Get into politics like your life depends on it…. It does

November 27, 2015 by

Get into politics like your life depends on it….. It does.  ( I think that is a quote from disability advocate Justin Dart.)

And it  does. It really does.

I listened to Donald Trump make fun of a newspaper reporter with a physical disability because the reporter had criticized him. I have listened to him make comment after comment that not that long ago would have been labeled as hate speech and been political suicide applauded and hailed by crowds as being the voice of truth,  the voice of real America,  and their choice for president.   I have listened to Republicans trying to defeat him by trying to out-Trump  him.  

The  biggest problem is not just Trump, or Carson or Rubio or Cruz.   The biggest problem is that they have obviously touched the emotions of so many people.   They have made hate respectable again.   They have made rage, prejudice,  and violence seem almost common sense to do many people.   They have made the destruction of different people,  different ideas,  different groups,  different values,  and different experiences into a political platform.

I am 64 years old and have known 10 presidents.   I have seen many people I opposed win.   For  the  very first time I am afraid that the candidacy of some people threatens the fabric of  this country.   For the very first time I fear that the results of an election may threaten my life,  the life of my wife,  the life of my children,   most of the ideals and values I hold dear and  in the end the life and  well being of my country.

The Republicans are like the little boy who begged his parents to let him raise the cute little baby alligator only to find out later that gators grow big and are soon no longer content with table scraps. Soon it is not clear who is whose pet.

It seems a door has been opened and it is not clear what it is a door to. My fear is more than where we are at. It is where we are going.

Another quote from Dart :

I call for solidarity among all who love justice, all who love life, to create a revolution that will empower every single human being to govern his or her life, to govern the society and to be fully productive of life quality for self and for all.

That is not the door we have opened.

Much of the advocacy I have been involved in has been in one way or another associated with mental health. I have for example long been involved in speaking against the Murphy Bill for reasons touched on many times in this blog. I don’t think it makes things better. I don’t think it will make life better for people with mental health issues. I think it’s potential for harm to the people it claims to help is real and substantial. I think the fight to defeat it is one of the most important things anyone can be involved in.


I think anything that affects poverty is a mental health issue too….

I think anything that affects hunger is a mental health issue too….

I think anything that affects homelessness is a mental health issue too.

I think anything that affects peace is a mental health issue too.

I think anything that affects health is a mental health issue too.

I think anything that affects justice is a mental health issue too.

I think anything that affects violence is a mental health issue too.

I think anything that affects discrimination, and prejudice and basic fairness is a mental health issue too.

I think mental health issues are about the chance for a better, happier and more meaningful life and many things are in some frame of reference “mental health issues.”

It does not mean the Murphy Bill is any less a problem or any less important. It is not. What I do mean is that many other things speak to or relate to the injury, the stress, the trauma, the burdens that ordinary people face and impact their chance to find a better life. Speak for life. We can all make a difference. We can.

Become involved in politics like your life depends on it…. It does! “

From November 2014….Justice (the 129th letter)

November 26, 2015 by

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my 129th letter to you.

We had a rally on November 10 at legislative plaza. The post below was one I read. Much simply comes down to justice.

I heard Michelle Farden talk about her daughter Monika. She died because she had no insurance. That’s it. That’s all of it. No insurance. In Tennessee while you are trying to do “what is best for Tennessee” an innocent person, in her mother’s words, “a good girl” died, basically from complications from an untreated broken toe. It is about justice.

Like the post below says it is your job. Please do your job.

Until next time.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

Dear Governor Haslam:

This is my seventh letter to you.

It will be brief.  Your job description is justice.  I really think it is that simple.  Your job is through your decisions, your leadership and your modeling to give the people of this state the fairest chance availible to live a good and decent life.  Period.  Everything else is gravy.

How can there be justice without healthcare justice?? Where is the justice when some people are disposable??  Where is the justice in a society that treats the less priveliged members of it as though they were burdens and cost too much.  If justice for you, for me, for anyone is purchased with the misfortune of others do any of us have any real justice??  Are not we all diminished??

It is about being the governor of all Tennesseans even when it makes those you seek political favor from angry.  It is not just about being right it is about being good.

I hope you have a great Memorial day..  While thinking about the sacrifices of so many to make this a great country I hope you consider the challenges ahead facing you to make Tennessee a great state with justice for all and a state where no one will die because they cant access adequate medical care we all should have.

Governor please stand up for all of us.  Expand medicaid.

Until tomorrow,

Yours truly.

Larry Drain.

From 2014…..Fear: the fifth letter

November 26, 2015 by

It is hard to share the experience of the coverage gap.  This early letter to Governor Haslam captures some of my experience.

Dear Governor Haslam,

This is my fifth letter to you.

It is about fear.  As much as anything else fear defines what it means to live without insurance:  fear of feeling bad, fear of needing medical care, fear of being told you need something for your health you cant buy, fear of going to the ER, fear of little diseases becoming big diseases, fear of not seeking help and hoping things will be okay, and a growing fear of the government and the growing conviction they think you cost too much and are really okay with you dying.

