Newspaper Archive of
Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
November 18, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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November 18, 1990

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PAGE 10 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC NOVEMBER 18, 1990 "Illness," from page 9 had to say. "My words were often stifled or pa- tronized or just plain discounted be- cause I was mentally ill and couldn't possibly know what I was talking about," she says. q have always been outspoken, and I quickly learned that there's little room for a bold mental patient in an oppressive system that pro- motes coercive techniques, blind faith in profes- sionals and con- venient labeling of uninformed individuals." Jami Lynch Lynch has been a mental patient since 1982. She says her psy- chiatrist at the time was a kind, soft- spoken man who truly wanted to help. He gave her Haldol and Cogentin, which she gladly took because she thought it would make her better. Instead, she began to hallucinate and became severely depressed. She thought she was losing her mind. Lynch was told that what she was feeling were symp- toms of a mental illness. She desperately wanted help, but felt she wasn't getting any, although she'd been hospitalized three times. She be- gan to resist hospital treatments alto- gether. When she heard talks of com- mitment, she left the state and stayed with her brother and his wife. q continued to take Haldol, still be- lieving it would make me well if I stuck it out," she says. kept getting worse though, and two months later, I quit taking it. Within days, I was able to return home and resume my life." Lynch experienced severe memory lapses, but the depression and halluci- nations were gone. She no longer sought help from the mental health system. In 1084, severe symptoms reoccurred, and Lynch's aunt had her committed to the state hospital. She didn't know what else to do," Lynch says of her aunt. qt broke her heart to do what she felt was her only option." Since then,she has been committed twice and threatened with commitment many times whenever she'd refuse to comply with her treatment program. q was strong-spirited, strong-willed, angry, rebellious and terrified," Lynch says. q was never the model patient, and I would often cause trouble to al- leviate boredom, or I'd explode to re- lease the stress of restrained emotions. I've been forcibly drugged with medi- cations that I knew were making me worse. I've been misdiagnosed count- less times, and I've been told over and over that I would not ever get better. "In some of the hospitals, I've seen and experienced outrageous acts of physical, sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse inflicted by power-hungry hospital workers upon mental patients who were at their most vulnerable." Through PEOPL, Lynch learned that she had a right to be in this world and to express herself without being repri- manded. She also discovered that she is a valid human being. She began to speak up with a new confidence. Today, Lynch dreams of a mental health system in which everyone is in- formed and everyone counts. She pic- tures a system where patients have the final say in their treatment programs. She visualizes every consumer being educated about mental illness and ex- ercising their right to informed consent. "I believe in trial and error and al- lowing consumers the right to fail as well as to succeed," she says. "I believe that just because a person is labeled mentally ill does not doom him or her to incompetence every single day of their life. As competent human beings, we should be allowed to make decisions regarding our own lives. We should be allowed to take responsibility for those decisions." The Family "After I moved away from home I never told anyone about my brother, Debbie says. "I guess lmas afraid that people knew I have a brother who is mentally ill, they might wonder about me." That's how the sister of a mental patient describes how her brother's Your meaning and recog- nitions fall into new and different perceptions. mental illness has affected her life over the past 30 years. A serious, chronic mental disease af- fects the entire family, emotionally, psychologically and fmandally. Whether it is because so little is known about the origin of the disease, or because in today's society mental illness remains a stigma, family members suffer guilt, fear, blame, stress and worry. The youngest in the family, Debbie was in the sixth grade when her brother Alex, a senior in high school, experi- enced a "nervous breakdown." He was placed in an out-of-state hospital. q don't really remember all the facts about when Alex first became sick," she says. And she doesn't want to believe her brother's illness contributed to her behavior. Growing up, I think the reason I never had a lot of friends was because I was embarrassed about my brother's illness," she explains, q never wanted to have people over to my house be- cause of him. Too, I always used to wonder why it was my brother who was sick and not me." Debbie's brother lives at home with parents who are well into their 70's. Since March 1990, he's been on new medication which has reduced some of the symptoms of his disease. For the first time in his life he no longer paces excessively, showers in the middle of the night or talks to himself. However, even with the dramatic changes in their son's behavior, Debbie's parents can never leave him alone for more than a few hours. "Some decisions need to be made concerning the future," Debbie admits. "But my parents and I just haven't talked about it yet. Frankly, I don't know what is going to happen to my brother when Morn and Dad die." Alternatives and support A network of caring people and or- ganizations exists to provide resources, understanding and support for the mentally ill, their families and the com- munity. For further information or assistance regarding a psychological disorder or problem, contact the following: Arkansas Alliance for the Mentally 111, Help and Hope, Inc., 4313 W. Mark- ham, Little Rock, 72205; 661-1548. AAMI provides support and under- standing to families and individuals dealing with problems brought on by mental illness. The organization acts as an advocate to obtain services and quality treatment at the local level. PEOPL, Personal Empowerment of the Psychiatrically Labeled, 4313 W. Markham, Little Rock, 72205; 686-9000. Primarily a support group, PEOPLe focuses on pubhc awareness, consumer advocacy and education. i Community Mental Health Centers identify, assess and diagnosis mental illnesses. They provide assistance to clients in applying for entitlements or benefits, crisis stabilization and inter': vention services. In addition, CMHCs provide psychosocial rehabilitation services,: supportive living and working arrange" ments of indefinite duration and medi" : cal and mental health care. CMHCs involve community members in planning and offering housing off[ working opportunities, protection of :] client rights, and case management to 'I ensure continuous availability of al propriate forms of assistance. (Betsy McNeil of Rogers is a frequent I contrilmtdrr to Arkansas Catholic.) o thank the mental heal 1 rofessionals who so gene.r- [ [ usly contributed to thisIii[ ue, and author Betsy-l. l cNeil for her outstanding ,:[ii [ i text and phts" IdJ ! 1] mentally ill need your help. " I.earn what mental illness is, and ian*L Support those with mental ill- nesses, offer to be a friend, help their families. Object when media and others stigmatize mental illness. Employ those with mental ill" nesses. Join advocacy groups for the mentally ill. Write the governor and state Representatives to let them know you care about the mentally ill. Pray for those who suffer from mental illness, their families and those who work to help them.