Tutti-Frutti Treatment

Too often it’s the norm that people are turned away from the hospital doors. They’re sent out into the community where they get sicker and sicker. Then they commit a crime that lands them in jail where they have no chance of getting better treatment.

More and more too community mental health centers (CMHCs) are ill-equipped to help people who are sick. Their recorded messages tell you to go to the nearest emergency room. Where you’ll undoubtedly be turned away.

My experiences with CMHCs have been dismal. From 1987 to 1989, I was shunted into day programs. I had to stand up and shout louder to be given the right to pursue my goal of getting a full-time job and living independently. It was an ongoing battle to be given crumbs from the table that normal people feasted at. I wanted a seat at that table. I wanted to have a better life.

The CMHC staff no one there thought I could do it. You were supposed to be folded up and zip your lip not make waves. I rebelled the role of “mental patient.” I had higher expectations for what I could do in life. My mother too booted my ass to get a job.

Circa 2015 I wonder if this has changed. You’re bounced around like billiard balls from hospital to jail to hospital to jail. CMHCs don’t want to treat you either if you’re sick.

I have the dubious honor of having had a therapist tell me five years ago that she couldn’t treat me because I was high-functioning. I thought OK she could be right. I had gone to her in good faith. Five years later I’m stuck on my own trying to get help and once again I have no hope of getting help. Waiting lists exist that are a mile long or else there are no appointments and no waiting lists at other agencies.

In 1993, I was told I was too low-functioning for a therapist to treat me. Three weeks after that, a therapist told me I couldn’t possibly have schizophrenia. “You can join my group but don’t tell the others you were in a hospital.” He imposed a gag order.

What’s up with this tutti-frutti treatment?

More likely it’s rocky road trying to get help.

The mental health system is dysfunctional.

Good luck getting help when you need it.

This is why individuals get worse because their situation magnifies into something unmanageable.

Left untreated, or left without treatment for too long, a person has a snowball’s chance in hell of having an easier time of it in life. Everything they want to do could be a battle. Nothing will come easy.  The Internet abounds with stories of bloggers whose lives are enduring hell because they didn’t get the right treatment as soon as they needed it.

I want that no other human being should live in this kind of hell. I want that no one who needs help and seeks help is turned away. I want that everyone has the equal opportunity to succeed.

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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