  I have no insurance and live in fear everyday.  I just dont understand how me being sick or even dying is something that has to happen so some politician can stand up and say he defends liberty.  I just dont get it.  How is denying me the care I need a defense of anyone’s liberty??  Governor Haslam can you explain that to me??  How can allowing poor people to get sick or even die be good for Tennessee??  I dont believe you can really believe really believe that.

What if your only possible response to serious illness was to die??  That is the reality for many.

Again I ask you to be the governor of all Tennesseans.  Please speak for me.

The biggest thing I fear is your silence.  The maintanence of illness for poor people should never be the policy of a decent people.

Please speak.  Until tomorrow.

Yours truly,

Larry Drain

On being told you are going to die

November 26, 2015 by


A couple of days ago the Knoxville City Council voted in favor of a resolution supporting Insure Tennessee. On this Thanksgiving day remember those our legislature has forgotten. Next Thanksgiving let us celebrate the reality of Insure Tennessee.

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:


The picture above is of my friend Tracy. She had just been told by the Tennessee state legislature that as far as they were concerned she could die.

She had come with about 900 other people to Nashville to talk, to walk, to sing, to pray and to ask the legislature to approve Insure Tennessee. She had come to the legislators before they made their mind up about Insure Tennessee to tell them about how women in Tennessee could have a cancer of the wrong spot and she did and how bad she needed them to Insure Tennessee. She found out they had already made up their minds. And as far as they were concerned she could die.

One of the hospitals the legislators said was in it just for the money heard about Tracy and offered her care. And now she is fighting for her life… But she has…

View original 262 more words

A Thanksgiving question

November 25, 2015 by

If something was to happen good enough to make a difference in the mental health system,  something worth being thankful for what would it be for you??????

American Terrorist

November 25, 2015 by

American Terrorist –

On finding a better life : some fundamental beliefs

November 25, 2015 by

Based on an earlier post….

On the fundamental beliefs of finding a better life :

1.Nothing can happen good enough to make a difference………………….. A better life is possible…….

Hope vs hopelessness

2. I can help make life better……. Nothing I do matters…….

Empowerment vs helplessness

3. I can learn what I need to learn in order to make life better…… I am incompetent. I continue to make the same old mistakes time after time…

Capability vs incompetence

4.. People support and encourage me. It matters to them that I matter….. No one cares…..

Connection vs. Isolation

5. It matters. My life has meaning and purpose. Who I am matters. How I live matters. Who I care about and who cares about me matters…. There is no point. Nothing holds water. Nothing is true….

Meaning vs no-sense

Who would have thought : On the mystery of Insure Tennessee

November 24, 2015 by

Who would have ever thought….. Who would have ever thought…. That :

1.  You would have a governor that over 60% of your people support…..
2.  That developed a program called Insure Tennessee that well over 50% of the people approved of to expand health insurance to 280,000 Tennesseans without insurance.
3. That was supported by virtually every single civic organization, every single business organization, virtually every single newspaper, many churches, and many civic and political leaders
4. Would announce that he would not actively attempt to get that program passed this year because although he still thought it was the right thing to do he thought it might be difficult to win

Who would have thought a governor supposed to “lead” the state would refuse to provide leadership for one of his most popular ideas because he thought it might be difficult to win?


Washington’s Horrible Mental Health Legislation

November 23, 2015 by

Washington’s Horrible Mental Health Legislation –

On what the dogs learned

November 21, 2015 by

(based on an earlier post)

One of the most famous experiments in psychology was done many years ago on dogs.  Now many years later it still effects how we think about ourselves.

The experiment was really simple.  They put a dog on an electrified pad and gave him an electric shock.  When he jumped a small fence onto another pad the shock stopped.  Not suprisingly the dogs learned to jump quickly.  Then they changed the rules.  They put the dog down on the same pad.  This time they waited until he jumped and then shocked the pad that before had been safe.  Took a bit longer but the dog stopped jumping.  But the important part of the experiment was the last part.

They changed the rules again.  Sometimes they shocked them for staying.  Sometimes they shocked them for jumping.  The important thing was that it didnt matter what the dog did.  Pain came randomly.  It couldnt be controlled or predicted.  It didnt matter what they did.

The dogs were more human than anyone recognized.  They laid down and quit.  They wet themselves.  Even when they took them out of the experimental situation they quit.  And some I think even stopped eating and died.  They died because of what they learned about life.

This experiment was the genesis of the theory of learned helplessness, and led to  many ideas about depression and the importance of optimism in human life.  It has profoundly effected many ideas about what cause depression and what can be done to help.

We are incredibly tough and resilent characters.  I have known people who dealt with incredible pain and suffering in ways that seem almost beyond understanding.  The key is to find a pattern to the pain, an order.  We can find the strength to do almost anything as long as there is the smallest something that we can do to make a difference.

I am reminded of  a two friends who didnt make it.  One was not quite 17 when he died.  He had demons of his own, but was caught between a mother and father who both thought he was the ammunition in their battles.  It was too much and he simply gave.  He slashed both wrists, took a bottle of pills, and hung himself.

