People who violate our overly complex and needlessly punitive web of laws, when they do so due to being disconnected from reality due to a psychiatric illness, are suffering from an illness and they are not criminals.
As an adult with mental illness and progressive values, my primary focus is not on national politics or getting Trump out of office. My main concern is about the treatment of people who live with mental illness and our lack of opportunities to better our conditions.
When we see our fellow human beings wither away and die on the streets, when we see encampments in the news that appear not much better than living under a pile of trash, when we see human beings who have names...the cure
is not worse than the disease. Something must be done.
Mental illness is often cited as one of the driving factors behind the growing homeless population in cities such as Berkeley and Oakland. A lack of resources for the mentally ill has led many people to the streets.
Mentally and physically disabled people have it hard. Our lot is worse than that of most people in the 99 percent who are upset about the top one percent hoarding the wealth. Maybe a movement is needed to seek justice for those at the bottom edge of the 99 percent.
I have experienced endless abuses in board and care homes, including substandard housing, lack of food and rigid rules that treat adults like children. Even the name “board and care” is a misnomer. All too often, the people who ran these homes couldn’t care less about their residents.
The belief that disabled people are incapable of surviving in real-life situations is belittling and harmful. Many persons who are mentally disabled can meet the challenges of surviving in society. Treating adults like children only prepares them for a lifetime of dependence and being institutionalized.
The cruelty and medical neglect suffered by poor and homeless people who are incarcerated for being mentally ill is a national disgrace. It is unacceptable that the prison system has displaced the mental health system as the main institution for dealing with poor people with psychiatric disabilities.
The concept of the wellness model – the kind of peer help and advocacy practiced at the Berkeley Drop-In Center – is a welcome alternative to the powerful drug industry’s proliferation of psychotropic drugs for their newly invented mental illnesses.