Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? I didn’t until it was almost over.
On Tuesday night I went to my local library to hear two people from NAMI tell their stories of mental illness. I hope to blog about that in the future because their stories were powerful.
This evening I had the opportunity to hear Kay Redfield Jamison speak. I thought twice about whether I really wanted to go, since it meant that I missed the season finale of Lost. (Don’t tell me what happened, I’ll watch it online sometime soon!)
Kay Redfield Jamison is probably the person most well-known for having manic/depression, as well as being a psychiatrist and expert on the subject. I read her autobiographical book Unquiet Mind over Christmas, it was a quick and fascinating read. In person she is engaging and funny, as well as generous with her answers. I hope to read more of her work, particularly the one about artistic temperament and mood disorders.
One of the many noteworthy points made, off-hand, was the observation that mental illness usually strikes people in their late teens and early twenties. I was aware of this, but hadn’t really thought about some of the implications of this fact. The American health care system is not set up to address mental health helpfully, as young people are usually leaving their parent’s home — and benefits –just as they become ill. The process of diagnosis is not quick or easy or cheap. Plus, many mental illnesses surface as substance abuse issues, which must be factored into the picture.
Money. How did I not see this? The age of onset creates a problem in terms of advocacy. Who will lobby for those all-important research funding dollars? It was apparent from the questions tonight that families who are dealing with this subject personally are reeling. But somebody has to lobby, and lobby hard. The plethora of pink ribbons (on cars! see yesterday’s post!) have taught us, if nothing else, the importance of raising awareness and hounding the powers-that-be for research dollars.
Tonight’s lecture was underwritten by the communty of Alexandria, I believe. And yes, NAMI is a wonderful resource. But what about the church? Shouldn’t the church be a partner in the important cause of reducing stigma for people to reach out for mental health? People come to church searching for healing, after all.