Another died from psychiatry.  She had problems, real problems for a long time.  She was given the pills to become better, but never found a person to hang onto.  Finally they were giving her meds to cure her other meds and nobody really knew what was causing anything anymore and she quit.  She gave.  She took a bottle of pills.  It took 4 days for her organ systems to shut down.

I wish the dogs could have talked to each other.  I wish we would never stop.  Sometimes it is in the stories we tell  and that we hear that we find the order to our pain.  It is finding out how others have lived that we grasp a way for us to make it.  The biggest lie of mental illness is that we are all alone, that our words must always fall on silent ground and our tears fall unseen amidst people who never know we are there.

Share your story today.  I wish the dogs could have talked.  Reach out to someone today.

Murphy delayed

November 21, 2015 by

The Murphy Bill is an incredibly, unquestionably Republican Bill

November 21, 2015 by

The Murphy Bill is an incredibly, unquestionably Republican Bill.

Like many Republican bills it….

1. Defends and extends the status, power, and authority of those who have status, power, and authority against the challenge of those who are without any.

2. Blames the federal government. Somehow according to Murphy things would be so much better if the federal government really cared about the people it is supposed to be helping. The federal government is a frequent boogeyman of Republican legislation.

3. Believes the main problem with things as they are is that they are not as they used to be. Turns back the clock to the “good ole days”.

4. Believes that some people should have less rights than others and that trying to protect the rights of all people causes untold problems.

5. Believes that people with problems need to be better regulated and managed. People need to be coerced into doing things “good for them” and watched closely to make sure they don’t get away with anything they shouldn’t.

6. Marginalizes and stigmatizes those it claims to help.

7. Relies on anger and fear and sensationalism to try to convince people to support it.

8. Does not regard the experience of those it claims to help as credible or important.

9. Substitutes partisan rhetoric and ideology for bipartisan connection and resolution.

10. Slanders the character and motivation of anyone who might disagree with it.

11. Uses targeted groups as excuses not to deal with difficult issues (guns).

12. Doesn’t take the issues of justice, poverty, discrimination, racism and others seriously.

13. Believes when in doubt blame those hurt or victimized by the system rather than the system.

14. Opens the door to increasingly regressive and punitive legislation.

When a major Republican presidential candidate says we should force an entire religious group to wear clothing that identifies them as different from other people (like the Nazis did to the Jews) and that statement is not meant with widespread condemnation by other Republicans do you not fear a mental health reform bill that as one of its provisions proposes a study that would basically require a registry of the “mentally ill”???

The Congress of the United States can, should and must do better than this. Our mental health system does not just let people to fall through the cracks. It lets them live there. Tell your legislators you want a bill that has serious answers for serious issues. Tell them you want a bill that makes the American promise of better life real for even the most vulnerable of our people.

Tell them simply :

It is time, way past time, to no longer ignore, dismiss, or blame those needing help. It is time to once and for ever create a system that will do no harm and finally offer people the help they need.

The dilemma of “responsible mental health advocacy”

November 19, 2015 by


Seems appropriate right now

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

From the archives:

The Tim Murphy Mental Health Reform Act (“TorreyCare” ???) has a lot of goodies in it.  It provides for funding of a bunch of ideas that have a lot of merit:  The excellence in mental health care act, mental health first aid, and reauthorization of funds for suicide prevention chief among them.  The operative question is at what cost.

There has always been a tension in mental health advocacy between the needs of providers and large organizations and the needs of consumers or persons with lived experience.  “Respectable” organizations tend to believe that what is good for mental health providers is good for mental health.  To an undeniable degree that is true.  The health of helpers is related to the degree of help they can provide.  But they are not the same.  The problem with the mental health system is not that the voice of mental health…

View original 313 more words

On getting past a normal life

November 19, 2015 by

It is so easy to forget that what becomes normal for us so often isn’t.  It got to the point for me that sometimes I wondered if anything could happen good enough to make a difference.  Nothing held water.   Life was floods and dry land more like something in a long ago dream rather than something that was real and possible.

Loneliness seemed normal and unhappiness part of being realistic.   I was never far enough past trauma to have post anything.   Tragedy was not something that happened.   It was just the way it was.

The moving has mattered.   Some prisons can only be seen best in the rear view mirror.  You lose the bars after a while. You don’t see them anymore. They become part of you….. and only later  you wonder if you have been lost too.  

We do what we are used to doing. We live the way we are used to living. We forget normal and usual are not the same thing. We try to accept what we can’t change instead of as one writer wrote “try to change the things we can’t stand.”

Much is still hard, very hard… and maybe always will be. But I have moved and 3 miles away is a million miles closer than 25.

Hurt and loss are very real and cannot be willed or wished away. But perhaps life can be more than usual. I think so… I hope so…. I pray so.

For the first time in a long time perhaps tomorrow may really be a new day.

We Need REAL Change in Mental Health Policy, Not the Illusion of Reform

November 18, 2015 by


Thank you for subscribing to “Hopeworks Community”

You’ll get an email with a link to confirm your sub. If you don’t get it, please contact us

The authors can also be followed on:

%d bloggers like this: