Mental Health Suggestions

From:  Robert Michael Foster

1943 Timber Grove Road

Frederick MD 21702

To:  Whom It May Concern

Enclosures:

[1]  Teamworking Resume of R. M. Foster at http://www.recoverybydiscovery.com/resume.htm

[2]  Thumbnail Story of R. M. Foster at http://www.recoverybydiscovery.com/story.htm

[3]  The Relationship Between Schizophrenia & Mysticism by Sandra Stahlman.

Subject:  Mental Health Suggestions

Dear All,

I am using this letter on my internet web pages as a way to express my deepest feelings on the subject of Mental Health. 

As a graduate of a masters program in spiritual psychology I am familiar with the Neuro Linguistics Progranning [NLP] concept of reframing.  Reframing is just a new way of looking at anything.  I believe that we can ease the stigma of mental illness if we reframe mental illness as a path of heroes recovering from acting like victims.  I hope that you will take this small leap of faith with me, and find that it feels comfortable for you.  My thesis is that our mentally ill could begin to be treated as part of our heroes taking on part of our wounds. Heroic therapist are the ones helping all of us heal our wounds.

Mental Health and Homelessness

These subjects are close to my heart because I have recovered from what was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenia disorders in the past.  I have recovered to where I have earned a masters degree in psychology and am assisting other therapist and others.  I have also assisted some homeless in their recovery process.  From my experiences I have learned a unique perspective on how mental illeness can be described.  From my perspective I can see what some of the possible solutions are.  Perhaps you may find some of my information of some use in what ever your role is in our world.  Perhaps you can use some of my information to remove some of the stigma of mental illness.

Who am I?

I am a retired federal civil servant enjoying my new career as one who fosters recovery for therapist, teams, and troopers that choose to recover.  I spent most of my past career as a civilian project team leader for the Navy and as a systems engineer.  I was grateful for my federal sick leave and my Blue Cross High Option when I was diagnosed as manic depressive in 1982.  I needed my sick leave to use for my time to recover.  I also needed my health insurance, more to pacify my wife that did not know how to cope with my illness.  There was one short time that I really needed some medicine.  I would have asked for more assistance, if the surrounding attitudes had been more positive and open.  My wife's attitudes and the attitudes of those that supported her came from society.  A change in attitudes is at the heart of my thesis here.

I knew that I had wanted to make my world a better place to live.  I knew that I was sick and tired of my problems and that I had chosen to resolve my issues and that this had triggered my illness.  I knew that what was happening was part of my recovery.  I knew I had to cooperate with my recovery processes, in spite of the attitudes of my family, therapists, and hospital.  They did not know any better, but I did.

Why do I want to reduce the stigma of mental illness?   Because it will assist in the healing of my friends that are temporarily mentally ill.   Because it will assist in the healing of my other friends that are temporarily judgmental of mental illness.  Because it will make the job of the heroic therapist easier.

How do I know that reducing the stigma of mental illness will be healing?   I know from what happened to me.  I got through my illness faster by cooperating with my terrors, my fears, my low and high energies for seven years.  I facilitated my healing by forgiving my judgments on others and myself.  I found that the intention of my terrors, fears, and energy levels was to heal me.  I would have healed even faster if my family, friends, professionals, and society had been supportive of my healing processes and if I knew what I know now.     

I am enclosing my resume as enclosure [1] and my short story as enclosure [2] to help answer the question of who I am.

Reducing the Stigma

I believe our mentally ill are some of our heroes.  Why?  Because I see them as taking on a larger share of our madness and hurts because of their perceived diminished state.  I see them as heroes because most of them are hurting themselves instead of us.

I will take each of these points separately.  How are they taking a larger share of our madness and hurts?

