A Vision for Appalachia

Where should we apply our resources?

In this political season there is vision coming from some quarters and none from other quarters. One of the saddest things I am seeing is the complete lack of vision in regard to the future of the people of Appalachia and the victims of the coal industry.

Beauty at Our Doorstep

Appalachia is one of the most beautiful areas I have ever visited and its people have been treated terribly. We now have politicians claiming they are going to save the coal industry and the reality is that it cannot be saved. The corporations have found ways to decrease the labor needed and the coal is running out even while it is clear that we have to turn to renewable energy sources.

The Meaning of Help

So what of the people of Appalachia? Are we to do nothing for them, for their future. They have a very high opiate addiction rate partly because of the injuries so many have sustained in the coal mines. Addiction is not a simple matter. One thing that must be done for addicts, as we attempt to help them with the addiction, is to move them toward hope and purpose. We are not doing that.

We hear that their future is dim, that other forms of energy must be used but we hear nothing of how they and their communities may have a new and brighter future.

Other Models

Recently I spoke with someone who also attended Duke University and he had made a visit to the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham area). He said everywhere he turned he saw thriving startup companies. It made me think of Appalachia.

The mountains and the valleys are lovely, graced with streams and glorious seasons. Each of these little areas can be homes to the right businesses. Of course, there is snow which has a beauty of its own and then there is spring and a brilliant fall. The summers, because of the mountains, are more muted. 

New Possibilities Being Born

We have entered the technological future and are seeing the possibility of something called post capitalism. We no longer are inclined to build huge industrial complexes. Instead we have pocket industries of a wide variety of sorts. Where California is lacking in water, Appalachia has abundant water.

Taking the Challenge 

Because of history, the eastern mountains have many problems and change will not come overnight. But with vision we have an area which has tremendous potential. The beauty of it can help build a future but it will have to be a very different kind. It will take considerable resources, including health resources, patience and offering something to younger generations among many other things. At present I hear nothing of vision for them and their area. 

We have been mired down in obstruction and lack of vision. Maybe I can raise the hope that we can begin to focus on constructive action and many shades of vision. In that we just might be able to develop the potential of Appalachia and to give the people hope and purpose. I can dream can’t I?

What visions are found in your dreams?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Health Care Alternatives and Reality – Series – Pt. 4

Our Ailing Health Care System

Where to Begin!

Since this is a post, not the required book, I’ll keep it short. 

We are a nation in crisis currently and not the least of the crises is our health care system. The enduring battle to reduce if not cripple government has taken its toll. We are the only developed country without an advanced health care system for all its citizens. And even what we have is under attack. Our system is inefficient and costly. Even if you are well off and well insured you immediately see problems.

And now that the government is under continuing attack we may see the collapse of small hospitals in rural areas. It would make the system even worse.

Seeing Problems First Hand

A few years ago I began to suffer mysterious and ephemeral problems and began a search for a cause. It turned out that I had Lyme Disease which had been poorly studied and is now epidemic. That was a major indicator of medical shortsightedness in itself. But then the problems became more obvious. I saw three separate physicians and each ordered a blood test (which we now know was virtually useless). When the results came in I found they were all the same tests. What a waste.

In France the public carries a data card and all results go on it. If we had such an efficient system the second physician would have had the results and there would not have been a second or third set of tests.

Floundering Over the Years

I am now considered to be a chronic Lyme Disease sufferer. It has been ten years since I believe I contracted the illness and I’m in my fourth return of the disease. This time my treatment will be more protracted. I can’t fault the medical people who have tried to help but the research has been abysmal and denial has been widespread. The stories of problems are endless.

Each of us has our own stories of problems, failures and inefficiencies. And the mental health field is no different. In a later post I’ll focus on one notable issue I became centrally involved in.

Failure on the Horizon

Many of us are looking at health care systems around us failing or on the verge of failing. As noted above, poorer, rural areas are particularly vulnerable in present circumstances. If those hospitals close, the effects will be devastating and the consequence will echo down the generations.

And currently we see areas which are very vulnerable and I saw a very specific area decades ago and it has not gotten any better. When I went to work in the impoverished area in the inner city of Baltimore our young staff learned quickly that the greater threat to “mental health” was poverty because of the depression and anxiety. But our seniors held fast to their desire for centralized systems rife with long term therapy and medications which served our people in the inner city poorly. I’ll leave it there for now. The sad tales go on and on.

