By Daniel Meng-Saccoccio, Rotem Olsha, Maura O’Sullivan, and Emma Kaplon
Mental health is frequently talked about, but there is limited support for the people affected by it. William Sessions, Tiffanie Cotten, Donna and Donald Smith, Jim Kellenberger, Debbie Oliver, Denise Williams, Vijay Ghate, and Tim Grizzard discuss a range of issues in the mental health system including taboos within African American communities, involuntary commitment, psychiatric treatment, and patient support systems.
William Sessions talks about his grandmother’s struggle with alcohol and depression, and how the taboo on mental health within the African American community made it difficult. Tiffanie Cotten discusses her work as an African American counselor dealing with substance abuse and mental health, comparing the two and providing an outlook for her future work.
Donna and Donald Smith explain Donald’s involuntary commitment after a psychotic break, recalling his dangerous and fearful reaction to the poor treatment he received at the hospital. Jim Kellenberger shares his support for involuntary commitment based on his mother’s treatment as a bipolar patient, viewing mental institutions as necessary “havens” for people who cannot make decisions about their own well-being due to mental illness or alcoholism.
In Debbie Oliver’s interview, she discusses her experience with bipolar disorder and the ways in which her treatment (Lithium) actually worsened her physical and mental health. Denise Williams more broadly describes how mental health affects all people, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic background or occupation. She then talks about the unrealistic expectations required of psychiatric technicians.
Vijay Ghate, a former physician at Dorothea Dix Hospital, discusses the courts’ inappropriate use of the mental health care system and how hospitals like Dix slowly became places where anyone without a support system was sent for housing and care. Tim Grizzard shares his own experiences with finding housing after being discharged from a mental hospital. He explains that his parents could not care for him and describes Spectrum House, a group that housed him and helped him reintegrate with the community.
The clips included in this playlist demonstrate the necessity for better mental health care and more structural support for both care providers and patients.