People don’t have a clue of the horror you have to go through.By Ruth Spencer & Amanda Holpuch Guardian UK (6/1/14)
As part of the Guardian’s ongoing investigation into American mental health care, we asked you to help us illustrate the effects of the lack of access to mental health treatment. We received an overwhelming response.
Today, we’re publishing five stories that show the personal and material cost that the families and friends of the mentally ill must take on when caring for a loved one.
‘My mother texts me every day to make sure I’m still alive’
I’m a junior at ASU studying Filmmaking and Fine Art, and I’m living with Bipolar Disorder Type Two Rapid Cycling. I see a psychiatrist and psychotherapist on a weekly basis; these appointments are an indispensable part of my treatment. My medications are constantly being adjusted to find a balance, and psychotherapy brings me awareness of the patterns of my illness. Medication and professionals, however, make up only half the arsenal to combat my illness. My family and friends are my greatest allies. They revitalize me from the eerie brokenness of depression, and effectively keep me grounded in the electric-fury of hypomania.
I’ve been diagnosed and seeing healthcare professionals for over 18 months now. My father is a police officer and receives great healthcare benefits. I’m still on his insurance plan and he covers the co-payments of the doctor’s visits.
The monthly cost of seeing both of my doctors once a week, is about $400. Additionally medication costs about $30 a month. That’s nearly $8,000 for 18 months. Plus, $350 for a 10-day hospital stay after a suicide attempt.
Before I was diagnosed or received any sort of treatment I was dysfunctional, indifferent towards my future, suicidal, self-destructive, self-medicating, perpetually moody, agitated, and I increasingly isolated myself from society. Medical treatment provided me the capacity to counter my illness, my family and friends became the excuse I constantly told myself to keep fighting the affliction. I’m very convinced that I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for others looking out for me and showing kindness.
I try not to think of myself as a burden on other people, although I’m sure it’s true to an extent.
I’ve cost my parents a small fortune, and I’ve seen it affect them financially. They’ve had to change their lifestyle, to take care of me, to be there for me. My mother texts me every day to make sure I’m still alive.
I’m not cured, mine isn’t a story of transcendence. I don’t believe I’ll ever break out of my mental prison. I don’t even know how many more years of life I have left, but I can say that I wasn’t forgotten or ignored, my life was recognized by others as having enough value to at least try and fight. – John, Phoenix, Arizona
‘When my daughter killed herself, I died too’
My daughter had been diagnosed with clinical depression as early as eight years old. Living in San Diego, we had access to outstanding healthcare. We took her regularly to therapists as she was on my excellent health insurance plan. Her depression, with medication, was manageable.
She did well in school, even though we had a number of problems with her moodiness. She went on to college, graduated, and no longer qualified for my health plan. She got a temp job as a teacher for a year, then was out of a work.
I started paying for her doctor’s visits and medication. After spending over $40,000 dollars that I’d borrowed from my IRA, I was tapped out.
She had to rely on our county’s public mental health care to get the treatment and meds she needed.
There are some excellent and well-meaning people that work for counties in mental health, but they are so overburdened and burnt out they can only do so much.
At the age of 33, my daughter committed suicide. I died too.
I was unable to continue working. I wanted to work till I was 75, but retired at 72 because I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers and found myself just sitting and staring at a computer screen all day and accomplishing little. That was five years ago, and my nightmares are now just beginning to subside and I can function reasonably well now. – Jim Fawcett, Houston, Texas
‘It was a miracle when we found my brother a place to live’
If you would have told me 25 years ago that my family and I would still be caring for my brother, I wouldn’t have believed you. He suffers from schizophrenia and has wreaked havoc on our family emotionally, physically and financially.
When we found him Section 8 housing in San Rafael 12 years ago, it was a miracle and only happened because we knew somebody who knew somebody.
This year, the Non Smoking Ordinance rendered him homeless…