But There Is Hope

Suddenly we are seeing an uprising in America. Our young are proclaiming “Enough Is Enough” and women are proclaiming “Me Too” in regard to sexual harassment and at the same time we are seeing a reenergized civil right movement. Now we can see the distinct possibility of vision and attention to the realities for our future. And health care is an essential part.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

We The People

 

Have you thought deeply about the basis of recent tragedies?

Thought Needed

In the wake of recent atrocities no doubt the finger pointing and attempts to use the events for partisan political gain will continue. But we continue to need wise illumination and guidance.

An assessment of the basis for these events can fill books but there are a few basic pieces of history to which we need to attend. The words “We the People” are being used as the headline for this post because we need to understand that it is fundamentally the public at large which must face the basis of the problems and what we are to do about them. As of now truly enlightened historical commentary has been limited.

The Human Social Animal

There needs to be two broad areas of concern. One relates to how human beings are at base and how it affects our society. Humans are social animals which is both a strength and a weakness. Being social, we cleave together in groups of “our” people and work together for that common good. There is strength in numbers and it forges not just relationships but the development of productive effort.

Yet, our young staff working in the inner city of Baltimore in the 1960s learned to attend to a fundamental truth. In a very real sense, because we are socially centered beings, there is a dark side of racism and rejection of “the other”. What we learned was that each of us had to own that dark side and discovery and attention could help us contain and overcome the effects. As a society we still have not adequately recognized these realities nor how we can most productively work together.

Misguided Public Policy

At another level there was the matter of public policy. In Baltimore, as I stated in another post, we saw the beginning of a gulf between the police and the public when the police were forced to “arrest” innocent, homeless people. The police did not want that duty but were forced into these arrests which created terrible scenes in the communities. And then came another level when we began the “war on drugs/war on crime”. It was a bipartisan error forged by both major political parties.

And with this new war the police were forced into “stop and frisk”, stopping people on the roads where their cars were searched often resulting in the discovery of small quantities of illegal drugs. Convictions led to long prison sentences which robbed many men (especially minority men) of their future. Their home communities declined and the effect was to not decrease but increase crime. It also led to the scandal of our swollen prison populations. The ramifications are extensive.

The Public and Police as Victims

The people in these communities along with the police all became victims. Divisions and hostility was increased. And recently we have seen terrible tragedies especially within the black communities. Not every police officer is consummately effective in a difficult crisis situation. Errors will be made. Racism may contribute but it may also simply be an error. We cannot blame the police as a whole. And the effects of errant policies may lead the depressed or dysfunctional person to strike out. Depression is a janus and may lead to suicide or murder.

Looking to the Future

Are we to face ourselves and face the fact that it is we the people who have brought us to these tragedies? And we the people deserves emphasis. We must face our own racism. And if the public responds to prejudice and racial manipulation on the part of self serving politicians, then we become responsible for the tragedies as is currently the case. And if we fail to educate ourselves in the election process, then we abdicate our responsibility as citizens. I have often heard people say it does no good to vote. To not vote does harm, to fail to face reality and assess the often self serving political rhetoric does harm. We each have only one vote but we need to exercise it in the interest of our country and our fellow citizens. 

We the people helped create the problems we are facing and we the people can help solve them. That is the hope and the nature of a democracy. We face a swelling set of changes in this country and we had best attend to the process and our mutual interest.

And now, after recent school shootings, our young are rising up. And we are also seeing women rise as they throw off subjugation. These two processes are landmarks we must applaud and support.

What can be your contribution to solving these problems?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

A New Jobs Portrait

We can Study the Future for Jobs

Furutistic Future Plan Urban Structure Concept

It’s really strange to listen to the non discussion about the future of jobs. We seem to be thinking that the jobs we have now are the only jobs there will be. It reminds me of the head of the copyright office who said in the early twentieth century that we might as well close up the department because everything that can be invented had been invented. It is as if we forget that the industrial revolution was indeed a revolution and we are acting as if the Information Technology revolution isn’t happening. Where is the foresight and the researchers.

Lessons We Can Learn

Making a reference to politics is jarring presently but I have to note that pathetic politicians are telling the people of Appalachia that they will bring back coal jobs and its as if they believe what they are told. I don’t even need to go into why they are not coming back. What is preferable is to look at Appalachia. Have you ever been there? It’s beautiful. Granted the towns need work and investment but those valleys are exquisite and while they aren’t suitable for sprawling industrial complexes or large agricultural operations, they are suitable for many kinds of companies, especially small technologically based companies.

