Echoes From The Past

 

Life’s Promise

Somehow we have a dream that a stable and glorious future will open before us. It is unlikely. Our lives are not ours alone because we share it with family and intimates, but also must share it with the world at large which is not under our control. But the past has a way of reaching out to us which is not necessarily a bad thing. It may tell us about how the world is and such things as the variability of opportunity. 

From My Past

In 1967 (yikes that’s a long time ago) I took a job in the inner city of Baltimore. I was one of the first people hired in one of the first community mental health programs in the country. I was just leaving Duke with my doctorate in hand and I was definitely ready to depart academia. The whole idea of community mental health was to bring mental health services to the public using a public health model. It was a marvelous idea.

Wait a Minute!

But there was not just one problem. Communities are different, and because of that the whole idea of applying the medical model to our inner lives was flawed and established practice is not so easily changed.

I was given an office and told to give service. But there was no one there except for a woman social worker. She led me out into the city and steadily the staff grew. Young professionals learned about the community and what it needed. It was tumultuous and fascinating.

Wait Another Minute!

But in some ways the least of our problem was adapting services to a poverty environment in chaos. An even larger problem proved to be the conservatism of the mental health establishment. All they wanted was the grant money and the glory of having landed funding for a “glamorous” enterprise. They had been providing services by psychiatric residents and medical students on six week rotations. We dug in our heels. The people of that community needed reliable ongoing services, not a series of inexperienced people passing out medication. Granted, our group of twenty somethings were inexperienced, but we were dedicated as a group to learning fast and meeting real needs. 

What We Concluded

What we found was a need for life management  in a form of partnership. Many “mental health” problems were an outgrowth of the dynamics of the poverty environment more than anything else. Of course, it was much more complicated than that but that is a rough outline. But we had found that a highly beneficial set of services and programs could have been focused.

In the End

At last though, those in power are in power after all. In time the bright eyed, groundbreaking young people moved on and the higher powers invoked a retrenchment. The community based clinics were closed, staff was withdrawn to a central building and business as usual restored.

Across the country the reform movement of that era was coming to an end.  And with its end came the end of community mental health. I tell the whole story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

Now the Lesson

Yes, community mental health came too soon and its time is still not yet at least until we get through our present upheaval when a younger generation with vision may take power.

But, looking back we can see something. On the street we learned a huge amount about such communities, but all the data was kept in our heads and used to formulate a highly focused, problem solving service system. If a system with managers of more vision were to be devised now, the information technology at our fingertips could help us sift, store, integrate and develop data for a viable system. And it could be adapted to fit the community at hand—whatever its form. Then we would truly have a community mental health system, but probably with a more refined name. And if we had had information technology we could have documented and built.

Coming back to one of my original points, I can see that something from the past can be brought forward to a much more adapted use at a future time when new tools and vision are available.

###

Don’t Miss My Developing Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

I refer to it as a work of magical realism. It is a series with a strong mythological element and a real world setting in this time when women are being empowered at last. It is a time of wonder and awakening for all of humankind.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power – Book 1

(Available now in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.) 

Avery had dedicated her life to work for the future of third world women. Her life was enhanced when she met the man who became the love of her life. They could not know that they shared a destiny and that a mission set long ago by our Earth Goddess was to be revealed before them.

Gaia’s Majesty-Challenge: The Chosen Rise – Book 2

(Available now in Pre-Order and goes on sale April 29 on Amazon)

These people, called Tethyans, live in cities in the sea but can morph into fully human form and come to land to form families. They join with the warrior women called the Andromeda to fight against the forces working to impair the future of humankind. Avery has found her birth name of Chantia and she and Beck find there is soon to be a child of seeming great import just as the world falls into terrible strife with millions already dead. 

Thank You For Your Service

 

 

Have you ever had a stress reaction?

Have We Defined Stress Incorrectly?
Maybe our recent wars did not create an apocalypse for our nation, but we’re now facing some consequences of the wars. An apocalypse is ongoing for many of the residents of the Middle East but there is also significant distress among some people in our nation.

Some of that distress will be referred to as mental illness. I am not a huge fan of the medical model as it relates to mental and emotional functioning because I think there are often other more useful ways to look at some of the things that happen to us. We created the concept of mental health so that we could remove mental and emotional suffering from the hands of the church. It is no longer common to describe people as being possessed by the devil or demons. But sometimes viewing something as an illness is not useful either.

World War II Is Still With Us

Long before there was the currently popular Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we had war related stress problems but they were not diagnosed nor helped very effectively. We hear a great deal about PTSD currently. It almost sounds like it is a new problem.

