“No One Cares About Crazy People”
Posted on July 20, 2018
We live in a beautiful, diverse, and vast country. The more I rack up frequent flyer miles the more I appreciate this fact. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how long a nation survives if it continues to reject, demonize, and abuse the most venerable in its communities.
No One Cares about Crazy People: The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America by Ron Powers does a fantastic job putting forth a historical perspective on the crappy way society treats those that most need our altruism and compassion. Most of you experience the consequences of this treatment on those you serve every day. Powers does a great job in helping us understand how we got in this situation and his family’s tragic experience in the mental health system. I highly recommend you put his book on your reading list.
A few times in my recent travels, I felt like I was living in the pages of his book. First, homelessness is exploding in Honolulu. I was taken aback by the number of people experiencing homelessness only to learn that there were many hundreds more living in homeless communities popping up on different islands. Add to this to the fact that systems of care from around the country are providing those experiencing homelessness in their community one-way tickets to Hawai’i with the promise that they will find everything they need in paradise. I wonder about the people who hand out these tickets, what goes through their minds as they actively screw another community by putting their “problems” on a plane with a one-way ticket.
Second, homelessness in the shadows of Harvard. I had a training in Cambridge last week and got to run (for the first time) through the campus of Harvard. It struck me that even in a geographic location that likely boasts more geniuses per square mile than anywhere in the world, homelessness was a constant presence. A block away from a University solving some of the greatest problems in every discipline are people who lack the human right of housing.
Third, extremes of injustice. In Santa Barbara, where many billionaires call home (at least part-time), poverty thrives in the shadows of mansions. Few places contain so much wealth within the contact of extreme poverty as Santa Barbara. It was difficult for me as a visitor to watch this play out. I wonder if those that occupy the mansions ever take notice of the poor who sleep in the parks and under the overpasses.
Fourth, “not in my backyard.” I listened to a lot of NPR in Massachusetts. The opioid epidemic hit Cape Cod like many places throughout the country. Even though there is an obvious need for treatment, there is an active fight against creating a new treatment facility. The problem: it is too close to a school or maybe MY house. What does it say about our communities (not unique to the Cape by any stretch) that we always want the mentally ill, drug addicted, and poor people to stay out of our side of town?
After traveling around ten thousand miles over the last few weeks, I’m struck by both the beauty I’ve witnessed and the cruelty. Can a country that forsakes those that need help last?
I was also asked by some friends in Iowa to post some of my favorite books. You can find them here!