current events


In the United States, there is a large stigma regarding mental health issues. The Mayo clinic website explains this well.  However also implies that the age of stigma has passed.  It hasn’t. People seem much more comfortable saying they have diabetes or asthma than saying they have a mental illness.  For many years this has resulted in unequal treatment of mental and physical illness and in employment and insurance, but that may be changing, and it must.

An editorial in yesterday’s LaCrosse (Wisconsin) Tribune notes that:

[I]f we continue to let mental illnesses go untreated because of paltry insurance benefits and under-funding of public efforts at mental health care and intervention, we’ll continue to pay an escalating monetary cost — in law enforcement, in prisons, in emergencycare at the county level of people in extremis.

Last week, the congress and Obama administration passed new laws that are intended to bring equality to the treatment of mental health issues.  In a New York Times article, Robert Pear said this:

Insurers cannot set higher co-payments and deductibles or stricter limits on treatment for mental illness and addiction disorders. Nor can they establish separate deductibles for mental health care and for the treatment of physical illnesses.

Such disparities are common in the insurance industry. By sweeping away such restrictions, doctors said, the rules will make it easier for people to obtain treatment for a wide range of conditions, including depression, autism,schizophreniaeating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse.

Unfortunately, this may not be the case — at least not for everyone. The same New York Times author points out that:

The rules apply to group health insurance plans of the kind typically offered by employers. Federal health officials said the rules did not apply to the individual insurance market, where policies are sold directly to individuals and families. However, some states have laws that apply to the individual market.

Even if the laws apply to individual insurance buyers, it may not be enough. Robert Preidt’s article in BusinessWeek’s Health Day News from yesterday points out:

Fears about losing status at work and about confidentiality are among the main reasons that many American workers are more hesitant to seek treatment for mental health issues than for physical health problems, according to a national survey released this week by the American Psychiatric Association.

Very few of the editorials call for  what I think is equally necessary: equal and adequate treatment of mental illnesses in the prison system and administered by the courts.  Society’s destigmatized acceptance of mental health will take a lot longer.

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In case you missed it …. I’ve been published in a real magazine! Over at Mother Jones.  Yes, of course it is about being a kid with a parent in jail.

We love seeing bad parents getting punished. Why don’t we care how that affects their kids—like me?

No, I didn’t choose the photo and no, that is NOT what I look like.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan since the fall of my second grade year, and in Iraq for half of the years I have been in school. In all that time, and in all of the years that we watched Channel One News in the mornings, we never saw a casket, never heard about the war dead or the loss of limbs, and only heard about veterans one day a year.

That changed last Tuesday.

Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been President of the United States during my schooling, and all three have addressed the nation’s students in the first weeks of school. Clips of these addresses were shown on Channel One, or the existence of the speeches was mentioned in news stories. There was never any controversy.

That changed this September.

This August, we were warned that the President was scheduled to speak to students across the nation, and the news media was full of dire predictions of this unprecedented address. We were originally asked to have our parents sign a form saying that we could listen to the fifteen minute national pep rally for paying attention and focusing on our studies, with the option of spending that time in another room. Then the speech was canceled except in U.S. government classes. Our infantile minds were apparently not prepared to absorb such concepts as hard work and setting goals.

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

image via Fort Hood Sentinel

And yet, we were apparently sufficiently mature to watch last week’s memorial service from Fort Hood. Without warning and without parental permission, this solemn service and the words of the President and several reverends were shown school-wide, in class.
(more…)

There was a memorial vigil at Fort Hood tonight, but I didn’t get a chance to go. I have been thinking all day about who might be mourning the soldiers who died.

Do you know this Dixie Chicks song? The girl who is mourning the dead soldier (from the Vietnam War) is mourning alone under the stands at a HS football game, and no one even knows that she knew him, that she fell in love with him.

President Obama and everyone else has sent their sympathies to the families of all of the people who were killed yesterday here in Texas, but I wonder if there’s anyone else mourning who is just crying by themselves under the stands.

