Mental Health – Legal Issues

Disclaimer: I am not a legal or medical professional.  Do not take this blog post in lieu of legal or medical advice.

I urge each and every one of you to designate someone for durable power of attorney and have a health care proxy.  These are cheap to do – I bought software for under $100 and made my own, had it witnessed and notarized at the bank for free.  Attorney fees will vary but can be found for ~$100-150.  You never know when it will come in handy. 

Don’t take any chances – do this for your loved ones – get a POA, health care proxy, living will/DNR, and a will.  I don’t care if you don’t have anything to will away, your personal effects have to go to someone.  Most importantly, talk over your wishes with who ever will be your POA and health care proxy.  Don’t think this doesn’t apply to you.  I know an 18 year old who had a heart attack.  If you are old enough to vote, you are old enough to write out your legal wishes.

You need someone you trust to take over your finances and/or health decisions if you are incapacitated (i.e., recovering in a mental or physical health facility).  We all need this – it’s not just mental health or just a physical health issue.  And it’s not for you.  It’s for your loved ones.

 

Mental Hospitals

OK, I have to keep posting or I’ll never get through this.  I went to see my Dad at the mental hospital.  It was kind of scary but not as bad as I expected.  The front desk was all plexiglass with a speaker to talk through and a small slit for passing paper.  I was able to pass his medication bottles through to them and they were supposed to get them to the nurse’s station.  I got a phone call this morning that he has been moved to another facility.  They want to put him on psychotropic drugs, which they needed my permission for.  (Why?)  And why does it take so long for him to see a doctor in a mental health facility?

Argh.  If only I could have gotten him to sign off on power of attorney and a health care proxy before this happened.  I tried but he was too stubborn.  There’s time, there’s time, he would say.  Doctor says I have to live to be a 100.  While he might just do that, what kind of shape will he be in at 100?

I think they told him he had a mental breakdown so that’s what he believes.  I think he had another mini-stroke (maybe not so mini) or a seizure.  He’s lost about the last 10 years of his life.  He doesn’t know where he is (what state) and he doesn’t know how old he is, but he remembers me and his other children.  He remembers the past well, he is just confused about the present.

If he is competent enough to sign a HIPPA release, is he competent enough to sign a power of attorney?  Sometimes I wish I was a lawyer, even though I know I would hate the job.

I guess I need to go now because all I am doing is stopping to pace while I write this.  Stupid me forgot to pack extra Klonopin and it’s catching up to me.  So many things to do and I don’t know where to begin.  Wish me luck.

Dad needs help

My father has suffered some kind of stroke or a break with reality.  They took him into a mental hospital on Saturday.  I flew 1500 miles (OK, I don’t really know how many it was, it’s just a guess but you get the point) and thanks to HIPPA I can’t get any information on him.  I don’t know where he is or what I can do to help. (Sometimes HIPPA sucks.)  I am waiting now for a call back from the hospital.

Worst of all, I tried for years to get Dad to fill out health care proxy forms and durable power of attorney.  Now that I need them, I don’t have them.  I am on his HIPPA release for the VA but that doesn’t give me any rights at any other hospital.  After his 72 hours are up, I don’t know what they will do with him.  For that matter, I don’t know what I will do with him.

I’m a bit nervous about going to a psych hospital.  I’ve never been to one.  DH says it’s just like a regular hospital (his mom used to work at one) but I’ve always been afraid they will lock me up in one.  Fortunately, I’ve only ever been that bad once in my life and I was able to talk my way out of it.

Anyway, just a short note to update you all on my suddenly chaotic life.  Please send good thoughts and/or prayers my way (and Dad’s way).  I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks.

Sandy Hook

This is difficult to write.  I can’t even come up with an appropriate title because this is such a horrible event.  Twenty six dead.  Twenty of them small children, too young to know even to hide, as if it were possible.  Six adults who tried to help and lost their lives in the effort.

How can a person do this?  What sort of mental state rationalizes such violence?  As many mental states as I have been in, I have never felt homicidal.  (Suicidal yes, homicidal no.) I can’t imagine what makes a person do such a horrible thing.

He was crazy, they’ll say and eventually this will go down in the history books as another tragedy caused by a crazy person.  If one crazy person can do this, then all crazy people must be capable of doing this.  Put another check mark down for stigma.

Only 50% of people with mental health problems seek help.  That means that half of those who need help could be a danger to themselves or others. Making mental health more available, affordable and less stigmatized could make a difference in the future.  But it’s too late for the children and adults who have already been lost.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. Schools should be safe havens for our children.  This is no longer the case.

The shooting in Connecticut seemed so unreal to me over the weekend.  Distant, foreign, just like the Twin Towers had felt.  But I substitute taught today and I talked with some of the students.  None of them said they were scared, but you could hear it in their voice and see it in their eyes, there was concern.  Could this happen here?

Of course it could.  It could happen anywhere.

I was talking with one of the teachers about it today.  He said Sandy Hook had all the same precautions that we take here (locked doors, little video cameras) but until society is ready to make the investment into serious deterrents, like metal detectors and armed, trained policemen in our schools, we are all at risk.

