Messages in a Bottle #12: Six Degrees of Kevin Broken

CW: descriptions of systemic abuse, abuse statistics, speaking out about past abuses

This Message in a Bottle was literally previously a published blog post in March. But, the original version of the post was first password-protected, because, at the time, I worried that putting it out there simultaneously would somehow undermine the credibility of what I was attempting to accomplish in the non-blog world.

Now, a couple of months have gone by. We’ve received our reply, and our story, for whatever it is worth, is in the hands of one of those task forces charged with “getting to the bottom of things” in hopes that the failures of the 9th Circle of Hell will at least teach the East Coast how to clean up their own act for vulnerable populations. Will it accomplish anything? I don’t know. I’m justifiably jaded, and I know that systemic abuse within and by state-funded agencies across the nation has no easy solution. But, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. So, in theory, taking action anywhere is metaphorically striking a blow against the 9th Circle of Hell, as well? Or something like that? I don’t know. But, my Partner and I tried offering our experiences as an example of what never, ever should happen to those in care facilities in any state anywhere in the U.S. – or across the globe. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Individuals with disabilities experience sexual assault and other abuse at rates at least seven times higher than the general population – making them the most at-risk population – even before rates of assault in institutions and other state-funded agencies are factored in. As this NPR article states, accurate statistics can’t even begin to be reported for such places. I know this first hand – because I’ve tried to get them – so I concur that the true rate of abuse and neglect are, in reality, almost certainly even higher than what is reported.

I also know that PTSD is an incredibly common response to traumatic experiences such as abuse and neglect. PTSD is a common mental health challenge across demographics, and individuals with disabilities aren’t somehow immune to it as they experience these unconscionably high rates of abuse and neglect. PTSD is a response to trauma, and individuals with disabilities experience a disproportionate amount of trauma. It is no surprise that many disabled individuals develop trauma triggers and PTSD as a result.

It is unconscionable that there isn’t more awareness that a more frequently traumatized population will also be more likely to require sensitive, trauma-informed mental health care from caregivers and agencies. It is even more unconscionable that – rather than getting such care – that those same trauma responses that Mental Health and Trauma Awareness campaigns try to normalize within the wider population are still dismissed in individuals with disabilities as unexplainable, meaningless “bad behaviors.” Then, these “bad behaviors” are not only misattributed but are commonly used by agencies as an excuse to evict clients who have already been through plenty (quite possibly at the hands of the agency trying to use their trauma responses to evict them in the first place!) 

For Mental Health Awareness Month this year, I want to remind people that the toll taken on my own and my Partner’s mental health by the evil actions of the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 were also extracted on my sibling. I may have to be the one to tell the story because the system isn’t really set up to give my sibling a voice, but I want to be clear to people that just because I am the one writing the story, that does not imply that I was the only one scarred by the events of 2018. I’m just the one with the most current capacity to shove it in the system’s face in an attempt to create change.

The post below was written as I worked through my own trauma responses in an attempt to use our experiences in 2018 to shove such awareness into the faces of some of the members of the “system” on the East Coast. I write most frequently about Hell itself, but I am well aware of the East Coast’s failings in the same areas that have recently come to light in a 2019 report on my current state’s “behavioral health” system. I don’t know if my story of being spurned by the East Coast while desperately seeking a way out of the 9th Circle of Hell in 2018 will ever help reform either state’s system, but, well, I keep banging my head against the wall.  The East Coast asked for personal narratives of systemic failures.  I’m perfectly fine with both relaying the literal Hell we went through last year and how if any of their state services – which I guess were busy continuing to fail in the ways outlined in that recent unpleasant report of their own – had gotten off their behinds when I requested emergency placement, we might have been spared several iterations of last year’s Crisis. I also blame the East Coast for failing to be the resolution to the Crisis the 9th Circle of Hell created.

Shockingly, the One-Horse Townhouse remains a genuinely decent-seeming place. I’m as jaded as they come, and I am forever waiting for the other shoe to drop. But, at the moment, they seem like a rare exception to the literal nation-wide travesty of care. I won’t claim anything other than blind luck led us to them. I mean, in the 9th Circle of Hell (as in too many other states) there is no way to look up whether and how many prior abuse cases a provider has had. So, clients literally have nothing but blind luck to go on when attempting to keep themselves or their family members safe from those sky-high abuse rates I described above.

Maybe sharing the trauma echoes I had to work through in March in an attempt to create broader awareness of the trauma and mental health needs of disabled individuals across state systems will somehow up these odds for families. Or, at the very least, maybe it will at least raise “awareness” during Mental Health Month of the need for trauma-informed mental health care for one of the most marginalized demographics this May as long as high abuse rates remain their norm. 

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #12: Six Degrees of Kevin Broken”

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Trust and Mental Health Treatment (Part 3): What the Asses Meant

Assessment (noun): the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation

Also known as a determination of what a bunch of asses meant.

Psychiatrists have fifteen minutes with their patients, so it’s already a reasonable assumption that they base the majority of their assessments of patients on immediate impressions, stereotypes and whatever was current when they graduated medical school and last bothered to read a journal article – which could be fifteen years or more prior.

There aren’t a ton of psychiatrists covered by my insurance, period. Even “good” insurance in America is rarely good for mental health. There are even fewer who prescribe stimulants for ADHD. Once a month I make time out of my weekend to go see one of those to obtain a hand-carry prescription. I then take that hand-carry prescription to my pharmacy to be filled, where I am asked to verify my identity with a form of ID at least twice, report my address, and then have the exact date and time that prescription was filled entered into a state database to ensure I don’t fill the next month’s allotment even one single minute early.*

I am not harassed during any of this process because I present well. I’m “high functioning,” as I’m repeatedly told. However, my psychiatrist’s office isn’t trauma informed – or even that nice to the majority of their patients. They are one of the few that will take those on public insurance, and they don’t feel they have to be nice, I guess. They’ll fill their waiting rooms and make their money either way. The waiting room is regularly filled with a very diverse set of clients, many of whom have ADHD. I go there even though there are clear issues because they are closest to my home and offer weekend appointments. I don’t even know if the other options would be better, so I just stick with convenience. I hate a lot of what I see there, but I really do need weekend appointments badly given how late I work. I don’t think I could maintain that “high-functioning” job that helps so much in the mental health world if I had to take time off every month to go to a psychiatrist appointment that takes an hour (even though we’re only actually seen for 15 minutes) out of the business day. I do have a couple of other options since my insurance isn’t public, but not many.

It saddens me so much that others don’t even get to weigh those limited pros and cons in their choice of psychiatrists to help them with disorders that should be no more shameful than a broken leg or diabetes.

Continue reading “Trust and Mental Health Treatment (Part 3): What the Asses Meant”

*Press It* Mental Health Awareness Blog Share

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’d like for all my blogging buddies to share the name of their site, and a few of you mental health disorders, in order for others to learn more about you, and mental illness. Goal? To break the stigma that is accompanied by Mental Health. My name is […]

via May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Share Your Experience and Blog Site — Beckie’s Mental Mess

Beckie is looking to connect with other bloggers who write about mental health for Mental Health Awareness Month. Head on over and introduce yourself!

I’m disabling comments on this post so that folks will share links on the original post.

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.