It’s a real tragedy. I don’t think we understand enough about what happened, but we know enough that it’s time to end all of the wars.

Lyrics:

“Travelin’ Soldier”

Two days past eighteen
He was waiting for the bus in his army green
Sat down in a booth in a cafe there
Gave his order to a girl with a bow in her hair
He’s a little shy so she gives him a smile
And he said would you mind sittin’ down for a while
And talking to me,
I’m feeling a little low
She said I’m off in an hour and I know where we can go

So they went down and they sat on the pier
He said I bet you got a boyfriend but I don’t care
I got no one to send a letter to
Would you mind if I sent one back here to you

Chorus: I cried
Never gonna hold the hand of another guy
Too young for him they told her
Waitin’ for the love of a travelin’ soldier
Our love will never end
Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again
Never more to be alone when the letter said
A soldier’s coming home

So the letters came from an army camp
In California then Vietnam
And he told her of his heart
It might be love and all of the things he was so scared of
He said when it’s getting kinda rough over here
I think of that day sittin’ down at the pier
And I close my eyes and see your pretty smile
Don’t worry but I won’t be able to write for awhile

[Chorus]

One Friday night at a football game
The Lord’s Prayer said and the Anthem sang
A man said folks would you bow your heads
For a list of local Vietnam dead
Crying all alone under the stands
Was a piccolo player in the marching band
And one name read but nobody really cared
But a pretty little girl with a bow in her hair

[Chorus x2]

Dear Levi & Mercede,

I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs.  I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.

I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.

I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.

  1. Go to Alateen.  Or ACOA.  Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom.  Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!
  2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young.  And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around.  I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.
  3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail.  Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are.  Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail.  Stay away from them.  Same thing with overly curious adults.
  4. People will ask you what they can do to help.  It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts.  You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
  5. Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.
  6. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people.  So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.

We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment.  And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime.  Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.

I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction.  You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.

Your friend,

Cassie

President Obama got in a lot of trouble this week when the press took a still picture from a video and made it seem like he was looking at a 16 or 17 year old girl’s ass in a tight dress. A few comments on this.

  • That’s NOT what he was looking at. Watch the whole video.

US Magazine says this:

Pictures can be deceiving.

Yesterday, a photo surfaced of President Barack Obama seemingly checking out the backside of a 17-year-old junior delegate at the G-8 summit in Italy.

But new video tells a different story.

See Obama’s “Just Like Us” moments.

It appears Obama wasn’t sneaking a peak; instead, he was just helping another young delegate down the stairs.

But French president Nicholas Sarkozy’s intentions aren’t as clear.

The Head of State — who’s married to former model Carla Bruni — keeps his face drawn toward the 17-year-old.

  • I am a 17 year old girl and I know that if I wear sexy clothes and walk a certain way, MOST men will look at me. It’s the reason I wear short skirts some times and don’t wear them other days. So what if he DID look? Who cares? It’s not like she had an ID out that showed her age.
  • Girls and women have the power to dress the way we want to dress in the United States. And be who we want to be. We don’t all need image consultants, and we don’t all mind if men look at us when we walk past.

Time magazine had a story this week that asks a great question, but they’ll never find the right answer if they continue to see our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as “wars” and not “occupations”.

Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?

I’m glad they’re asking the question about military recruiters, and glad people are reading about it, but here’s the part that shows they’ll never find the answer:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now the longest waged by an all-volunteer force in U.S. history. Even as soldiers rotate back into the field for multiple and extended tours, the Army requires a constant supply of new recruits. But the patriotic fervor that led so many to sign up after 9/11 is now eight years past. That leaves recruiters with perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army.

The problem is not that we are less patriotic or that no one wants to serve. The problem is that these are occupations and no one wants to continue fighting wars that we won years and years ago.

Last year alone, the number of recruiters who killed themselves was triple the overall Army rate. Like posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, recruiter suicides are a hidden cost of the nation’s wars.

Yes there is a problem here, and yes the recruiters need help, but mostly we need to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even with this economy, poor kids don’t want to go into the military any more. Would you?

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