And it’s not just Connecticut.  A similar plot in Oklahoma was foiled. A disgruntled teen planned to lure students into the gym, chain the doors and start shooting.  He even planned to plant pipe bombs on the doors rigged to blow when the police arrived.  At least he was caught and arrested before any of this could come to pass.  Allegedly he was trying to recruit assistants in the lunchroom to help with his plans. Students turned him in to the authorities.

It’s a sad time for Newtown Connecticut and the world mourns with the victim’s families.  While gun control is one issue on the table, mental health is a complex problem that needs to be addressed.  I am glad to see that some attention is being paid to the problem, and hopefully this will open up new doors to understanding mental illness and new paths to treatment.

Retail Therapy

I’m feeling a bit down today and yesterday.  Went out and performed some ‘retail therapy’ with a friend yesterday, but that only went so far.  It’s also difficult to get into retail therapy when you don’t have spare cash to spend.  Fortunately, I only spent about $30 (vitamins excluded).  The other thing about retail therapy is that the high only lasts a little while unless you’re manic.  Then it’s the reality of spending money you don’t really have on things you don’t really need.  Even when I brought home a large paycheck, it didn’t change the guilt I would feel afterwards.  Of course, I would be spending $100-$200 instead of $30 too so it’s all about perspective.  I’ve spent so much at Eddie Bauer over the past few years, DH & I nicknamed it the ‘evil store’.

We even stopped into the jewelry store.  I was working on collecting jewelry from all the major gemstones.  I have a ring, earrings, and necklace of garnets, amethyst and sapphire.  I was planning to go on with rubies and some of the others.  (I think ruby was next on the list.)  I saw this beautiful heart shaped ruby ring.  It’s too expensive (and too impractical) for my Christmas list this year but maybe next year.  Anyway, I don’t know why I stopped in the store in the first place.  Perhaps just to torture myself.

I feel like I should be saying something more profound about retail therapy, since I titled the post with the phrase.  But I guess I have to realize that not everything I write has to be profound.  Sometimes it’s important just to write something – anything. 

Here’s an aside though, that I want to throw out to all of my readers: my therapist wants me to bring in my journal so we can use it as talking points for therapy.  I am reluctant to do this.  It reminds me of how my mother used to read my journal when I was young.  I know she isn’t my mother but it still feels like someone is checking up on me to make sure I did what I was supposed to – like homework.  Do you think she has the right to look at my journal?

 

I’m not such a bad person

I got to thinking today that I’m not such a bad person.  I donate to charity when I can (Salvation Army today) and I try to be nice to people in general.  I say please and thank you. I wish people a good weekend or a happy holiday.  I’ve got a lot more patience than I give myself credit for and I try to do good.  Sometimes I don’t succeed at that because I am afraid. 

Although I can be negative, cynical and a pessimist, I’m generally not mean.  I try to be a supportive wife, friend, daughter and aunt, although my siblings and I are at odds.  I like to help people; I especially like to help people understand things like math or science.

My self-esteem is low, but I still think I’m not a bad person. (Ask me a different day and I may give you a different answer.) Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a healthy self-esteem.  I’ve always worried that by working on my self-esteem I would become over-confident and perhaps narcissistic.  Supposedly, that’s not the case, but since we are going to be working on my self-esteem in therapy, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that for today, at least, I don’t think I’m a bad person. 🙂

Fight Stigma!

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as National Mental Illness Awareness Week.  Here we are 22 years later and it’s still not acceptable to call into work as a sick day due to depression or other mental illness.  What happens if you tell your employer that you suffer from mental illness?  If you’re like me, you will lose your job.  Wait, that’s illegal!  Not if you work for a small company.  Check the fine print before you accept a job offer.

Some statistics for you to chew on…

Anxiety: 18% of the adult U.S. population, 23% of these cases are considered severe.  Women are 60% more likely to suffer from anxiety than men during their lifetime. (This includes Agoraphobia, GAD, OCD, Panic Disorder, PTSD, Social and other phobias)

Bipolar:  2.6% of the adult U.S. population, nearly 83% of them are considered severe cases.

Major Depressive Disorder: At any given time, this affects about 7% of the population, but when looking at lifetime prevalence, this increases to 16.5%.  Women are 70% more likely to suffer depression than men, and when looking at age groups, young and middle aged adults are most likely to be sufferers as compared to those over the age of 60.

Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.6% of the U.S. adult population.

Schizophrenia: 1.1% of the U.S. adult population.

I have selected to give you statistics for only a few of the major mental health issues.  Many more statistics can be found on the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/index.shtml

While these numbers may seem small, these illnesses affect millions of people.  Millions of individuals with families, jobs, and responsibilities that can be difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with while suffering from an illness.  For some people, illnesses are comorbid (occurring together) but this doesn’t make the numbers less formidable.  For example, anxiety and depression often go together, which makes coping extremely difficult.

Although Mental Illness Awareness week is at a close, I hope you will keep in mind some of these statistics.  For those of you who are sufferers, you are not alone.  For those of you who are friends or family of someone with a mental health disorder, we appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.  For those of you who are neither… please join us in the battle against stigma.  Together we can make the world a kinder place.

 

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