I do my best to avoid talking about politics in general. I also avoid talking about religion, how to properly raise your children, why I became a vegetarian, and the in-depth story of my family. I just try not to go there because people get offended (religion, children, politics), they desperately want to change my mind (vegetarianism), or it’s just too much self-disclosure for being a counselor (my family).
You see, I’m not one for stirring up controversy. Part of my profession is respecting the opinion of others. As long as you are not trying to belittle how I feel, think, and choose to live my life, I will show you the same respect. So, if you want to worship flamingos, feed your kids nothing but fruit, eat as much meat lovers pizzas as you can, and believe your mom is better than my mom, go right ahead. I won’t argue. I know what my truth is.
For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you may have noticed I detoured slightly from my whole “no politics” belief when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act this morning.
I make an exception about politics when it comes to mental health care. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that while I am passionate about counseling, my entire drive and purpose in my profession is bigger than just providing therapeutic services. I have a dream that mental health care will be more attainable and less stigmatized in the years to come. The Affordable Care Act gives me hope that I will see that dream become a reality.
Part of destigmatizing mental health care is giving others the opportunity to understand it. We all grew up knowing what going to the doctor and the dentist was like. Maybe we needed braces or glasses and we went to an optometrist or an orthodontist. We had a need and we fulfilled it. Those needs were visible and tangible. Our teeth were crooked, we couldn’t read the white board, but what about when our parents divorced and we didn’t know how to feel?
I went to a holistic practitioner (an M.D.) when I was experiencing a whole host of health issues about two years ago. She asked me a variety of questions about my health, my family’s health, and my past medical history. At the end of the consult, she asked me questions about my stress level, about how and where I was raised, and she also asked me if I had experienced any trauma as a child. I shared that I didn’t think so. She asked, “Did your parents fight in front of you, separate, or divorce?”
“Why yes. Yes they did,” I said.
“Well, that’s trauma,” she told me.
I was in the beginning of my master’s program and I didn’t see my parent’s divorce and the debilitating fallout from that ordeal as traumatizing. I actually thought to myself, “Well, I was only 13. I was probably old enough to know better.”
I look back on that now that I’m in the field of counseling and I shake my head.
Simply with the divorce rate in this country, we need mental health services to be standard. We need it to be as accessible and ritualized as going to a lawyer for the same problem. We also should make it preventative. If a couple is thinking of divorce, we should have our children cared for during this time. Children may not remember what was said, but they will always remember how they felt. Couples may not stay together, but they will learn healthy ways of coping and ways to ensure their children are as minimally traumatized as possible during the divorce. We are lying to ourselves if we think the end of a family isn’t traumatizing, yet we all barely bat an eye when it happens any more.
So, yes. I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act because while it might make my pocket a bit less plump or stifle innovation, or whatever you feel is the reason to not support it, I must support it. As I said in my post about bath salts and zombies, we have a sick care system. I see this as an opportunity to put the training wheels back on our health care system and learn how to do it right. We have to fully integrate the idea of mind, body, and spirit into our health care system to make it preventative. I want people to come to me because they are self-aware enough to know they should check themselves. Whether they are 10 years into sobriety, they just got laid off from a job, they just had a child and are feeling a bit out of sorts, or they just need someone to talk to, I want people to know better. I want us all to lose our shame of talking about those things that hold us back from being the best versions of ourselves we can be.
For those interested in the actual pieces of the ACA which will address behavioral health and what it means for the future of mental health, I found this commentary from Mental Health America to be enlightening and inspiring as well as this summary from SAMHSA.
What do you all think? Don’t be afraid to disagree. I respect your opinions.