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Victoria County should lead way in mental health

By BY PATSY WEPPLER
Jan. 26, 2013 at 4:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2013 at 7:26 p.m.


Enough is enough! You cannot imagine how constant negative remarks about the mentally ill - like how they can't be trusted with a gun or actually anything - is quite sickening. How many Americans have actually looked up mental illness and studied the basic information? Hardly anyone, because it seems unless those close to us or a family member becomes ill, we don't even think about it.

If anyone bothered to look up and study a little bit of information, you would find that there are several levels of mental illness. Some levels can be controlled by just talking about your thoughts to someone whom you trust and will give you some feed back without judging you. I call this venting. Some diagnoses require medication for a while, so you can deal with it in a calm manner. Some diagnoses require faithfully taking medicine and therapy to stay in recovery (staying on track with reality and understanding why you are feeling this way). Some diagnoses require you to stay on your medication while having someone monitor you and an understanding that there is punishment if you do not stay compliant (this is a diagnosis that can be dangerous without compliance).

San Antonio has a program for those who are seriously mentally ill and lose reality when off their medicine. The city has appointed a judge who these people have to check in with on a regular basis. If they are not compliant with their medicine, they go sit in jail while getting back on track (I understand this works great and saves the city tons of money).

Some of you would be surprised to know that depression that lasts more than three days for no good reason is an illness. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder is a mental illness (ADHD in both children and adults), as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD - usually something horrible has happened to them or in front of them) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). These messed up genes are passed down sometimes from many generations back (600-700 years or more), and only when those faulty genes hit the person does it change them in some kind of way. Some people can cope automatically, and some can't, but most mental illnesses you are born with. It is no one's fault! You are not a murderer because you are bipolar. You are a murderer first and may happen to be bipolar at the same time.

So folks, quit blaming horrible things on people being bipolar. And it is because we, the people, don't like talking about mental illness that these people rarely get the help they need unless they are trying to harm themselves or cause harm to someone else. I always see in the paper and on the news how we should take care of our animals or donate money to save them from harm. But you see people on the street who you know are unstable.

We have hundreds of folks who need mental help but don't have insurance, and if they did, they have to pay up front to get the help anyway. I visit with some of these folks, and for some, their families treat them like lepers and don't invite them to family functions because of embarrassment. Some of these folks never get to go shopping, out to eat or go on a trip because families don't want to be around them (or can't). It is heartbreaking for me, because these folks did not just wake up one day and say to themselves, "I think I will be mentally ill." But, for God's sake, be nice to that dog or cat or put more play things in the city park. Something is wrong with this thinking, and I know many mental health workers who agree with me.

It is up to this wonderful community to fix this problem and make a beautiful example for the rest of the state. We need a funded county mental health clinic where the city and all of us, as citizens, are held responsible for the neglect of our fellow Americans. We put on fund drives for animals, churches, cancer research, blood drives and many other needs, so why not for this free clinic? We can't lose folks because this is all of our problem/responsibility to take care of this situation. It affects us all. So let the work begin by all clubs, organizations, schools, etc. I know we could do it. It would be so awesome for Victoria to start this up.

Patsy Weppler is a Victoria resident and the former president of the Victoria National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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