Thursday, February 25, 2010
Fingerprints, by Mary Neal
Creativity, innovation, and individuality are are responsible for much that we enjoy in life, from scientific inventions to the arts. However, people are frequently ridiculed, ostracized, and punished - even murdered - for being different in any way. Discrimination is prevalent against minorities, GLBT people, foreigners, obviously poor or uneducated people, and nearly every new kid in a second grade class. Nothing is allowed except uniformity.
We are to conform. We are to think alike, dress alike, and react alike to all stimuli. Otherwise, we can expect to be punished. That is terribly wrong, because God loves diversity. He showed that throughout His creation by making every single person and thing different. No one even has the same fingerprint on two of her fingers! Diversity is good. But society doesn't tolerate diversity very well. This hurts people, and it hurts weak people worse. Acute mental patients CANNOT conform. Therefore, they are Tasered, gassed, warehoused in prisons sometimes without criminal charges, and some are killed. That is why you and I must STAND for those who cannot stand for themselves. We must SPEAK for those who have no voice, those who are shut away in solitary confinement prison cells because they are deemed to be "unacceptably different" and lack the wherewithal to modify their behavior to meet expected standards in society. Psychiatric patients need treatment, not imprisonment. It is illegal to treat dogs as some imprisoned mental patients are treated. We must share their pain and BE their solution.
Members of ASSISTANCE TO THE INCARCERATED MENTALLY ILL ("AIMI") advocate online to decriminalize mental illness. We believe that treatment should replace imprisonment as America's response to mental illness. Your help in this effort is needed. Donations are appreciated, and there are other ways to assist. Representative Eddie Johnson introduced H.R.619 to resume Medicaid funding for inpatient psychiatric treatment. Withdrawal of that funding led to today's crisis of 1.25 million sick people being imprisoned, some of whom have no criminal charges but were interned on lunacy arrests. Please ask your representatives to support H.R. 619. The public cannot care about conditions they do not know about. Please visit my line-up of articles at http://NowPublic.com/duo and at Care2 - http://www.care2.com/news/member/513396753?sort=submitted as well as my blog http://freespeakblog.blogspot.com/ Share them with others in your blogs, and address the issue of decriminalizing mental illness when you comment on news, write emails, and when you converse with friends and family. Not long ago, victims of child abuse and domestic violence were too afraid of being stigmatized to ask for help. After numerous brave survivors aired their issues on talk shows and sought justice against their abusers in court, public policy changed. More help was made available in terms of shelters and stronger laws. The stigma associated with such victimization was reduced by people who laid their problems before the public. You can help to raise public awareness about criminalizing mental illness, an issue that devastates the lives of millions of Americans - sick people and their families.
Read a success story about an AIMI member's son, William. William could be imprisoned right now just like Jeremy Smith, another member's son who is facing a possible life sentence in a California prison. Jeremy Smith hit another mental patient at his mental health facility, but caused no lasting damage. Upon arrest, Jeremy was rude to a guard. His sentence may be lengthened, as he was charged with making "terrorist threats." Inmates who are schizophrenic like Jeremy often have time added to their sentences. Both William and Jeremy acted inappropriately due to mental illness. After a prolonged search, William's mother was able to find a good program for him in North Carolina where he is progressing. Jeremy Smith, on the other hand, is in solitary confinement. See comments about William's progress at this link http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=17280&pst=854483 and compare them to Jeremy Smith's regression while suffering in "the hole": Justice 4 Jeremy Petition - http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/JusticeForJeremy
Jeremy and many other psychiatric patients can be restored to useful, wholesome lives. Like any other chronic disease, acute mental illness requires treatment. Besides the fact that treatment accessibility is inadequate in the U.S., many psychiatric patients do not recognize their own need for treatment. Patients whose sense of reason is compromised by mental illness, especially those experiencing a crisis, need someone else to make treatment decisions for them. Therefore, in addition to increasing the availability of psychiatric services, we must stop waiting until crimes are committed before relieving patients of making their own mental health care choices. A small percentage of mentally ill offenders need permanent hospitalization - containment in a secure healing environement rather than life in prison. For others, mandated psychiatric treatment upon prison or hospital release is vital to their ability to function outside of a controlled environment.
It would be significantly less expensive and more humane to provide quality community care programs and inpatient facilities for crisis patients and those requiring long-term care than it is to imprison people, usually after avoidable tragedies. To decriminalize mental illness would advance public safety and reduce the suffering sick Americans endure for being "unacceptably different." For many centuries, acute mental patients were treated as sub-human, and that standard has returned in 21st century America. It is illogical to relegate over a million people to dungeons because they need treatment they may have been deprived of or lacked the rationale to accept. The list of people who made valuable contributions to society despite mental illness is very impressive and includes masters in the field of science, the arts, and government. A life is a terrible thing to waste.
You are invited to visit AIMI online and consider joining our advocacy group at this link: http://www.Care2.com/c2c/group/AIMI - AIMI is an avenue for us to channel our collective voice. Let us use it. Let us say loud and clear, CHANGE how mentally ill people in America are treated. We will NOT stand mute while they are imprisoned rather than treated for having a common, treatable health condition. We will not ignore their cries and their families' agony as they are being destroyed.
One in five people in America is estimated to suffer from some type of mental illness. I had a sick brother named Larry Neal, a lifelong schizophrenic heart patient who spent 20 years as an inpatient until hospitals closed and downsized in the 1970's and community psychiatric care became less available. Those events caused hundreds of thousands of mental patients like Larry to revolve in and out of prisons and jails for public displays of their psychotic disorders. Larry's repeated arrests culminated in his jailhouse death in 2003 and the birth of AIMI. There are many others like Larry who require better accessibility to mental health care. Some elected officials care about what their constituents care about. Help more people to know and care about this issue. Become an advocate for change by supporting the effort to decriminalize mental illness. Please don't let Larry's death and Jeremy Smith's cruel imprisonment be in vain.
Like fingerprints, everyone is different. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses. One certainty is that all people experience disabilities if they live long enough. But no one should be punished for having a disability, especially with a less expensive option available that is more humane, just, and safer for disabled individuals and the general public. Help bring America out of the Dark Ages. Dogs have protections in America that mentally ill citizens lack. If our canine friends were kept in a small, dark, cold, isolated space for 23 hours a day, most of us would report the abuse. Yet 60% of inmates in solitary confinement are mentally ill. See the petition calling for DOG JUSTICE for Larry Neal and other mentally ill inmates at this site: http://www.petitiononline.com/Neal/petition.html . Please demand that treatment replace incarceration for the mentally ill people in your state. To see videos with real-time censorship and terrorism to prevent human rights advocacy, including advocacy to pass H.R.619 for mental hospital insurance, please visit my YouTube channel jkempp703 at this link - http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=jkempp703&aq=f
ASSISTANCE TO THE INCARCERATED MENTALLY ILL
Mary Loves Justice, P.O. Box 153, Redan, GA 30074
Mary Neal's Google Profile - http://www.google.com/profiles/MaryLovesJustice - Get the RSS feed for my Care2 Sharebook at: http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/rss.html/513396753/0/ - Get the RSS feed for my Twitter KOFFIETIME at http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/59790083.rss - Current, urgent justice issues from a laywoman's viewpoint at my primary blog http://freespeakblog.blogspot.com/ (the name is a joke, believe me) Recommended articles - http://topsy.com/site/freespeakblog.blogspot.com - Address: MaryLovesJustice, P.O. Box 153, Redan, GA 30074-0153