We get some clues from the experiences of therapist that have seen how families interrelate.  What they have seen is that when their client get better and return to their family system, new things happens.  Their client returns to mental illness or someone else in the family system gets ill or they all get better.  They are all showing how they are all interrelated. A branch of therapy called family systems therapy knows this from their experiences.  The mentally ill are in a family system and a community system and a country system and a world system.  I believe that our mentally ill are only our identified mad. I believe that the real madnesses are in our world and our country and our communities and our families.  I believe that our mentally ill are the ones with the least resistance and most sensitivity to our system madness.

I believe that our mentally ill are our brave ones that have somehow decided to take on a larger share of our community illness.  It might be from a messiah complex, but Messiahs are heroes.  I know that in my case, when I had hit bottom, I decided to help save the world by becoming enlightened.  What happened was that my fears came upon me and I got through my trials of Job with my attitude and my training as a US Marine and as a scientist.  On the other side of that "mine field", I found that I had only saved myself by going through a rebirth process.  Now I needed to grow up again.  Therapist have seen how some family members decide to take on their family's problems by doing the acting out for the family.  Their mental illness may not always go back to conscious decisions like mine.  They may be in their nightmare, on a quest that they fell into without knowing how they decided to do that.

We call our veterans heroes, and many only fell into that nightmares of the madness of war without knowing how they did that.

How are the mentally ill hurting themselves instead of us?  Simple.  I believe that criminals are just mentally mad people that have decided to hurt others as well as themselves.  For me, heroes are mentally ill people that have decided to just hurt themselves.  That makes them my heroes. Criminals are a different subject and if you are interested on how as many as 80% on the next generation could lead good lives instead of jail lives, write.

The Story of the Indian Holy Man

I have heard about an Indian mystic, I believe his name was Mehr Baba.  He would go to the local insane asylum from time to time and just sit and commune with the inmates.  From time to time inmates some would become more rational and would leave to lead better lives.  Part of the solution is to facilitate the visiting of inmates.  In my experience, jails let in more visitors than mental hospitals.  Some places only allow family.  We could be their true friends that celebrate the part they are taking on for us all.  A friend of mine once said he is in the least of us so why not make it easier to visit him there.

My Friends the Homeless

I met several homeless that were begging outside my place of employment.  I would talk to them and became friends with several of them.  The ones that chose to get better began to get better. The ones that were too mad and did not want to choose to get better stopped coming around. When I first met one of them, he was most of the time cursing and spitting on the ground and was telling about his demons.  Over time his demons and cursing and spitting went away.  Then he got SSI assistance and got a small place to live.  He recently showed me pictures of his place where he had his cat and had decorated his small place very nicely.  I celebrate his partial recovery and his continuing recovery.  I celebrate his transformation of his deamons in our collective unconscious.

A Story of American Mental Hospitals

This true story was written up in "Science" quite a while ago.  We forget what we discover many times.  Several young doctors wanted to see how they would be treated in mental hospitals.  They went to several separate hospitals and described the same symptom.  They said they heard a "thud" sound.  They were all hospitalized as mentally ill.  They then acted rationally in the hospitals.

The Hospital Doctors and Staff all treated them as mentally ill, even though they said they were not.  The strange thing is that the Doctors and the Staff never caught on; but the "mentally ill" patients did catch on.  The "mentally ill" could tell that the young doctors were rational.  Those young doctors were our forgotten heroes.  The keepers of our mental instutions may still be in denial, even though they are trying to be our heroes.  I believe that it would be effective to have a qualification requirement for doctors and staff to have to spend two weeks a year as an identified patient in other similar institutions.  With this new perspective our heroic therapist would tend to have even more empathic skills.  I suspect that the mental health system would begin to recover from its illnesses, much more rapidly.

The Story of the Mad Mother

I once gave a talk on how I had recovered from my mental illness.  Afterwards an overbearing mother told me this story.  She had a child that she thought was psychic.  The child seemed to know what she was going to do and it frightened her.  She had the child put in a mental hospital to relieve her fears.  It may have also been a blessing in disguise for the child to be away from this particular mother.  This way her child was a hero that took on an extra share of her family's angers without having to face the angry mother daily.

