Tonight I read a post by Dan Wells, one of my favorite authors, about the state of healthcare for the mentally ill. It’s worth reading, and you can find it here. But even more important and poignant is another blog post Dan links to, written by his brother, Robison Wells, who struggles with mental illness.
This is an uncomfortable piece to read for many reasons, but it’s important. It’s both frightening for me, as I can see some similarities with myself, and reassuring, as it’s still largely alien. But more uncomfortable still is the impact of both brothers’ posts put together. Robison Wells struggles with his illness, but he is self-aware enough, and has a strong enough support structure that he seems to be managing it.
But he is a rare case. As Dan Wells points out, far more people with mental illness deny they have a problem and do not voluntarily get help. For those who are close to them it’s agonizing that they know there is a problem, but there is nothing the can do about it. Until that person commits a crime the State will do nothing about it. And, as we know all too painfully, by then it’s too late.
I’m not sure why we don’t do more as a country to help deal with mental illness. At the risk of being controversial, how is it we can come up with the money to provide free contraception, but not provide help for people and their loved ones who are struggling with mental illness? The Wells brothers are right–we can do better. We must do better.
Robison Wells, you and your family have my admiration. It must take a great deal of courage to recognize and admit your struggles to yourself, let alone the world at large. It must take a great deal of humility and self-awareness to recognize not only that you have a problem, but that you can’t just ignore it and hope for the best. It’s not the standard version of courage we are taught to admire, but it is incredible courage nonetheless. God bless you for that courage and your example to the rest of us.
Note: I am not advocating simply throwing more money at the problem. What I’m saying is that mental illness is more important a problem than some of the “problems” we are throwing money at. And, frankly, money won’t help that much in this case until we make some other, more basic changes as a society.