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Finding My Place Amidst the Darkness – guest blog post

Finding My Place Amidst the Darkness

By Charity C

Just over 18 months ago, we welcomed a third daughter, Patrice, into our family and had to recognize another new family member, postpartum depression and anxiety.

The first 12 weeks of Patrice’s life, included needing to move, be busy, go, do.  I loved being with my girls, but fought a desire to run, to escape.  I remember going to a luncheon at church one day and thinking, I could just disappear.  The older girls were in a class, a wonderful lady in the church was holding the baby.  They would be safe.  I could run.  All these months later, I feel the intensity of the desire to run, coupled with an inability to even be away from my girls.  I couldn’t bear to leave the baby at all.  I felt safe when I had my kids with me.  I felt like I had to get away when I had my kids with me.

The Friday before I was supposed to return to work from maternity leave instead found me at my midwife’s office sobbing and begging her to take my baby home and love her.  I figured my hubby could handle the other two if my midwife, and friend, would take the baby.  I knew my girls would be loved and safe.  And I could disappear.

Thankfully my midwife saw this as a cry for help.  I was hospitalized.  The time in the hospital was awful.  The doctors told me I didn’t have postpartum depression or anxiety.  They took me off my medication and sent me home with no referral.  My midwife again saved the day, she found me a postpartum depression specialist who was able to help me while allowing me to continue to breastfeed my baby.

The ensuing 12 months+ have found me doing well, and back in the depths of despair.  I have tried several medications, changed my diet and done transcranial magnetic stimulation; I tried toughing it out.

I was ready to die.  I was ready to be done.  I was ready to escape the damage I was doing to my girls by being such a rollercoaster.  Now mind you, I am the daughter of a mother who tried to commit suicide several times in my life, so I do know the damage that does.  But all I could see was my tears and pain and perceived my girls’ tears and fits as internalizing what they were seeing from me.

But enough of me kept fighting.  I loved my life.  I didn’t really want to escape.

In late December I found a new doctor who does both medication management and psychotherapy.   With his help, I have found a workable medication combination and realized several things:  I am not damaging my girls by being depressed, I am worth fighting the depression and lastly, the depression is not an isolated incidence—it may very well be an ongoing issue.

Just surviving until the depression leaves is not an option.  I must face it.  I must fight.  I must reach out.  I must find my place amidst the darkness.  I must find what joy there is to be found in breakthroughs and growing.  I enjoy the times the darkness lifts while preparing for the times when it descends again.

There are moments that are hard.  There are moments that are easy.  There are moments that just are.  And in all of them, I find me.  I find a desire to help others, the strength to lean on others when I need to.

It’s not the me I used to be.  I don’t think that it ever will be again, but it is me, surviving ‘til I’m thriving.

 

If you’d like to read more by Charity C , check out her blog at www.gigglesandgrimaces.com A blog about family, faith and mental health

Building Alliances Between Mental Health and Criminal Justice System

MEDIA ADVISORY Contact: Jim McManus Jim@sloweymcmanus.com (617) 523-0038

National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare

Call for expansion of criminal justice diversion for people with mental illness

Report highlights social, economic benefits of diversion programs

Boston, February 2, 2012 – The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Massachusetts) and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) today called on the state to “decriminalize mental illness” and update behavioral health services in order to divert individuals struggling with mental illness away from the criminal justice system.

At a State House press conference to present a report on the intersection of the mental health and criminal justice systems, the two groups urged lawmakers to adopt a series of recommendations that will steer individuals struggling with mental illness away from the criminal justice system.

“Mental illness is not a crime, and it’s time we stopped treating it that way,” said former State Senator Robert A. Antonioni of Leominster, who is a board member at NAMI Massachusetts. “The Legislature needs to embrace changes to the system that will prevent pointless charges being brought against people who need treatment rather than a jail cell.”

“Building Alliances between the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems to Prevent Unnecessary Arrests” was prepared by DMA Health Strategies and funded by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. The report highlights several approaches for statewide implementation of programs aimed at preventing individuals living with mental illness from becoming involved with the criminal justice system.

“Police officers know first-hand that jail is the wrong place for many people who get arrested,” said Deputy Police Chief Craig Davis of Framingham. “We need more cooperation between the mental health and criminal justice systems to make sure people get the help they need.”

Among the report’s recommendations: increase funding for local jail diversion collaborations and specialized police training; expand court diversion options; expand Emergency Service Programs, community-based psychiatric intervention that keeps people out of emergency rooms and jails; and maintain a strong mental health services network.

“This report, combined with the daily challenges of our partners in law enforcement and those dealing with mental health issues, only increases the urgency of strengthening the linkages between our criminal justice and mental health systems in a person-centered, cost-effective approach,” said state Sen. John F. Keenan (D-Quincy). “Here in Massachusetts, we’ve already built the framework for accomplishing these goals; now it’s time to redouble our efforts to achieve them.”

Several legislators and community leaders attended in support of the call for the development of more diversion options across the state. Speakers included former State Senator Robert Antonioni, Deputy Chief Davis, Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Co- Chairs Senator John Keenan and Representative Liz Malia, Committee member Representative James O’Day, Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of NAMI Massachusetts, and Vic DiGravio, President/CEO of ABH.

“Diversion programs not only work but they save money and we must continue to invest in them,” said state Representative Liz Malia (D-Boston).

