Friday, February 17, 2023


Mental Health.  So much in the news these days, mental health is looked at from several perspectives.  Political, healthcare, research, and the positive but mostly negative impact of mental health issues in our society.

There is an old story I will repeat here:

 “Driving down a lonely highway, I ran over a nail which punctured my right front tire and gave me a flat.  I pulled the car safely over to the shoulder and started the process of replacing the flat with the spare tire I hauled out of the trunk.  As I took all of the five lug nuts from the flat, I placed them in the hubcap.  As I was removing the wheel and tire from the axle, I accidentally kicked the hubcap and four of the five lug nuts, disappeared through the slots of a grate to a sewer line that ran along the roadside.  I could not retrieve them.  One lug nut would not keep the spare wheel on the car, so even though I was three miles from the nearest gas station, I had no alternative but to walk there to, hopefully, purchase some more lug nuts. About a mile down the road, I came upon a six foot high chain link fence that surrounded the grounds adjacent to a huge hospital-like building.  As I got to the walkway up to the building, I read the sign over the door; “Berkshire Mental Health”.  Oh great, I thought, it’s a looney bin. I started up the long walkway, hoping I could find some attendant inside who could help.  A man, who appeared to be in his mid-forties, was standing in his hospital gown on his side of the fence.  As I approached, I nodded in his direction and, suddenly, he addressed me.  “Good morning, what brings you to our facility?”  Not wanting to be impolite I briefly told him my predicament and was prepared to move on when he quickly said, “What I would suggest is that you go back to your car, remove one lug nut from each of the other three wheels and then use the four you would have to mount the spare.  That should easily get you into town, where you can get the help you need.”  I stared at this well-spoken man for a moment and then responded, “Wow, what a great idea.  I think that will work.”  The man just smiled.  Then I said, “Excuse me for asking, but you seem to be quite intelligent. What are you doing in a place like this?” - while pointing at the sign above the entrance.  The man chuckled and said, “They put me in here because I am crazy, not because I am stupid.”

According to the National Institute for Health, nearly 53 million American adults are afflicted with AMI, defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder.  Some of them you might know about, others maybe not so much.  Depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit disorder (also ADHD), obsession/compulsion disorder, eating disorders, dissociative disorders, paranoia, and schizophrenia are some of the most prominent and they rank in severity from no impairment to mild, moderate, even severe impairment.  One in four American adults will have a diagnosable mental disorder at any given time. Chances are you might know someone personally who suffers from one of these disorders.

Is it any wonder we are having such an apparent increase in the number of mass shootings and violent acts resulting in injury and/or death almost every day?  Is it any wonder why homelessness and poverty continue to plague individuals and society?  If this is ever going to change, as a nation we must put the same kind of effort into identifying mental health issues, provide treatment for those so impaired, and increase research into finding ways to improve or lessen the impact on individuals and society as we do for treating cancer, heart disease and other prominent physical abnormalities.  Even searching for a cure for some forms of mental illness, should be a top priority.

Until we recognize that Mental Health should be up at the top of the list of problems we address instead of spinning our wheels and spending our tax dollars on complex, and sometimes, ineffective solutions like gun control, police protection in our schools, arming teachers, increasing the size of our police forces and improve their training, or handing out care baskets/blankets to the homeless.   All good things, but they do not address the core issue; mental illness.


Comments?  Solutions?  I welcome your thoughts.



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