There Is a Paucity of Discussion

Maybe I’m not hearing the discussion or they are done in whispers. A lot of technologically based startup companies can be small or linked because of improved communications systems. I don’t think its up to me to build a copious list but there should be a crowd of researchers at work. Perhaps Appalachia can’t spring to life over night and older residents might not benefit from new types of work but a future could be built for the younger generations. What I know from testing people for vocational opportunities is that you can’t know what there can be as resources until you look. It may take training but above all it has to begin with vision and a willingness to employ it.

Looking Around the World

Germany is legendary in the way it created apprenticeship programs. For some reason they thought that not everyone could or might want an advanced education as in universities. So they set up apprenticeships programs for existing industries. We can do such things for the industries and systems which are coming of age just now. Many tech industries are hungering for new workers and we need to research what the needs are and then go looking for the suitable skill patterns.

Opening Our Minds

I’ve noted this before when I mentioned what I saw as I tested the intelligence of people in preparation for retraining. Intelligence tests as they are constructed are not the be all and end all of ways to assess abilities. The ones we’ve used for a long time such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale were divided into Verbal and Performance. The Verbal was thought of as being most closely related to educational needs and the Performance section related to skills used by what we call blue collar people. Well, guess what. I saw that the Performance skills also related to information technology. Many people with lower Verbal skills were thought of as learning disabled. In fact they had higher Performance skills which was their area of talent.

It Comes Down To This

Can we do some research please and open our minds? We need to assess the jobs which will be needed and look at our pool of talent. New training or retraining may be needed but if we look I  believe we can open our future.

What do you see ahead?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

A Time of National Reformation

Understanding the Need for Change

Do you believe we are facing major change or just major disorder?

It has not yet been described as such, but it would seem we are on the verge of a national reformation. We appear to be suffering conflicts with no solutions immediately on the horizon. It is often dismissed as political but we have to suspect we are dealing with more fundamental issues.

The reaction to recent mass shootings is just one indicator of a national crisis. We are looking at demographic change looming large even as a major party seems to be in the process of collapsing. Now is a time for us to do a multilevel reevaluation on many fronts.

Public Safety and Guns

At the forefront is the issue of needed changes regarding our rules about guns. That means what type of guns should be permissible for possession outside of the military and what rules there need to be related to possession in general.

With all the discussion I have not once heard a meaningful discussion regarding the second amendment. The amendment was about the maintenance of a militia in a newborn country that did not have a standing functional army. Somehow it has become transformed into something else entirely.

In broad strokes we need to address matters of public safety as they relate to gun possession and related restrictions. That means we will also have to address ideological issues as they relate to the wellbeing and the future of our country.

Personal Dysfunction in a Society

But for me as a psychologist, I see another set of issues related to what we call mental health. It is brought up regarding guns and has sets of problems of their own. As noted, we originally applied the disease model as a way to remove issues of personal functioning from the belief in demonic possession. Our emotional and cognitive functionality did not belong in the religious arena but using the medical model has serious problems in its own right.

Many of the shooters in recent massacres were victimized by family history, distorted religious zealotry and probably sexual identity confusion among many other issues. But the question of how we address public safety leads us into a complex arena. And in that regard the disease model offers little clarify. It is supposed to instruct us about the nature of the problem, what procedures to use to deal with it and what medication is indicated if any. In fact, we must separate “mental illness” from the issue of gun management. They are related but there are many other issues involved.

Designing a Helping System

Our health care system is often dysfunctional, especially when corporate profit guides response.  The physical health system and the mental health systems need serious attention and redevelopment.

In the larger picture we need to go back to fundamentals and design the model of how to relate to what are currently called mental health issues. They may be biochemical, stress related, developmental, chemically induced and so forth. Then we need to deal with how to respond and what help to offer. A long overlooked reassessment would take considerable time and even then will prove difficult when it comes to public safety. The issue will always be how to make functional help available and how systems can be designed to serve the sufferer and the public.

Reexamining Fundamentals

It would seem, at this time of what I believe will be national reformation, we should be reexamining fundamentals on many fronts. And my special interest is in reforming and completely revising the use of the outdated model of mental illness. How to respond to dysfunction and distress in human life is complex and that includes our response to drug addiction and abuse. Prevention is related to availability and utilization of services. When we tell people they are “sick” it may turn them away from the guidance and help they need. We attached the D to PTSD and turned it into a disorder when it is, in fact ,a predictable stress reaction among other things. It goes beyond a reaction to the experience of war and now we can see effects on our school children because of the recent shootings. The D proves to be a barrier to help and understanding. We can throw money at these issues but it would seem best to begin by reevaluating our approaches. 

