The Tragedy of Older White Men

 

Roger B. Burt

Facing the Future

Yes, that’s a picture of me at the top. I’m an older white man and I’ve been upset with my colleagues for over fifty years. And now the issues are coming to a head.

An Enduring Lesson

I hadn’t thought about men and power much until I took a job in the inner city of Baltimore in the 1960s. At the time the Women’s Liberation Movement was beginning and I found myself working with young, bright women among the men. Our mission in behalf of delivering mental health services to impoverished citizens brought it all to a head. 

Naturally the heads of the program were older white men and they had no dedication to our mission to serve the people of Baltimore. They wanted the grant money, preservation of their status and continuation of the type of program they had been offering. In fact, that program was not what our people needed. And so we fought back and the lessons I learned were carried forward with me.

See It For What It Is

And now the fight continues and this fall it seems there may be what is called “a blue wave” in the interim election. I object to the term because it politicizes an important change which is NOT political. Certainly there is politics involved but we are seeing a worldwide movement to empower women at last. 

To put it bluntly I want to see the power of older white mean eroded and for women to come to equality and power because it is my firm belief that they will bring much needed change and equality of all kinds in a country which is changing rapidly with growing numbers of minorities.

Waves of Change

This is truly a wave of change and I relish these waves we have seen over human history. We have an ongoing wave within the black community. Yes, I refer to them as black because I was part of the reform movement when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and that was the year black was declared to be beautiful. It has special meaning.

And now women are coming to the fore. I am stunned to see smart women showing up on television as commentators in the news and business arenas. And, yes, they may be pretty as well in ways of their choosing.

Time For Men to Face the Future

Now it is time for men to choose a revolution of their own. And  by that I do not mean choosing to fight to retain their hold on power. Instead I strongly recommend introspection, recognition of alternative benefits and devotion to study the male culture. Surely there are benefits but there have also been marked negatives.

These changes are coming at us and we would do well to tend the benefits and seek understanding. It will benefit us all in unforeseen ways. It is time for change guys. Turn away from the grasp of power to a more diverse and glorious future!

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

Our New Age Blossoming – 2

 

Looking Back

It is now over 50 years later than when I went to work in Baltimore. For me time offers not perspective as much as confirmation. The only perspective I find is that I can now clearly see the roots of my deep mistrust of the truth and wisdom of older white men. In fairness there is diversity among them but in our present age the fact of their rule is distressing in so many regards.

Designing a Delivery System

The community mental health movement came with a multi-part design. I was stationed in an outpatient facility which meant I was to consult with the community and deliver services. That seems simple enough. Go out and get acquainted so you get referrals and then give therapy with the psychiatrists giving medication as necessary. What fools we mortals be!

What we found immediately was that we had a lot of learning to do. The community was challenging to put it mildly. They were in serious need and mental health services were not at the top of their list.

The Existing System

There already was a mental health system in place. At the hospital nearby people could come for service. Since it was a medical school there were medical students who often were giving service in six week rotations—with little prior experience. Then there were residents. I’ll save you the agony of all the details but they were not acquainted with the needs of the community either and so could not respond effectively.

At the time psychiatric residents were committed to giving intensive psychotherapy. The local residents were not exactly candidates so they often simply got medication. We immediately found a fundamental truth. The biggest enemy of mental health in the area was the stress of poverty. So they suffered from depression and anxiety. Duh!!!

The System We Designed

Each of us took a morning walk-in clinic. We assessed the person’s problems and then spent the afternoon on the phone arranging appropriate services and getting information about availability among a lot of other things. For example, if they had a physically ill child who was not getting service or inappropriate service we sought appropriate help. Every center had a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who got a lot of referrals. Very many of these people needed training and/or education. A job or a better job had a very beneficial effect on their mental health along with the experience of hope.

Not So Simple

Did we have the support of higher ups? Sometimes, but often not. The older white men generally wanted to preserve the existing system and were primarily interested in the aura of getting the money for a grant to a new glamorous type of program. They loved the aura and wanted to look good to each other. Daily we were in the position of fending off orientations and demands which did not serve our community well. One of my common responses was “We’ll get back to you” or ”Let me look at alternatives.”

Allies With the Community

We  had to develop relationships with the community so we could respond to their real needs. In that era of the beginning of the civil right movement the community became contentious and interesting. Assertions of community needs and objections to the mistreatment of black men began at that time. There were issues about health services. At one point growing activism led to a difficult public hearing and I found myself sitting next to the state head of the mental health system who was clueless. Other times we were visited by arrogant “consultants” from Washington who we had to endure. 

I’ll leave it there for now. It was rough and tumble and never-ending as we fought for the people of the community. You might think we would have had allies from the professions but they were too often few and far between.

Another Major Wave of Change

In some ways we didn’t understand what we were seeing either. In the end the establishment brought down the community mental health movement. As the young rebels left, the clinics in the community were closed and the old ways resumed. I tell the full story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

But two things came out of the era that proved to have a long wave and import for our future. One was the civil rights movement and in the next post I’ll go into the other one. 

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

How Are You America? Part 3

 

Small waterfall along a gorge trail.

Receiving Instruction

The people in the western mountains have the opportunity to instruct us. Not that they want that opportunity, but we can learn lessons if only because we imagine what their lives were like and are like now. But it is almost as if there are those who are asking, “why should we care?”

