Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tucson, AZ Part I

The debate continues about what happened in Tucson, and how it should be handled to prevent such tragedies in the future. For me personally, as a licensed mental health professional, as a mental health advocate, as the director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, the discussion is a painful one for many reasons. I, like all of us, am profoundly saddened by the loss of life and serious injuries that have changed lives forever. I am deeply saddened this poor, tortured soul wasn't able to cry out and receive effective treatment that might have avoided this whole ordeal. Like the proverbial train wreck, I have wanted to look away and at the same time couldn't take my eyes and ears away from the aftermath.

Going forward, trying to cope with the tragedy in my own private way, I have listened to the national debate like the rest of you. To me, it divides into three primary areas of questioning. First, was the tragedy in Tucson caused, or at least encouraged, by the strident, and at times, hate filled political fighting that rages day and night through the media? Second, was it caused by the access to guns, particularly those with automatic settings and over-sized clips obtained by a person with a history of perceived mental illness? Or thirdly, was it caused by a untreated mentally ill individual whose mental health needs were ignored or dismissed as beyond the scope of providing help whether the person wanted the help or not?

While some of the debate delves into similar, or even completely different aspects, I believe these are the three central themes making up the primary arguments. And they are all highly complex. Tomorrow, we begin to take them up, one at a time. Feel free to join in the discussion.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day #3 The Great Blizzard of 2011 or What To Do?

Well, as most of you know, this has been the proverbial "week that was." Like me, many of you have been trapped by the most dramatic, most paralyzing snow storm I've seen since moving to Reservoir Hill in 1981. Never, have we been so unable to move as noted by the condition of the Saab pictured above. My latest Saab story, as I like to refer to them. This one doesn't involve my mechanic, but low wheel clearance matched against 14.5 inches of snow and three to four foot drifts. So, what to do? Check out my second picture and add in spending time with my most wonderful, lovely wife, walking the dogs, cooking elk chili, baking bread, eating ice cream and chocolate, working via Google Apps, and anything else that comes to mind, and generally, making the best out of helpless situation. I only hope your time has been as wonderful as mine in the Great Blizzard of 2011.

Now to more serious matters. Well, actually, not so much. Being my blog, I have to poke fun a bit at the media. As most of you know, the Mental Health Association gets calls from the media to comment on mental health or substance abuse related events. First, leading up to the big storm, one of the local TV stations asked for an interview on how to prepare oneself for the Big Storm. Wow! Six years of university and 30 years of practice experience. Get ready for this! See who can top these suggestions from my years of wisdom... cooking, board games, cleaning out closets (I haven't done mine yet, but I will tomorrow), walking to the movie theater, reading a good book, etc. The ideas just keep coming.

Then, a local radio station calls today regarding this thing called "cabin fever." It is something all people trapped by weather or possibly...prison, come to understand very well. While not a real diagnosis, we all recognize the common symptoms of feeling restless, trapped, a bit anxious, bored, and maybe a bit angry and frustrated by the helplessness of the situation. While not serious, it can have a much more serious side over time. Especially when people start running low on their needed medications, or start to run low on food, or oxygen supplies, or other necessary needs that are directly connected to quality of life or even safety, and well-being. For many of us our work disruption can lead to loss of income, potentially threatening our housing or ability to pay bills. More serious yet, people often turn to alcohol or substances (or be unable to re-supply their addictive substance) during this long period of being cooped up, which may lead to the threat of domestic violence or other serious conflict between family members or friends.

In closing out Day #3, stay warm, and stay safe. Try to manage the dreaded"cabin fever" and avoid getting on the roads unless you have a four wheel drive, or until some warming begins to break this mess up.

Tomorrow: Tucson

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, I am a bit embarrassed to admit my "blog disappearance." But...the fact is, I haven't written in my blog since last August, and I am sure my "many" loyal followers have long since found better things to do with their time. Of late, I have been thinking much about the blog and how I want to get it going once again, and giving consideration to the question of "do I really have something worthwhile to say?" I have come to the conclusion I do have things to say, and some of those things might be considered important to others, and not just to me alone. If I am to resurrect my blog, however, I have to write something of substance at least five times per week. After much thought, and with ongoing prayer, and I am making a commitment to do so. But...as they say, words are cheap. So let's see what happens. Stay tuned, and I think you will find my edge can be sharp, and at times provocative. I will step on toes, and you may want to step on mine back. Often, I hope to allow you to see into the deep areas of my mind regarding a host of mental health related topics, and hopefully, you will feel compelled to weigh in to agree, disagree, and to offer your own thoughts on timely, relevant, mental health topics. So...let's begin.

Not surprisingly, I am returning to the topic of Transitional Age Youth, ages 16 to 25. As noted in blogs last summer, our city, state, and country are failing miserably to come to terms with these growing numbers of older teens and young adults who are not being supported and prepared to transition into healthy, emancipated, taxpaying, law abiding, effective child rearing, adults. The above statement is shockingly true for those teens living in foster care, housed in juvenile justice, or getting away from severely dysfunctional families. Teens in foster care and juvenile justice are NOT being prepared for adulthood and adult responsibility by those in charge of their care prior to age 18. Officials with Oklahoma Juvenile Authority (OJA) and Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of coming to grips with the reality these young adults will face upon turning age 18 and "aging out of the system." To even consider for a moment that the so called Yes I Can program is adequate to meet the needs of these kids represents the height of denial. Elected officials who claim they are for effective use of taxpayer funds should rise up and declare a statewide crisis as these young adults are getting pregnant, becoming homeless, and becoming incarcerated at alarming rates, creating a next generation of dysfunctional, state draining, non-taxpaying adults who cannot contribute to the community and state in a positive fashion.

Do you think I am making this up? Then try out this idea. Imagine anyone reading this has a dependent child turning 18 tomorrow. When your child walks out of their bedroom on their 18th birthday tomorrow, hand them a card with a 1 800 number linked to a stranger who will tell them, if they call, what benefits will be available to them after age 18, along with all of the "ifs, ands, buts" related to their ability to access these benefits. Also, tell them they have to move out of your home on the same day. Hopefully, you have prepared them adequately for all of this. No need to take a car because they not only will not have a car, they are very unlikely to have a driver's license. Go ahead, do it! Tell them "good luck and hit the road." Maybe you can drive them down to the Day Center for the Homeless so they will at least be out of the elements. That, and much more, is what is happening to these kids. It is not only immoral, it is the worst of possible public policy strategies coupled worst of "return on investment" economic outcomes.

Stay tuned Oklahoma. The Mental Health Association in Tulsa is coming and we are going to rub our (yes, OUR, as I am a part of it, also) collective Oklahoma noses in our own crap concerning these poor kids. We can not only do better, if we give these kids half of what most of us give to our transitioning "kids," we might even be able to sleep better at night knowing we have not thrown these young adults to the wolves and without the skills and resources to make it in this increasingly tough economic world. Not only should we be ashamed of ourselves, we are also stupid, because it MAKES NO SENSE! Wake up Oklahoma! Our kids need us!