by Joseph Merlin Bowers
I first became aware that the mental health system in this country was badly broken in 1979. Getting really sick toward the end of that year, I was arrested, thrown in jail, subjected to psychical restraints and solitary confinement when I knew I belonged in a hospital. I planed to sue somebody all the time I was incarcerated. After my release, I got no support or encouragement from my court appointed lawyer in this endeavor. Lacking the resources to shop for another lawyer, I let it go.
Highly pissed off, I didn’t blame any particular individual or group but the system as a whole. Since 1979 I have done everything I could think of to fight for reform. Being pretty powerless, I mostly watched feeling helpless as things slowly but steadily worsened-until this week.
As the passage of the Cures Act became more of a certainty, I shed many tears. This momentous event is both bitter and sweet for me. It represents the first positive step in the right direction to occur in my nearly 70 years on earth. There is much yet to be done, but this is a really solid foundation on which to build. I am overjoyed. But my tears are not just tears of joy.
How could one not reflect on the untold pain and suffering of the afflicted and there loved ones as tens of thousands of lives have been needlessly wasted since 1979. Suicides, death from confrontations with poorly trained policemen, imprisonment for crimes both serious and minor that never would have occurred had illness been treated promptly and properly. The sustained high levels of homelessness since the beginning of deinstitutionalization.
There have been so many needless casualties in this long often futile battle. My heart bleeds for so many I know or have known and so many I’ve only heard of or imagined.
But real progress has occurred. If we press the advantage and continue every effort toward further reform, the casualty count will diminish. Sad tears will become fewer-joyous tears more common.