The answer is simple. We should care because we will surely be instructed. And the instruction is important because, like it or not, the world is changing faster and faster and we need to respond. When we begin to seek vision and answers we serve all our citizens and their futures.

Noting and Facing Challenge

Wherever they came from, whatever their stories, it is clear that their lives are challenged. It certainly looked like there were probably limitations of skills. That does not mean absence of talent or the capacity to learn and build new possibilities.

The bottom line is that in so many areas of our country we need to look at the need and possibility for educational opportunities and assessment of the skills which will be needed. It almost sounds like an abstract idea, but looking ahead we should be clear these kinds of challenge are widespread now and will expand in the future. One of the challenges will be not just looking at what may be needed but how to offer what people may not think they need. If they don’t need it, their children almost surely will. The assessment of what is happening and where it will lead and what is needed will take time. Unfortunately I hear very little about such explorations. It may exist but it is not prominent.

Receiving Instruction – Mental Health

There were two times in my past when I received instruction about some of the issues related to mental health. One of them was when I went into the inner city of Baltimore. I learned that these people did not need mental health services as much as instructions and help in managing a stressful environment and the offering of resources they did not know were available or that they might need.

In our “treatment” of them they gained self management skills in addition to being offered resources. The management extended to the self but also to the environment. Unfortunately many of the lessons were lost because of narrow-minded conservatism among the professions and the fact that resources disappeared as the “poverty Program” ended.

But as the perception of mental health is changing now and there is increased focus on management we have an opportunity but we also need to attend to resources.

Receiving Instruction – Vocational Evaluation

The other thing I found instructive was vocational assessment and retraining. In our mental health program, each of our units had a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. We worked closely with them to provide training and support. And the potential of people in entrenched poverty was often truly inspiring. We simply needed to open the world.

I was part of the assessment team and when I left the inner city, I continued to work to evaluate people who needed evaluation and training. There were other lessons I learned—up shortly.

 

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

 

Sunset and fellow photographer at the beach
Sunset and fellow photographer at the beach

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: Discovery Amazon page

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Opportunities and Lessons Learned

 

9780977018376_lowres

What kind of missed opportunities have you seen?

Inspirational experiences and the opportunity for personal growth are not just for an individual. They occur for societies as well. They may be seized or they may be missed. We may miss the opportunity because we are not listening to our spirit guides or get lost in a societal fantasy.

Community Mental Health

We had an important opportunity in the 1960s with the advent of the community mental health movement. We set out to make mental health services more available to the population at large. It was an alluring opportunity and I decided to climb on board. I could not know how being one of the first people hired in one of the first programs would afford me such a window on the world and the possibilities. Of course, with my personality, possibilities were central to what I want.

I tell the full story of the experience in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health which is available as a paperback on Amazon or on Kindle. I could not resist writing it for the record although the movement failed.

Awakening From the Haze of Education

When they took me to my office there were no patients to be seen because no one had been working to let anyone know we existed. In the next office was a black woman social worker by the name of Roz who became my mentor and who led me out onto the street. The long and short of it is that a group of twenty somethings went into Baltimore poverty and learned how to provide useful service. The biggest danger to the mental health of the residents turned out to be poverty itself. We found once we helped them solve problems and build community that the rate of anxiety and depression declined and with it vulnerability to more serious declines in mental and cognitive functioning.

The Establishment Opposition

But we had opposition to our work. In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I created opponents for the Tethyans called Overlords who were dedicated only to power and profit. In the first book, Gaia’s Majesty: Discovery just published on Amazon, we become acquainted with these people. In reality, in Baltimore, our young staff had to deal with our own form of Overlords. They were less dangerous but they were not dedicated to support what we were learning.

These Overlords were called the psychiatric establishment. Their status was enhanced by having landed a grant to support what was supposed to be groundbreaking mental health service delivery. Except their idea was to simply continue what they had been doing and to enhance their status. I thought I was the first psychologist hired but found someone had already been hired but worked in the hospital and never, ever gave service in the community. The powers that were wanted to continue to send in untrained medical students to see inner city residents and to have resident psychiatrists give medication and intensive psychotherapy.

They Need Help

The residents of the area did not need intensive psychotherapy or to be seen by untrained people. They needed help to resolve health problems with their children, help to negotiate with agencies, job training, support for their adolescent children in crisis and on and on. So our young staff dug in our heals and, in response to the demands of our Overlords, said, “Not right now. We’ll get back to you.”

And so we built a viable and very useful service system and even got community people hired for jobs they could usefully do. But then the early dedicated young people inevitably moved on and the Overlords seized the opportunity to close the community offices, draw everything back into a central building and bring back the medical students and psychiatric residents.

Will There Ever Be An Enduring Reform Movement?

We lost the lessons learned. And now, with the airing of national problems, people are wondering why we have so many mental health problems and a system which really does not make itself available for many people. A half billion dollars is to be made available for mental health services and I have to wonder to what end and how it will be used.

And so we saw personal and professional agendas take precedence over the reality of how we might have ameliorated suffering and help build a future for the poor. It was a clash of values and realities.

Do you believe we will do better any time soon?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Gaia’s Majesty: Discovery Amazon page

#cuspofreality,#womenrising,#empowermentofwomen,#gaia,#gaia’smajesty,#gaia’smajestydiscovery,#anunbearablechoice,#gaia’smajestychallenge,
#thechosenrise,#gaia’smajestytransformation,#lifeforcesrevealed