How many of these issues have you experienced personally?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness IV

 

Dealing with Life

Each of us can be placed on dimensions of a set of behaviors and processes. When there is mental illness is a matter of dispute and fashion. When mental illness is defined, too often it is a function of funding and professional achievement. That sounds obscure, but think about it for a moment.

When community mental health blossomed, we learned, at least in inner city poverty, that poverty is stressful (seriously?) if not just plain overwhelming. The social workers were closest to the truth and saw our intervention as “case management”. People get depressed and anxious when they are overwhelmed and when we helped them manage their difficult lives they became less anxious and less depressed. In a poverty environment it is appropriate to be deeply concerned or even terrified regarding the future of your children.

The senior professionals above us wanted the grant money, the status and wanted to perpetuate the establishment. The young staff saw things very differently.

Guidance and Management

Through all my professional experiences I have come to see humans as functioning on a series of dimensions which instructs our personal development, defines, guides or disrupts our functioning. Stress exists and causes serious functional problems. Somewhere in there are biologically based issues and without a doubt most of us need guidance from time to time. And some people benefit from exploration of the self which they may find in some form of what is called insight therapy.

Sorting Out Reality 

Overall, I would like to see us dismiss the concept of mental illness entirely. We can focus on problems associated with biochemical processes when essential and detach severe reactions caused by trauma. It would take time to reformulate the field but we certainly could become more effective and husband our resources. Problem solving and management are basic parts of all human endeavors. What do you think would happen if we started to diagnose corporations or political candidates? I doubt there would be much approval by the objects of such activities.

What happened at Orlando was a terrible tragedy but also opened a door where we find the opportunity for reevaluation on a variety of fronts. I know I’m crying out in the wilderness because there is a huge investment of various kinds in maintaining the status quo. But I can dreams can’t I? There might be a world where we are honest with ourselves, where we can be more efficient and effective and accept our complexity and variety of potentials.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Diagnosis and the Real World

Under what diagnoses do you suffer? (Curious question isn’t it?)

Let’s Begin Here

Two definitions come to mind at once as we look at this post. Psychiatry is defined as: “the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior.” Psychology has a variety of definition but I prefer: the study of human and animal behavior. The numerous other definitions suggest we aren’t actually sure what psychology is and I share that position. in fact, there is even a philosophical element which suits me just fine.

In Clinical Psychology

When we move on to the clinical area we quickly brush up against mental illness and as a student we quickly learn that diagnoses are generally expected. But how does mental illness fit with the broader definition of the study of human behavior. It seems like it must be a subcategory. What I found was that it is a restless subcategory and won’t keep its mouth shut.

Or at least it becomes a problem when we visit that devise place called the real world. And, of course, I believe in the cusp of reality which means I have questions. Are you hearing the pounding of philosophy at the door?

Then There Is Diagnosis

Freud defined a great deal of what is psychiatry and we entered a world of illness which required treatment and so there must be a diagnosis. The whole process was to be applauded because it moved emotionally disturbed people out of intervention for possession by demons  generally under the oversight of the church. They were in better, more compassionate, hands then. But not all of mental health people were devoted to Freud’s teachings. And that included Carl Jung who took us out into the world at large in a variety of ways. I won’t try to explore him. Take a look yourself.

What’s the Point?

It seems we are lost in a forest of exploration. There are those who believe in specific diagnoses for mental illness and in some case it yields helpful intervention. But there are others of us who believe it is far more complex than that. Sometimes diagnoses lead us down narrow corridors and sometimes it is more effective to shy away from an illness model and take the path to looking for functional factors and something I will call life management.

In This Age

Isn’t it interesting that as we rush forward into the future we are still mired in definitions and differing camps of adherents when it comes to what we call health care. At least we have latched onto prevention and a variety of preventive procedures. Those continue to need exploration and so do our responses to things happening to us that deserve attention.

That’s enough of the meshing of philosophical exploration with the real world. In future posts I’ll move deeper into the world of what we call mental illness and alternative forms of response which includes what I call self management.

What are your biggest concerns about health care?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt