Puppies, Bath Salts, & Zombies

As always, this post will have pictures of puppies because it’s Friday and that’s how we roll on this blog. As not always, I’m addressing something I feel very strongly about and I hope I word in the right way. I’m going to get a little bit on a soapbox here, so just a warning if you’re not into my opinion. Being that this is a serious post, there will still be puppy pictures strewn throughout it, because even when it’s serious, it’s never the end of the world (unless there really is a zombie apocalypse).

So, I live in Florida. As of a few days ago, I was under the impression that Florida was a zombie-free zone. Then I heard about “bath salts” and I began my investigation. I have a seriously irrational fear of zombies and I find I have at least one zombie attack dream a month. I don’t watch Walking Dead and I Am Legend gave me nightmares for months. I am serious.

I read the news reports and I wasn’t surprised to find that it wasn’t zombies, but drugs. We’ve been dealing with the K-2/Spice stuff at my internship for a while now. Synthetic pot never sounds like a bad idea until you find out it can cause paralysis, hallucinations, seizures, heart attacks, and death. Sure, go ahead and smoke your K-2.

I am a mental health counselor. For those of you who don’t know, mental health counseling is a very new field. As of this year, the American Counseling Association is 60 years old. It’s not even old enough to qualify for retirement. This means a lot of things, some of them being the following:

  • We don’t have a lot of public support or understanding of the profession.
  • There is stigma surrounding “mental health care” because you’re either crazy or normal, but it’s my opinion that those thoughts are slowly changing (she says as she crosses her fingers and looks up towards the sky).
  • We don’t have as much legislative support as other professions – like social work – but we get the same, if not more intensive, training in mental health counseling. It’s our bread and butter.
  • People have no idea what problems need “counseling”.

That last one is the big one. As many of you know, I also work as an addictions counselor. I counsel people who have done heroin, oxycodone, cocaine, crack, marijuana, LSD, shrooms, and alcohol… if it’s a mind altering substance, my clients have done it.

Only very recently have we put together that addictions, substance abuse and dependence are issues of the mind. The premise for years has been that addiction is a problem with the “person” and the quality of the human being. Addicts were told they were addicted because they were “bad”. These days, we know that’s not true. Addiction is just one way we find to treat our mental health issues…

…AND we all have mental health issues. Whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s codepdendency or tendencies, whether it’s getting too drunk on a Friday night to deal with the fact we had an argument with our partner that day – we are addressing mental health issues. We are using external influences to define who we are and fill our voids, because we all have them. Even the development of heart disease and type II diabetes is a mental health issue. We are feeding ourselves crap, treating ourselves like crap, and refusing to change our habits to fix our health problems. We’re sending ourselves a message that we are unworthy of TLC from ourselves.

We don’t have a healthcare system in this country, we have a sick care system. If we were all healthy, there would be no money in healthcare (And I would be providing mental “tune-ups” instead of doing crisis counseling 24/7). You know what the first step (in my opinion) for prevention of disease is? Education and intervention for mental health services. If we change the way we think, if we become knowledgeable about the power of our thoughts, we become aware of how we should care for ourselves. The mind is the root of the problem and the solution.

So how does this relate to the zombie/bath salts thing? Florida (and the U.S.) is a terrible place for preventative healthcare, specifically mental health services. We’re losing some of the only places we currently have in the state for affordable, long-term addiction and psychological treatment. I read this article, (please read it if you have the time, it’s spot-on) which just set a fire inside of me. While I won’t be in Florida much longer, I promise that it will be my life’s mission to normalize and create mental health opportunities that are as commonplace and preventative as visiting your dentist for a cleaning. Your mind deserves a good cleaning and tune up, the same as, if not more than your body.

Some interesting stats quoted from cited article:

“-Florida is the second to worst state in the country when it comes to funding mental health services. Of the 325,000 people with persistent and severe mental illness, only 42 percent receive treatment.
-In 2010, the State Legislature cut adult community mental health funding, children’s mental health funding and adult substance abuse services by more than $18 million. This year, the state legislature tried to make Florida the worst state in the nation at funding mental health, and almost succeeded.
-Prescription drug overdoses and the prescription drug death rate are up in Florida by 61 percent and 84 percent respectively. That didn’t stop state politicians from trying to cut funding for drug treatment by 20 percent, which would have kicked 37,000 people out of services while they were trying to kick a habit.
– First responders across the state say that they are seeing mental health cases that they have never seen before, such as a Palm Beach man that was held in custody 50 times in one year under the state’s Baker Act because he was a threat to himself and others.”

Over the course of the last decade or so, we’ve had several shooting rampages like Columbine or the Tuscon, Arizona shooting and every time, we find out the person or people behind it were mentally ill. We all shrug our shoulders and go, “Oh how tragic, that person hurt all those people because they were crazy…” which to me is just such backwards thinking. We mention something briefly about how they “slipped through the cracks” of the system without recognizing there are no cracks. It’s a freaking ravine. No one is sneaking through the system… there is no system. We don’t have preventative mental health services and the services we have are not nearly robust enough to treat the issue. We’re slapping band-aids on giant gashes and expecting them to solve the problem.

I see so many people in my daily work who never had the opportunity to understand that mental health was possible. So many of us grow up and learn that we are “defective” or that we are “not good enough” because we were nurtured or born a certain way. Few know that they hold the power in how they think about themselves. Few know that addiction isn’t just something that happens, it’s a product of mental unhealthiness. We need to change the way we think about mental health. It’s ironic that ultimately what could both save us and damn us is the way we think about everything, including the way we think about the way we think. It’s not about being crazy, it’s about being human.

Author: Jennifer Bingaman Mazur

I like writing about what I think about what I think. I also like writing about what other people think and what I think about that. Yes? Yes.

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