones according in order to actually do something about the fact.