Aimee Patton

A pleasantly eccentric take on politics

“What this country needs is a reform of our mental health system.” said just about everybody after the last mass shooting.

So? Where is it? Anybody?


In the meantime, America has watched a very public struggle of Amanda Bynes with what is potentially a very serious mental illness. I think this is a perfect example of how America really isn’t ready to start dealing with mental illness and instead just we continue to sit by and watch our mentally ill as some sort of crazy side-show.

Bynes, a popular movie actress, caught my attention when she starred as the side kick, Penny, in Hairspray. Since then, she has suffered a series of car accidents, arrests and outbursts that clearly showed she is spiraling out of control.

Our mentally ill no longer just roam the street mumbling to themselves, they can literally fall apart in front of millions of people. It is right there in front of all of us and STILL we all just watch it as some sort of Lifetime made-for-TV movie.

Did I ever follow Bynes on Twitter? NO.

Did I discuss her latest antics with friends – YES. Do I feel guilty about that? YES.

I know I am FAR from alone. Her twitter followers exploded from approximately 54,000 in April 2011 to over 3 MILLION as of today.

Are we all following her on Twitter, because everyone is concerned? No. You and I both know 3 million people are following her on Twitter to be entertained.

Her psychiatric hold and the latest revelation that she may be suffering from schizophrenia drives home the fact that this country is a LONG way from really understanding mental illness. If Bynes was walking around with any other untreated illness, we would be collectively outraged and get her help. However, when it comes to people hearing voices, acting out or acting odd – we just “follow” them on Twitter to see what crazy thing they may say or do next.

So experts? What now? How do we deal with our mentally ill when they become a spectacle for everyone to see? In a time when we all live in a social media fishbowl, how do we get help for our society’s most desperate?

Some thoughts for our mental health task force:

1. Maybe instead of a follow button on Twitter or a Friend option on Facebook, these social media platforms offer an “alert” button that people can send a message to a mental health professional when someone really looks in trouble?

2. After 3 arrests, all people get a mental health evaluation.

3. Make psychiatric drugs available and affordable for all Americans. Having a psychiatric illness is not like any other illness. Cancer kills only the person with the illness, mental illness can impact a person’s decision making and make them a threat for society.

I would love it if we could take this collective curiosity and do some good instead of selling some gossip magazines. (yes, I still read them – I am well aware of my own hypocrisy.)

I guess, like the rest of America, I’ll just have to wait to see what this new mental health legislation looks like.



2 thoughts on “Why we aren’t really ready for mental health reform

  1. bobarmi says:

    Mental health, this is a tough subject or as I like to call it “The Modern Catch 22”. How can we help people that very obviously need help, but in their psychosis refuse to be helped. I use to meet with people everyday, many of them homeless. They were offered help, real help from doctors and counselors, some took it, some didn’t. Of those that took the help I am not aware of one that, “made it back to society”. In my own family we have someone with Bi-Polar disorder. He has a brilliant mind, but with out the constant supervision of his mom, and his medication he would spiral out of control.

    The old joke is, “How many physiologist does it take to change a light bulb?……Just one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” Well what if that light bulb doesn’t even understand what the meaning of a “normal Life” is, how can it want to change? There is your Catch 22.

    As for the Twitter and the Tabloids, I know it is human nature to want to rubber-neck at a train wreck. I think each of use should look inside and reflect why. Is it because some one who was once rich and famous has fallen down and we can now giggle and point? Do you find yourself saying, “Yep, saw that one coming.”, really, why didn’t you do something to stop it then? Too lazy, too scared, or just wanted to watch them flame out and crash, (I ask the same thing of NASCAR fans)

    Aimee you call for the Government to test them and give them drugs. (I do like the idea of the ALERT button, but then again I would spamming Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Raid’s button 50 times a day.) How about we try old school, get the community, and churches involved. A little human compassion instead of Government bureaucracy. John F Kennedy (a.k.a. The last real Democrat President) said it real clear, “ask not what your Government can do for you, but what you can do for your government.” And since United States Government is “We The People” what JFK meant was, “What can you do for your fellow man.”

    Stabilis et fidus ~ Bob

    1. Bob-I really enjoyed reading your comment. You make some excellent points. I agree that behavior change is the hardest thing to manage. I think community also plays a big role here. I’m not sure what the answer is but we both agree something needs to be done. Aimee

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