I had a couple of awakenings in my practice over the years. In one instance a man came to see me about an ill-defined depression which had been nagging at him. We talked for several sessions until at last he said, “I think you need to meet my father”. His father had been a bomber pilot in World War II and had flown on both missions to destroy the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. In each attack they lost 90% of the planes. His father had passed survivor guilt on to his son.

In another instance I was dealing with a young Jewish woman. Again, we were getting nowhere until she asked to bring her grandmother in. Her grandmother was a survivor of the Aushwitz concentration camp and had passed on this heritage within the family.

More Recent Events

It should not surprise anyone that we have similar problems for people who served in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. The revelations have been ongoing. From time to time I have occasion to talk with veterans. In one instance when I told a man that reactions to this stress were essentially normal there were tears in his eyes. He was grateful and said, “I thought I was mentally ill.”

Normalizing the Experience

The military is beginning to work to drop the D from PTSD because calling it a disorder is serving as a bar to seeking help. People don’t like being called mentally ill. The fact is that the types of reactions we are seeing should be characterized as normal reactions to prolonged stress. Exactly how is a person to feel when they spend every day killing people and having people trying to kill them? Since we don’t have a draft we have sent people back for multiple tours of duty which is utterly irresponsible.

Thank You For Your Service

Yes, we should thank them for their service but we are too often not giving them service in return. I used an image of a homeless serviceman for this post because it exemplifies the service we are not giving. They should not be suffering. Too often the wait times for those seeking help is much too long and there should be no veterans homeless on the street.

We are failing to step up to our obligations. Politicians are threatening more war and few are really responding to and supporting the response to real need created by past wars. The fact is that there are understandable reactions to prolonged stress and they can be dealt with.

On Another Note

There are other kinds of conflicts which we can view symbolically. Join us and enter for an opportunity to win a free autographed paperback copy of        Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power  
To enter, email rogerbburt@gmail.com . Drawing every two weeks. Each person entering will receive the first two chapters of the book by return email.

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

Echoes From the Past

Life’s Promise

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Somehow we have a dream that a stable and glorious future will open before us. It is unlikely. Our lives are not ours alone because we share it with family and intimates, but also must share it with the world at large which is not under our control. But the past has a way of reaching out to us which is not necessarily a bad thing. It may tell us about how the world is and such things as the variability of opportunity.

From My Past

In 1967 (yikes that’s a long time ago) I took a job in the inner city of Baltimore. I was one of the first people hired in one of the first community mental health programs in the country. I was just leaving Duke with my doctorate in hand and I was definitely ready to depart academia. The whole idea of community mental health was to bring mental health services to the public using a public health model. It was a marvelous idea.

Wait a Minute!

But there was not just one problem. Communities are different, and because of that the whole idea of applying the medical model to our inner lives was flawed and established practice is not so easily changed.

I was given an office and told to give service. But there was no one there except for a woman social worker. She led me out into the city and steadily the staff grew. Young professionals learned about the community and what it needed. It was tumultuous and fascinating.

Wait Another Minute!

But in some ways the least of our problem was adapting services to a poverty environment in chaos. An even larger problem proved to be the conservatism of the mental health establishment. All they wanted was the grant money and the glory of having landed funding for a “glamorous” enterprise. They had been providing services by psychiatric residents and medical students on six week rotations. We dug in our heels. The people of that community needed reliable ongoing services, not a series of inexperienced people passing out medication. Granted, our group of twenty somethings were inexperienced, but we were dedicated as a group to learning fast and meeting real needs.

What We Concluded

What we found was a need for life management in a form of partnership. Many “mental health” problems were an outgrowth of the dynamics of the poverty environment more than anything else. Of course, it was much more complicated than that but that is a rough outline. But we had found that a highly beneficial set of services and programs could have been focused.

In the End

At last though, those in power are in power after all. In time the bright eyed, groundbreaking young people moved on and the higher powers invoked a retrenchment. The community based clinics were closed, staff was withdrawn to a central building and business as usual restored.

Across the country the reform movement of that era was coming to an end. And with its end came the end of community mental health. I tell the whole story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

Now the Lesson

Yes, community mental health came too soon and its time is still not yet at least until we get through our present upheaval when a younger generation with vision may take power.

But, looking back we can see something. On the street we learned a huge amount about such communities, but all the data was kept in our heads and used to formulate a highly focused, problem solving service system. If a system with managers of more vision were to be devised now, the information technology at our fingertips could help us sift, store, integrate and develop data for a viable system. And it could be adapted to fit the community at hand—whatever its form. Then we would truly have a community mental health system, but probably with a more refined name. And if we had had information technology we could have documented and built.

Coming back to one of my original points, I can see that something from the past can be brought forward to a much more adapted use at a future time when new tools and vision are available.

What recognitions are you bringing forward?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B . Burt