Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mental illness

is difficult to understand. It is something we can't hear or see or feel - although we might hear or see or feel the results. We might hear someone saying "strange" things or see them doing "strange" actions. We might feel the physical or psychological effect of someone lashing out - or even both.
We all tend to be frightened by the idea of mental illness both because it is something we don't understand and because of the fear of "it could be me" and "I might lose control of my mind too". 
Yes, it is scary stuff.
It is the only explanation I can find for the way in which our government is, through Centrelink, treating some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
There are many people who have had a sudden drop in the amount they are getting because of the new pension rules. They were often only just coping financially any way because illness of any sort involves extra expense. If you have a physical disability it is extra equipment - and some of that can be very, very expensive - and the extra medicines. It is the not being able to afford the initial layout to shop in the cheapest possible way and much, much more.
If you have a mental illness you may simply not be able to plan from one day to the next. The relatively simple idea of going to the supermarket for milk and bread becomes a major planning exercise and the stress of making decisions can leave someone exhausted.  I know because yesterday as I was pedalling up the street someone I know - but not well - stopped me and asked if I would do that simple bit of shopping for him. He was close to tears. He's not coping at all right now but he was until recently. He had a letter on Monday telling him he owed money. He's supposed to sort it out but he can't make a decision.
I asked if he had told his brother - someone I do know rather better than I know him - and he said no. I asked if I could contact his brother and he shrugged and said, "I don't know."
I decided he had asked me to get the milk and the bread and that, perhaps, it was a wider request for help. I sent his brother an email and got back a reply which thanked me, expressed extreme frustration and a promise to "drop in casually and see if he wants to go fishing" and see if that will get him to say something. 
We both agreed though that nobody in government should be sending people with a serious mental illness - one that has been documented - a "debt" notice. They have to find another way of handling it.

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