Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Missouri's mentally ill

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Kansas City Star is doing an excellent job of telling people about the plight of the mentally ill in Missouri. Yesterday's editorial again highlighted that issue.

The same page with the editorial has a link to another good story.

My father, who was the superintendent of a mental hospital, has been dead 23 years. I remember a time after he retired when they were closing the large custodial mental hospitals. We both agreed that there were reasons to do that, but I asked him, "Pop, what's going to happen to those people?" His answer--"They will end up in prisons and on the streets."

About five years later I began to hear all the stories on TV about the homeless. My father was a very far-seeing person in a lot of ways.

If you have read my book The Body in the Record Room you know it is a historical mystery novel set in a state mental hospital in the 1950's. I've written two mysteries about that character now, a mental patient who thinks he is Roy Rogers. I am about one-third of the way through the third book.

I don't just write about mental hospitals. I write mysteries in which a minister and his girlfriend are the main character and other mysteries which are not meant to be part of a series. They are just one-time stories. But I do have a special interest in what is happening for the mentally ill. I do hope The Body in the Record Room and its companion books will make people think about the mentally ill. I hope it will lead them to support good care for the mentally ill in the present time.

I grew up with mental patients. They were my friends. My life was changed by knowing what a varied group they were. Many of those people are heroes to me.

So I applaud The Kansas City Star for its attempts to inform people of the situation of the mentally ill.

I guess there's one other point, too. I'll never be a best-selling author. People don't necessarily like to be reminded of mental illness. We all seem to have an innate sense that we may be on the edge of mental illness. Unlike most physical illnesses, mental illness has an unjust stigma to it. And one never knows where one's life is going to lead.

But maybe that's another reason for us to care about the quality of care. Few families are spared the trials of mental illness whether it is elderly dementia or teenage schizophrenia. The time may come when we all need access to good care for ourselves or for some mentally ill relative or friend.

Thanks, Kansas City Star, for caring about and explaining the situation of the mentally ill in Missouri.

If you would like to respond to this post, please leave a comment or go to my web site where there is an email address. Thanks.

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