Artisan by Dan Joyce
The Councilmen And The Crazy Man
Good evening mayor and councilmen,
I’m Dan Joyce. As many of you already know I’m a local artist and lifelong resident in the city of Fullerton. I also consider myself a much needed, advocate to the community on issues of mental illness. Having been diagnosed with schizophrenia and then later changed to bipolar, I have long seen the need for understanding in our community as well as other cities, on this issue. It has been over 5 years since the death of Kelly Thomas, a local schizophrenic man beaten to death by the police. Since then, our understandings of mental illnesses and local citizens suffering has changed little, as well as little improvement in the resources needed to treat such individuals.
While dealing with the protestors, talking to the police, as well as local politicians on the psychological issues and treatments for such citizens in our community, I have come to the conclusion that the biggest problem we face as mentally ill Fullerton citizens is not availability or lack of availability in treatment, but ignorance in dealing with psychological conditions. It appears to me from what I have learned in therapy, outpatient programs as well as drug and alcohol reform facilities, that our general population regarding such psychological conditions is completely clueless about any of it!
Why? Here are some of the things I am hearing. “Your medication is a conspiracy of big pharmaceutical companies to sell you pills you don’t need and actually make you worse.” We as patients know through trial and error and working co-operatively with our doctors and therapists this simply isn’t true. In fact, there are many medications to treat a vast majority of psychological conditions quite successfully. The industry is still coming out with even better treatments for us. Another good one, “You need God, God will heal all your evil mental problems.” Many practicing Christians, I myself included, know the dangers and scams in believing in faith healing and that it doesn’t work. Just because someone goes to a doctor or therapist doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in God. This one always gets me, “Those pills you take are bad for you, what you need is marijuana!” Believe it or not! I have spoken to several important political figures in Fullerton not on the council who actually believe this nonsense. While some people may be able to smoke pot successfully, we have known since the sixties, some people just shouldn’t do illicit drugs. Psychiatrists and psychologists nearly unanimously agree as well as The American Psychiatric Association.
The standard treatments, outside a psychiatric practice gets even more harmful. “That child is spoiled, he just needs a good kick in the ass!” As if child abuse never led to mental problems! Or the Tough Love therapy that states to remove all one’s available resources to beat them into a point of submission. I can’t figure out at all how people honestly believe that poverty and homelessness are going to provide a successful cure for mental illness, drug addiction and/or alcoholism. If you look at the streets of Fullerton today, you will find an entire population of young people homeless from that type of reasoning. I’d like to add here that I as an artist who has painted, written about and recorded our homeless population for over a decade now I want to say that if we continue to address this solely as an economic issue and not as a social concern, we will continue to have this problem for years to come. While on the subject, sobriety has proven effective, for many such conditions, as there are large statistics showing a relationship between substance abuse and mental illness.
No one needs to go into the fact that we are not evil and we don’t rape or kill people although that as well is a standard misconception, nor are we intellectually stupid. As the typical observation is, we tend to only be harmful to ourselves while our behavior untreated is best described as sometimes bazaar.
What I suggest, as is often suggested by psychologists and organizations such as NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, is education. It seems to me that much of the help is available, but many reject it and it is hard to follow through with the wrong pressures from the public. While it can be very expensive researching treatments and providing treatment facilities, it can cost very little to educate people on some of the solutions that are already there.