Consumer Testimony

Robin Cunningham Health Guide
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    Next week I expect to resume my series of blogs called Choices in Recovery.

     

    During our national political campaigns, there arises from our populace, media and candidates a litany condemning those members of Congress that are influenced by lobbyists and special interest groups.  The outcry mimics the clamorous call of migrating Canadian geese.  Like Canadian geese that head south to escape the freezing weather, our legislators try to distance themselves from the earmarks that served their constituents well and may even have gotten them re-elected.

     

    This election cycle has been no exception.  When confronted on this issue, many of our representatives and senators do a soft shoe across the stage of their districts and states that rival that of the mayor in the Broadway hit "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" or "Mister Cellophane" in the movie "Chicago."

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    But we must be fair about this.  Although there may be some unethical members of Congress, I believe most are well intended.  These later legislators would not be forced into such potentially compromising positions if there was enough money to go around, enough money to solve all the problems of all their constituents.  But alas, there never is.  So their constituents form special interest groups and hire lobbyists to argue their cause in the hopes of getting more than their fair share of the available funding.  And our legislators are forced to choose who, and who does not, get some of the available money, and in what amounts.  The longer they remain in office, regardless of their integrity, the more likely it is that something will trip them.  When this occurs, they are vilified and run out of office.

     

    Only those constituents who do not get what they want complain, and in doing so, become the most hypocritical of all those involved.  Our legislators may be the ones on stage doing the soft shoe, but is our citizenry who writes the script, directs and produces the comedy.

     

    These facts are, in themselves, the simple economics of politics.  It is economics, not love, which makes the world go around.  Our founders framed our system government as they did to ensure that our legislators would always to be responsive to their constituents' needs and desires.  I don't believe they could have anticipated the eventual and extraordinary wealth of our nation and how such wealth would be used to manipulate the political system in opposition to what I think were our founders original intentions.

     

    So, what do those of us with mental illness do to engage our representatives and senators in our cause?  We form special interest groups, hire lobbyists, work the system as best we can, and then complain when we don't get everything we want.  Perhaps we are in need of an additional strategy.

     

    There is ample evidence that our nation, in times of national crisis, can join together and united act in concert for the common good.  This was one of the principals involved in the creation of this great nation.  When we become engaged in a just war, one devoid of religious or special moral impediments, be it against an aggressor nation or a killer disease, we have a history of accomplishing the near impossible.

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    Most of our citizenry are unaware that we are now embroiled in just such a war.  I'm NOT talking about the war on terror or "radical Islamic extremists."  Nor am I talking about the Iraq war.  I am talking about the deadly, silent and sometimes secret war on mental illnesses.  Twenty per cent of our citizens, at one point in their life, must face the harsh realities of these devastating and endemic illnesses.  [Our losses to mental illnesses, be these fellow citizens or our treasure, exceed our losses in most, if not all, of the military wars in which this country has engaged.]  If you are unable to envision the dangers to which I allude, I recommend that you read "The Invisible Plague" by E. Fuller Torrey, M.D. and Judy Miller.  [You can find this book on Amazon.com.]

     

    Even ignoring the costs to the nation of lost productivity due to mental illnesses and the wasted costs of providing what we know to be far less than adequate care, which greatly protracts and thereby increases our costs of treatment, our loss in purely personal terms is monstrous.  We simply cannot continue in this fashion.

     

    We need to substantially improve public education concerning mental illnesses.  [Individuals that are in recovery from mental illness may be uniquely qualified to do this.]  I believe that if all of our citizenry knew the truth about mental illnesses, if they knew that effective treatments are available and that persons with mental illnesses do recover, they would rally to the common cause and declare war on these devastating conditions.

    It is most assuredly not my intention in this blog to denigrate in any way the efforts at public education carried on relentlessly by such organizations as NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] and their devoted members who spend countless hours in this endeavor.  They are, in fact, leaders in this effort to serve the public good.  The impact of their efforts has been growing every year.  Perhaps someday their sacrifices will no longer be required.

     

    In closing, I paraphrase Robert Kennedy who said that "some see the world as it is and ask why.  I see things that have never been and ask why not."

     

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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions.  If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.

     

Published On: September 14, 2008