The post below owes a lot to my friend Sita Diehl. Sita is the national director of state advocacy for Nami. Linda and I are in Washington D.C for a DBSA conference on advocacy and Sita was a presenter. What I like best about what she had to say was that is it is based on a clear vision of mental health needs and not identification with some narrow theory or position.
The points below are Sita’s. The comments are mine.
1. Protect public mental health funding.
Services in most states, particularly in the public sector, are inadequate. Most systems are at best skeletal and the pressure in many state legislatures is to remove the bones. The help that many people need doesnt exist. The solution to people standing on the cliff is not to destroy the cliff.
2. Expand access to mental health services.
Not only are there not enough services, many people have problems accessing the services that do exist. Health care reform is an integral part of mental health reform. 24% of the people with mental health issues have no insurance according to Samsha. We are talking about 11 million people. Telling someone in need they can look but not touch is not policy. It is simple cruelty. Telling 11 million is obscenity.
3. Ensure that effective mental health services are availible.
Too often we ignore what the evidence says works and do what we are used to doing, particularly if someone is making a lot of money doing it. There is a gap between what we know and what we do. Their is more and more evidence that recovery based and peer support models work. Yet in many places there still play a minor role in the services offered.
4. Promote intergration of mental health, addictions, and primary care.
People with mental health diagnoses get lousy medical care. They die much quicker than those without diagnoses. Intergration would finally mean reality to the idea you dont treat the disease- you treat the person.
5. Improve the mental health care of children, youth and young adults.
No one deserves to suffer and any society that is not committed to alleviating the suffering of its children is not committed to much.
6. Meet the mental health needs of service members, veterans and their families.
More service members die from suicide than from war. The problem is not that we dont have enough war.
7. Provide homes and jobs for people living with mental health issues.
All the therapy in the world, all the treatment someone receives is not likely to work much if they have no where to live or no job to live on.
8. Eliminate disparities in mental health care.
Race and ethnicity should not affect the quality of care that someone receives. The evidence is clear it does.
9. End the inappropriate jailing of people with mental illness.
Many things should be a crime. Mental illness is not one of them. If lack of care is a crime we are punishing the wrong people.
10. (This one is not on Sita’s list) Eliminate stigma.
The most difficult thing about having mental health issues should not be what other people think about that and how they treat you. Most of the people I know with mental health issues are ordinary people coping with extraordinary circumstances and not deficient people messing up ordinary circumstances.
I really like the vision of advocacy described here. It provides a common focus for people to organize around and describes the problems in such a way we will actually know if they are solved.
What do you think??