ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Housing Revisited

Jack Bragen
Friday January 11, 2019 - 02:13:00 PM

Mentally ill people who become homeless have a very high likelihood of becoming deceased. I knew a man who'd made some bad decisions, who had become homeless; and, some months afterward, I heard of his death at the age of fifty. 

Mentally ill people are capable of some foolish things--partly because of having neurological problems that affect judgment and thinking. Does this mean we should die on the streets due to starvation, exposure to the elements, or due to abrupt medication withdrawal? 

There are a lot of ways that a mentally disabled person can become homeless or incarcerated. These are inappropriate punishments against innocent people--namely, people with mental illnesses that we didn't create, and that we didn't choose for ourselves. And, for this--the unnecessary deaths, homelessness and/or incarceration, of mentally ill people, our society must be held accountable. 

If a person is not capable of earning big money at professional employment, we are subject to being disrespected, and to being treated like dirt under people's feet. This whole culture of classism feeds into the idea that if you are different, or if you are not loaded with money, you deserve the worst things in society. This in turn causes a low priority toward social programs. 

Social programs work. They allow people with problems to live redeemable existences. Cutting social programs, such as housing, is essentially a death sentence, for some. People can end up deceased as a consequence of not being helped. 

Mentally ill people are usually good people with bad illnesses. Most non-afflicted people are unable to look past outward appearances, and most are quick to judge. 

People's lack of compassion is unfathomable. People in "mainstream" society do not see reality, they only see what they want to see--unless they are forced to do otherwise. Unless you have been on the receiving end of cruel and brutal acts, you will not understand what that is like. 

It is criminal to prioritize money above lives. It is criminal when some people have made massive fortunes on the backs of the poor and hoard this money so that they can have giant houses, yachts, and Rolls Royce automobiles. When some have millions and others have nothing, something is wrong. 

The fortunate few just don't get it. Some have warped concepts of the world, in which they perceive themselves as intrinsically superior. They may believe that their fortune is due to their better attitude, due to being better people, or solely because they've worked harder than the rest. They may not have any understanding of what it is like to have medically caused limitations. And let's not kid ourselves, mental illnesses are medical conditions that impair people's functioning in society. 

I have news for you: people with wealth and success aren't better. 

You could accuse poor people of being responsible for their predicament. Yet, if born with a psychiatric disability, the clarity of thought that most people take for granted, and on which the "right decisions" are built, is an unattainable frame of mind. I am in my fifties and I am just beginning to gain the mental clarity that would have helped me a lot when I was thirty years younger. 

Maybe mentally ill people can not handle the same level of responsibilities as do most people. And often, we are not given a chance at this. But if that is so, if certain doors will forever be closed for us, then society is obliged to take care of us. 

People with psychiatric disabilities sometimes should be protected from our own mistakes. My father once said, "Judgment is the first thing to go." Poor judgment is a symptom of many diagnoses of mental illness. We need for society to be more forgiving. 

At the same time, people with mental illness should be able to pursue happiness. This could be in the form of employment, self-employment, or even becoming a "professional student." 

In an increasingly unforgiving and demanding society, those who cannot jump through the necessary hoops involved in surviving are left behind to rot. The time is now to provide more low-income housing for people with psychiatric disabilities.