We are Human: Mitigate Our Suffering
It’s report card day and I am giving American “civilization” an F in compassion because of the primitive savagery it has inflicted, and continues to inflict, upon the mentally ill.
Despite the fact that one in five people have a mental illness, and 4% of us suffer from a severe mental illness, we continue to shame, ostracize, and degrade our struggling brothers and sisters.
Even our efforts to treat them humanely have been undermined by the inherent cruelty of Capitalism and the ignorance and greed of politicians.
We did manage to shut down most of the institutions that warehoused the mentally ill and treated them with shocking barbarism, including the use of icepicks to scramble their pre-frontal cortex, isolation, horrificaly cruel restraints, and more. My grandfather died in just such a place in the early 70’s (the Missouri State Mental Hospital in St Joseph).
However, most of the community-based care that was to replace those houses of horror never materialized. And instead of building new, humane psychiatric hospitals for patients needing long-term care, we collectively decided to throw the mentally ill people to the wolves. Much like the idiotic parents who throw their children into the lake and tell them to sink or swim, we leave damaged, suffering, vulnerable people to fend for themselves in the dog-eat-dog paradigm of American Capitalism.
Those who sink end their lives, wind up living on the streets like feral animals, or locked in cages -living in “community” with predatory people and merciless jailers, while being pepper sprayed, subjected to the torture of solitary, denied the treatment necessary to prevent their steady and painful mental deterioration, and in some instances, starved or denied water.
Those of us 4 percenters, like me with my Bipolar Disorder for instance, spend years swimming upstream. Fighting for shitty jobs because we can barely function. Fighting to get medication and treatment with zero or minimal insurance. Fighting to get up every day and keep going in the face of being marginalized and ostracized. Fighting to find the will to keep going against the fierce headwinds of the excruciating mental agony of obsessions, compulsions, mania, depression, shame, anxiety, distorted thinking, a wicked inner critic, grandiosity, and powerful addictive and self-destructive tendencies.
I’m not bemoaning my personal experience though. I am using it as an example. Had I not been gifted with hard scrabble persistence, a high degree of resilience, reasonable intelligence, many angels who have helped me along what I have come to see as my spiritual journey, and a lot of grace from the Higher Power of my understanding, the wretched “civilized savagery” in America would have chewed me up and spit me out as well.
Point being, many of my brothers and sisters, mentally ill and addicts, don’t have the advantages that I had. Leaving them exposed and vulnerable to a society that ensures their lives will be “short, brutish, and nasty.”
In short, we are the disposable people. The embarrassments. The difficult to handle. The largely voiceless due to our vulnerability and lack of public or private money backing us. The dirty little secrets that get thrown out like garbage and left to rot.
And yet there is much public and political hand-wringing because we have both a suicide and an opioid epidemic.
Our tolerance for pain isn’t infinite. Go to the root. Treat us with compassion.
We are human. Mitigate our suffering.