Crazy. Nut job. Whacko. Bipolar. Schizo. Name calling has always been an unsavory, but a common practice of life. However, lately, the hurtful monikers are becoming oddly specific and more prevalent. The chatter about mental illness, what is and what it means seems to be growing, filling the echo chamber to capacity and reworking society’s working knowledge of what it is to be “crazy.”
Media supported propaganda has continuously and now, forwardly, propelled stereotypes of the man on the street corner shouting warnings of the end of days or medicated loonies in ragged bathrobes, too drowned in narcotics to swim in the “normal people” pool. In Corvallis, there’s a growing perception that flagging down a lifeguard when someone is acting “crazy” isn’t as simple as it should be. However, several organizations throughout the community are attempting to right that wrong and provide a life jacket to the mentally ill in Corvallis.
Every city has the guy on the corner screaming about Revelations and muttering to himself while walking in a circle that is as tightly wound as he is. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 9.6 percent of adult Americans suffer from a severe case of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or a mood disorder. The statistics take a diverged and complicated path after that with some receiving therapy, medication or choosing a holistic route. Then, there are those who are not getting help and more frightfully so, those that don’t know they need it. However, knowing that you need help doesn’t always create a clear path to salvation. In a complicated health care system, many patients find that locating the correct services is only part of the battle. War breaks out when attempting to sort through which doctor will accept which insurance, and which insurance will pay for which medication.
So, while it’s fairly safe to say our man on the corner is part of the 9.6 percent, it’s anyone’s guess as to what statistic he falls into. Further, his ramblings and sporadic shouts, while possibly beyond his control, only further fuel the annoyance and the complete misunderstanding society has of his illness.
Before he was agitating residents that walked passed him, however, the guy on the corner was someone’s son. He was a kid growing up and going to school. It may have been then that he began exhibiting characteristics that could have served as warning signs to someone paying attention. Maybe someone was and maybe he was prescribed a medication he refused to take because of the weighed, quicksand feeling it gave him. No matter his circumstance, it was a long road to that street corner, and if he’d found help earlier, he may have never even gotten there.
Dr. Tim Blumer’s interest in medicine began, ironically enough, as he learned first aid as a lifeguard. Board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, Blumer currently practices as part of Samaritan Mental Health Family Center. Working with both children and their families, the doctor helps families deal with a diagnosis together. However, like so many others, Blumer is aware of the complicated gamete his patience may have to run through before getting help. “Access is an issue and there [is] a lot of reasons for that…. The system is fragmented because of the way it’s paid for,” Blumer shared with The Advocate. He noted that because funds trickle in from federal, state and local services, as well as private insurance and grants, it’s often difficult to make sense of it all. “When you’re a family with a child with a need, you have to figure out what to access. You call and they say, ‘you can’t see me because you have the wrong insurance.’ That’s really frustrating for parents.”
Also working against mental health patients? The nature of the beast. While primary physicians may be able to diagnose patients fairly quickly and send them on their way, psychiatrists have a longer process and therefore can only see so many patients per day.
Corvallis is trying. There are a growing number of resources for those suffering from mental illness and while the problem is still present, it is being addressed.
While modern day influences may have burned certain preconceived notions into our psyches, most individuals with mental health disorders are fully functioning adults. They display no overwhelmingly dramatic traits other than what some might call “eccentricities.” And while they can hold down a job, can count true friends among their company, and have what society would consider success, they still battle every day. Life is simply not as easy as it should be. The case for nearly every one; except for those living with a mental illness They get the added bonus of flinching every time “crazy” is the punch line of a joke at the water cooler, or “psycho” is used to describe the man on the corner, screaming about the second coming, walking in a tight, controlled, lonely circle.