I was ranting at the Alameda County Mental Health Board meeting. “Let me know when I’ve used my three minutes,” I tell them, and get started. I talked about the way the County puts my crazy girl in peril every time they decide to “honor her wishes” and let her wander untraced through the Bay Area shooting meth as an imaginary undercover agent.
A lady who spoke after me used her three minutes to represent a nonprofit working against “stigma.” Stigma, she said, was the number one problem in the mental health system today. She said, “I can’t imagine using the word ‘crazy,’ as that speaker did, to describe one of my own relatives.” If we all respected mental illness as just another way of being, she was saying, the problem–whatever it is–would be mostly resolved.
I’m trying to put my finger now on the number one problem, in our county where responsibility for mental illness is so divided. What’s D’s number one problem? Is it that her father molested her and so destroyed her ability to listen to her body when her mind isn’t working? Is it that she pushes everyone away who tries to help her? Is it that she loses her ID card and sells her phone? Is it that she doesn’t believe anything any well-intentioned human being says? Is it that our libertarian market-driven society has developed a universally available, cheaply produced substance that solves all her problems at once—according to her, and we have to honor her wishes, right? Because under the new model of public service, the customer–and they call her a customer of health-care services–is always right.
But if she paints her face with lipstick and shaving cream and goes out of the house with a really, really short skirt on, taking the BART direct to the Tenderloin where she is chased from one patch of pavement to another, and where the police treat her like a giant talking rat…I suppose reducing stigma is a good idea, maybe even the place to start. Maybe the police, or someone who works for San Francisco County, could ask her nicely why she wants to throw away her brain, body, and soul, and maybe she would answer.