The Story of the Heroic Schizophrenics and their Therapist

This is a true story that was told to me by a friend that was a therapist in a public mental hospital.  She was put in charge of a group of schizophrenics.  She was frustrated and wanted to help.  Her intuition told her to do a strange thing.  She threw off her clothes and ran out into the courtyard and into a wading pool.  Her schizophrenic charges followed her and threw off their clothes and began frolicking in the pool.  She then noticed a strange thing.  All her schizophrenic patients had become more rational.  Their strange symptoms went away.  They were all telling her this strange story.  They all told her that they had chosen to come to earth to help make earth a better place to live.  They all told her the they found it a lot harder to help than they had expected.

Of course society fired her and took no note that playfulness and non judgmentalness had a dramatic effect on reducing their symptoms and made their role as secret heroes OK.  She is a hero to me because of her courage to follow her intuition and to discover a unique perspective towards skitzphrenics.  I note that mystics say that they are part of all of us.  It looks to me that schizophrenics have part of that mystic experience, but they can not contain their mystical experience rationally.  I would like to see research on my heroic friend's discoveries.  Perhaps we could bring more of our schizophrenic veterans home. In earlier times before we designated people as mentally ill, the same symptoms made them the valued people in a community. Their value was that they exhibited signs of being closer to the spirit world.  See enclosure [3] for more data on this reframe of perspective.

The Real Problem and Some Solutions

I have suggested all along that the REAL problem is one of our society's attitudes from ignorance.  Society's attitudes causes society to be mad because they expect others to meet their expectations.  Their expectations are seldom meeting reality.  Our society's attitudes can be influenced by small changes.  Our leadership is in the best position to begin these changes.  It could cost a less than we are spending and would save a lot in the future.

For example, our government required a simple statement of truth on cigarette packages. Then they began to have some anti smoking advertisements. This set in motion a long term revolution in our attitudes towards smoking.  Now smokers are more considerate of non smokers whether they want to or not.  More smokers now know the games that the cigarette companies are playing on them.  Cigarette companies are now rapidly developing safer smokes and are on the defensive.

How about our government requiring a simple statement of truth at the entrance to our mental institutions and the doors of therapist.  "Here enter the heroes of our society that have taken a larger share of our society's wounds."

How about incentivizing doctors and staff of mental institutions to spend two weeks each year in an equivalent institution as an identified patient referred there by a professional.  This could be used to meet their continuing education requirements. Counselors and Social Workers could be incentivized to go to Al Anon or other equivalent co-dependent recovery groups for part of their continuing education.

It would also be helpful to have the private sector have the same sick leave policy as the federal government.  Being able to save my sick leave was a life saver for my family. Even so, I still had over half a year left when I retired.

Managed care in the long run may begin to find and fund things that work to heal mental illness because in the long run it would cost them less money.  I went to a presentation about a short teaching program for recovery of depressed women that ended up saving 75% on their medical health plans.  There are more discoveries out there like this.  Changing the stigma of mental illness to respect will reduce the amount of people that are turning their mental anguish into physical disease and hypochondria.  Since these are the people that are the high utilizers of our medical systems, there will be great cost savings.   Changing the stigma of mental illness to respect will facilitate more rapid recovery and provide a great cost savings.  How else will we manage to aford the baby boomers without these more enlightened approaches.   

I have read about a technique of leaving some mentally ill alone in the woods with enough food and checking on them each month until they work through their illness.  I have read about a country where they have villages that have a tradition of leaving each of their mentally ill in separate healthy families.  These seems like better ideas to me than concentrating our illnesses in hospitals.  I believe research on how well these and other techniques work would be in order.

Any or all or more like changes would start a revolutionary change for all of us.

I remain, Your Truly,

Robert Michael Foster, MA

One who fosters recovery and happiness

Revised for Publication 21 August 1998

Any suggestions for improvement greatfully accepted.

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Copyright (c) 1997,8 by Michael Foster and http://www.recoverybydiscovery.com

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24 October 1998