RTP: ACA and Recovery Webinar Links, Vet Mental Health Supports, 'Not Without Us'


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Download materials from the May 9 RTP Webinar:
"The Affordable Care Act and Implications for Recovery-Oriented Practice"

Eating Out
by Jason Jepson

Looking around McGuire Veterans Hospital, one might feel depressed about the paraplegics or amputees-or the men talking to themselves, angry at the voices in their heads. There are doctors with the thousand-yard stare, overwhelmed by what they have seen-some maybe as bad off as soldiers who have witnessed combat. These surroundings make you wonder: Is death paying the ultimate price for freedom, or is it living the rest of your life with a handicap?

Today the VA mental health group went to a Chinese buffet (it was a lot better than the overdone turkey and stuffing they served at yesterday's cafeteria meal). The ex-soldiers filled their plates and went back for seconds. I sat with a man whose hat reminded one of the doctors of Santana. (Because his name escapes me, I'll call him Santana.) We talked a little about our situations. I mainly listened, not wanting to step out of bounds. He told me he didn't talk to his ex-wife anymore and hadn't seen his kids in years.

"I had a triple bypass and they only held me for a week," he said, a touch of pride in his voice. "I quit smoking and drinking. That's why they let me out so soon."

To continue the conversation, I said, "I smoke."

While Santana was eating, a man sat beside him. He looked at me in a familiar way. "I think the waitress is attractive," he said in a soft voice.

"You should ask for her phone number," I whispered back, as she was cleaning the booth behind us.

Santana raised his head and said, "You know, I don't think you should do that because this is a veterans' occasion, but you could come back later."

The man with the crush turned around and muttered something to the waitress we couldn't hear. He shifted again to face me.

"I told her she looks attractive," he said, and we both giggled like school boys.

When lunch was over, most of the ex-soldiers went outside to smoke. My lighter wasn't working so I bummed one from a guy named William. He kept a used cigar in his pocket and took it out after lighting my cigarette.

"What branch were you in?" William asked.

"The army," I answered.

"I was in the army too," he said, a little surprised.

"What was your job, your MOS?" I asked.

"Communications. What was yours?"

"19 Delta Cavalry Scout."

"Like recon?"

"Yeah, but in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cavalry does traffic control points."

"Where did you go, Iraq or Afghanistan?" William asked.

"I didn't go to either," I said. "I was stationed at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert."

I usually regret sharing this information. Most people don't understand how a person can go crazy without going to war. William didn't say much but finally asked, "So what happened?"

"Well, I have some schizophrenia and depression …"

"I have that too," he added with vacant eyes. "Depression and schizophrenia."

Our conversation was interrupted when we were told it was time to leave. Everyone loaded back into the vans. There were three along with a sedan full of doctors. We drove off and after a few miles, set foot on the VA grounds again.

As everyone filed back out, I spoke to a man sitting beside me. He said he was a Vietnam veteran and lived in housing on the hospital grounds. Because he looked experienced I asked him, "Do we have to go back to our meeting room or can we just go?"

"You can go anywhere you want," he answered.

I stood up, got in the car with my mom, and went home. No one had judged my situation. No one looked at me oddly when I used the word schizophrenia. Being around the soldiers reminded me of basic training at Fort Knox. We all had different backgrounds, but slowly and steadily became a unified force. I had spent the day with ex-soldiers, all from different moments in time, different wars, and even different levels of society—each living with a handicap but defying death once again.

Contact Jason at jasonjepson@verizon.net.

Not Without Us

Created by Sam Avery and the Mental Health Peer Connection, Not Without Us is a documentary about social injustice, recovery, and community and civil rights. It was produced to empower people with mental illness to break through stigmas and take control of their lives. The film features Dr. Pat Deegan, a clinical psychologist and disability rights activist; Robert Whitaker, an award-winning journalist; and RTP Project Director Dr. Larry Davidson, who talk about the real and pressing needs of people with mental illness and the importance of counting personal insight and experience as valid forms of knowledge.

Watch the video.

May Is National Mental Health Awareness Month

For more than 60 years, Mental Health Awareness Month has raised consciousness about mental health issues through education, activities, and community and congressional events. This year's theme, "Pathways to Wellness," advocates for strategies to help the nation achieve and maintain good mental health.

Sixty percent of Americans with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent of those with substance use disorders don't receive sufficient care. Although getting help often starts with a conversation, prejudice and discrimination have kept many people from treatment. The Obama Administration is making mental health care a top priority with a $205 million investment in programs to support early diagnosis, access to services, and safer school environments.

SAMHSA's toll-free Treatment Referral line, 800-662-4357 (HELP), provides confidential information about prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Visit SAMHSA's site for more information.

National Institute of Mental Health Changes Research Direction

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is veering research away from mental illness categories in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to NIMH, the shift supports the need for a diagnostic system based on emerging data, not symptom-based classifications.

NIMH launched the Research Domain Criteria project to incorporate genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and other valuable information into the foundation for a new classification system. "Patients with mental disorders deserve better," said Director Thomas Insel in a blog entry on transforming diagnosis. "We are committed to new and better treatments, but we feel this will only happen by developing a more precise diagnostic system."

Read the article.

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The views, opinions, and content of the Recovery to Practice Highlights are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.