Tag Archives: mental health

Hero of the Week: February 8, Kathleen Sebelius and the Dept. of Health and Human Services

8 Feb
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newton, national attention centered on the issue of guns. One frequent sidebar, however, was mental illness. The NRA seized on this, insisting, ironically, on a national registry of the mentally ill. For a while it seemed that shrill voices and fear would capitalize on the existing stigma and further marginalize those with mental health issues, making care for the mentally ill even more challenging. Fortunately, calmer voices are prevailing.

In a wonderful editorial this week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlines the recent history of mental health care and what her agency intends to do to improve things. Like too many caring, common sense aspects of government, inclusive approaches to mental health started nearly 50 years ago and have been undermined by the Reaganite approach to strangling government programs. Sebelius intends to reverse that trend.

She rightly identified the main problems as stigma, early diagnosis and care, and well-funded and accessible programs. Building on the fundamentals already rolling out thanks to the Affordable Care Act, HHS will be working on new programs to ensure people get the care they need and encourage people  seek timely, meaningful help. Thank you, Madam Secretary, for taking this growing problem seriously and treating it with humanity and dignity.

Thanks to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s honorable mention. In another welcome move from the Obama administration, the Department of Defense has announced plans to begin implementing benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel. Sadly, because of DOMA, many of the more than 1100 benefits provided to heterosexual couples are blocked. With the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, however, gay and lesbian military personnel can be open about their families and the government can provide some basic benefits for them. It is delightful to see another agency taking the mandate of the President’s second term seriously and moving forward — with or without Congress — to do the right thing for the American people.

Bigot of the Week Award: December 21, The National Review with a Shot of NRA

21 Dec
Bigots of the Week

Bigots of the Week

Yes, this is the first time in TSM history we actually have a tie for BWA, but WOW! we got some dirt and hate that just won’t wash clean.  In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the response from The National Review (also known as the “He Man Women Haters Club”) and the behavior of the NRA have just about pushed me over the edge of civility.  Yes, there are some folk I would just love to slap bald, in my best pacifist way of course.

The National Review published the most toxic misogyny as an opinion piece about the shootings. I’ll let them speak for themselves:

There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers. […]

[An elementary school is] in general, a feminized setting is a setting in which helpless passivity is the norm. Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel.

I don’t know where to start. How about saying that male aggression is a good thing when all 28 dead are the victims of that very thing? How about maintaining that women are weak and defenseless and must have men around to protect them? How about ignoring the bravery and sacrifice of the women who ran that school, some of whom died facing male aggression? This writer automatically gets a nomination for Bigot of the Year. (As an added bonus, many of the basic facts of the article were simply wrong, including the fact that one of the staff — the janitor in fact — was male. Facts don’t matter when there’s hate to spew!)

Meanwhile, the NRA spent most of the week in its camo fatigues. Trying to ignore the fact that its lobbyists made it possible for Adam Lanza to get his hands on the weapons he used to butcher children, the usually loud gun group was suspiciously silent. They took down their Facebook page and their usual fusillade of tweets was stilled. When they finally had something to say, it was tepid.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

Followed by a defensive statement by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

I think an unprecedented attack on the Second Amendment is going to come hard, I think it is going to come fast, and I think it is going to come soon.

Yeah, that sure sounds like a “meaningful contribution” to changing the status quo. The NRA is almost solely responsible for the fact that most Americans can buy automatic weapons whose only conceivable purpose is to maim and kill other human beings. Once those weapons have been purchased, they can easily fall into anyone’s hands. In what world does that make any conceivable sense? Massacres like Sandy Hook are impossible without this kind of firepower. Let the NRA feel like the victim here; it’s about time they understood how the thousands of families that suffer gun violence every year feel.

Don’t forget, TSM is still taking nominations for Bigot of the Year Award.

UPDATE: By now everyone is probably aware that since they won the BWA this week, the NRA has jumped the shark. LaPierre — looking like a tired and seedy televangelist — presented the organization’s “meaningful contribution.” After this stereotypical representative of the aging white male power structure blamed Hollywood, the media, and video games for the violence, he offered a two-pronged solution. First, stigmatize the suffering by creating a mental health registry; the weapons don’t matter, after all, it’s just those crazy people! (Pot, meet kettle.) Second, put an armed guard in every school and eliminate gun-free zones around schools so potential killers won’t know where to find lots of easy victims. The NRA used to be an organization for gun owners; it has fully transformed into a lobby for weapons manufacturers and a haven for extremist white paranoia. How sad.

Mental Health and Stigma

8 May

Progressive Health Care

Part of social justice is working to enfranchise marginalized populations.  Sadly, people living with mental health issues are too often marginalized and worry about stigma.  I was even anxious when I talked about my own struggles with depression.  I say with great certainty that most humans either struggle with some form of mental illness, or have family and friends who struggle.

Here in the United States, we can’t even talk about health care for all much less actually talk about treating mental health issues.  Here is where I would like to call attention to the amazing and progressive country of New Zealand.  New Zealand is tackling the issue of mental health with an advertising campaign that is compassionate, humane, and affirming in the attempt to remove stigma.  Click here to see part of this video campaign.

Action steps: not only do we need to make sure the Affordable Health Care Act passes, but we need to expand the act to take care of all of our brothers and sisters.

Women’s History: April 29

29 Apr

Today I would like to honor Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  Gilman was a social reformer, poet, and novelist of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. She is, perhaps, best known for her semi-autobiographical story, The Yellow Wallpaper. The Yellow Wallpaper was one of the first published stories of its kind that addressed women’s health.  Today we would call it a pioneering work of feminist literature.  The main character in the book is referred to as “hysterical.”  I remember working as a therapist in Atlanta many many years ago and found the word “hysterical” to be most misogynistic.  Many of the female patients were called hysterical while NEVER did any of the psychiatrist refer to the male patients as such, another reason why I re-read The Yellow Wallpaper.  The Women’s Movement and women’s health have much to be grateful to for the work of our Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Quote of the day:

It is the duty of youth to bring fresh new powers to bear on Social progress. Each generation of young people should be to the world like a vast reserve force to a tired army. They should life the world forward. That is what they are for.  —Charlotte Perkins Gilman


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