Tuesday, March 23, 2010

MENTAL HEALTH: Only the Beginning

In recent months we have seen people pushed to their personal limitations. One person took the extreme measure by steering an airplane into the offices of the local IRS. What causes people to go to such great extremes? Are we the public missing something?

Because I am on the mental health appointment list, I am seeing more and more folks coming into our criminal justice system with a combination of problems resulting not only from substance abuse, but from the epidemic nobody wants to talk about--mental illness. I currently have more people on my docket that are incompetent than ever. What can be causing such an upsurge and should we have expected it.

I started watching a show recently called House. While it is a medical drama (somewhat fictional I'm told), there was a profound quote that hasn't left my thoughts. The quote was basically that dying was easy and it was living that was the challenge. In most ways I agree.

Think about all of the daily and weekly tasks that we have to do just to maintain our life from maintenance on our vehicles (registration, inspection, etc.) to home maintenance (too many to list), to ourselves and family (health, food, clothing, and shelter), our work (paying or getting paid) and all the other pressures unique to all of us (not to mention the most stressful thing called relationships). Everyday, all of us try our best just to keep our head above water in this raging sea called life.

Adding to the mix of this pressure is the losing of one's job, which creates the domino effect on everything else, or a criminal case, or a divorce/breakup, and what is left is the overwhelming stress of everyday life which only the most steady among us can survive.

Is it a wonder that some rather stable people crack under pressure? What about those with a mental illness to begin with?

I think that there are already some on the edge. The longer the economy stumbles and people are waging the war to keep things in their life together, the more we as a community will have to deal with a greater onslaught of dramatic occurrences of people going over the edge. The question is just how many more and when they will happen.

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