According to the report, approximately 42% of jail inmates across the state struggle with a mental illness. With appropriate treatment and services, the state will not only succeed in diverting people with mental illness from becoming involved with the criminal justice system, but will also dramatically lower the growing costs straining the state’s correctional system. Currently, some Massachusetts communities have implemented significant efforts to divert people with mental illness from the criminal justice system. However, without a unified statewide strategy these programs are not sustainable.

About the National Alliance for Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass) is a nonprofit grassroots education, support and advocacy organization. Founded in 1982 and obtaining 501(c) (3) status in 1999, the state’s voice on mental illness, NAMI Mass, with 21 local affiliates and over 2,500 members is comprised of individuals with mental illness, family members and others in the mental health community.

Association for Behavioral Healthcare

For over 30 years, the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) has been the leading advocacy organization in Massachusetts’ mental health and substance abuse arena. Fighting for high-quality, community-based care for families and individuals with mental illness, addiction and substance-use disorders, ABH provides leadership and statewide coordination on important public policy, financing, preferred clinical models and quality assurance issues.

Building Alliances Between Mental Health and Criminal Justice System (PDF)   Position Paper

Representative Jim O’Day Speaks at ABH & NAMI Press Conference http://youtu.be/Ea18NjRZs74

Representative Liz Malia speaks at ABH & NAMI press conference http://youtu.be/NYBkdRe5cIk

Senator John Keenan speaks at ABH & NAMI Press Conference http://youtu.be/Ce8geHUI3xU

Framingham Deputy Police Chief Speaks at ABH and NAMI Position Paper Press Conference http://youtu.be/ZiWSdHb5FjU

 

PRESS COVERAGE:

Advocates of Mentally Ill Want More Training for Boston Police – WGBH

Study: Police need more training for dealing with mentally ill – Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Jail inmates suffer from mental illness – OnPolitix 22 News WWLP.COM

Mentally ill need treatment, not jail – OnPolitix 22 News WWLP.COM

NAMI Massachusetts Strongly Opposes Balancing the State Budget on the Backs of People with Mental Illness

February 1, 2012

NAMI Massachusetts Strongly Opposes Balancing the State Budget on the Backs of People with Mental Illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Massachusetts), a grassroots organization of more than 2000 members in the Commonwealth, is outraged once again that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is balancing its budget on the backs of people with mental illness. The latest illustration of this disturbing trend is Governor Patrick’s decision to close Taunton State Hospital.   NAMI Massachusetts believes that the Commonwealth is not fulfilling its obligation to provide a full spectrum of services for people with mental illness that includes both community based services and inpatient services.  For the period FY 2009 – 2012, Massachusetts had the dubious distinction of ranking 11th among the states in percentage cuts from mental health funding.  Among the New England states, four increased their spending, with Massachusetts decreasing its spending by 8.1% (and New Hampshire by 1.3%).[i]

The Board, staff and membership of NAMI Massachusetts have become increasingly alarmed that the safety net for individuals with serious mental illness is woefully inadequate.

The closure of Taunton State Hospital would fundamentally disrupt the treatment of 169 patients and the lives of their family members who will now have to travel long distances to either Tewksbury or Worcester to stay connected to their loved ones.    For families who do not own cars, the inadequacy of public transportation will make access difficult if not impossible. For family members with cars, longer distances and travel time, greater expenses, and limited visiting hours will prevent frequent visits.  The Department of Mental Health (DMH) must mitigate the impact of the move on patients and families.

Building a new Worcester hospital (now the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital) was never designed to replace Taunton State Hospital.  When Worcester State Hospital funds were approved by the Massachusetts legislature as part of the FY 2004 budget, there was no expectation that Taunton State Hospital would close – the new hospital in Worcester was designed to serve patients from Central Massachusetts (the old Worcester State Hospital and now closed Westboro State Hospital).[ii] DMH planned for an overall statewide bed capacity of 740 beds – not the current 626 bed capacity.

Since the number of psychiatric beds seems to be shrinking based on the economic needs of the Commonwealth and not the healthcare needs of people with mental illness, NAMI Massachusetts calls for an independent study examining the publicly funded mental health system to determine whether the community mental health system can support an inpatient capacity of only 626 continuing care beds.  Minimally, this study should take into account the current pressures in general hospital emergency rooms, the number of individuals who are discharged to the streets, the number of new community based residential support services that have been added and any other relevant information.

As the Commonwealth touts its health care image on the national stage, the deep cuts to the mental health budget tell a different story.   Numbers speak louder than words: this proposed cut ignores the needs of people with mental illness.

Department of Mental Health Funding

Source: Mass.Gov State Budget Information FY 2008 – FY 2012 (1/12)


[i] State Mental Health Cuts:  The Continuing Crisis, a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, November, 2011.    Among other things, this report provides data to compare the spending on mental health in Massachusetts compared to the other New England states:

 

Maine – 15.4% increase

Rhode Island – 10.6% increase

Connecticut – 5.8% increase

Vermont – 1.0% increase

New Hampshire – 1.3% decrease

Massachusetts – 8.1% decrease

For a full copy of the report and state by state analysis:  www.nami.org/budgetcuts

[ii] Inpatient Study Report for the General Court,  March 2004, The Department Mental Health

NAMI Massachusetts Position on Taunton State Hospital Closure (PDF)

State to close Taunton facility for mentally ill, By David Abel Globe Staff / January 25, 2012  State to close Taunton facility for mentally ill(PDF) Guy Beales, President of NAMI Massachusetts, quoted in article.