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The Truth About Mental Health Hurts

Its mental health awareness month. I talk about mental health a lot…well to be accurate, I talk about the lack of care for those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.  I’m appreciative that there is a month set aside to bring awareness, it's something that affects all of us if we know or love someone who suffers or not. Having been in Los Angeles three times recently I can assure you - the streets there are literally lined with people’s makeshift homes, the parks are full of people with nowhere else to go.  The homeless crisis is real even if you don’t see it in your own location.

“But so many of those people don’t want help!” This is absolutely true. Their ability to make healthy choices for themselves is non-existent. Have you ever had a conversation with someone in a psychotic state? They are not in touch with reality. They have their own reality going on inside their own mind that makes no sense to anyone else - but to them, it's as real as our thoughts are to us. They are incapable of understanding that they would benefit from help, they are “fine” in their own minds.

And here’s the part that sends fury through my veins: Even if they WANTED HELP, there is so little help available, maybe if you have PPO insurance you have better chances, but what are the chances that an unhoused person has good insurance unless they are still young enough to be on their parent’s plan? MediCal/Medicaid doesn’t help much at all when it comes to this type of treatment.

Don’t get me started on all the organizations that make themselves sound so helpful and righteous and give the illusion that help is there for all who need it. I’ll just come out and say - it's bullshit. Trust me on this, I have researched for years to find a place that always has a bed when you need it, for free or with HMO, and it doesn’t exist. When you're told a bed may open in a few days - so what, it may be too late by then.

I’m sure some of you are getting sick of my rants about this topic, but I am living this topic. I love someone dearly and have sincerely done everything in my power to help her, but to no avail. She has been in a psychotic state for nearly 6 months now. The only time she’s had even an ounce of clarity in this time was when she was in the hospital and getting meds for six solid weeks. BUT she never stays long enough, she typically leaves in a few days, or maybe a week. If she's been taken on a 5150 hold* the maximum amount of time they can keep her is 72 hours, or if they deem necessary they can keep her for two weeks. But that rarely happens. If she is there voluntarily so can leave at any time, if on a hold she can leave after 72 hours.

Here’s the main problem, in my opinion:

According to law a person can not be admitted to any type of hospital or treatment center without their consent to go, UNLESS that person is a danger to themselves or others. Here’s the interpretation of the U.S. law on this:

"Generally, long-term* involuntary commitment proceedings may be initiated when an individual poses a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness, is gravely disabled, or is unable to meet their basic needs. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws regulating long-term involuntary commitment."

(*In this case, long term can be as short as two weeks)

See that yellow highlight? That may as well be crossed off this definition because so far, in over 15 years of dealing with my friend and my son, and talking to many others about their family members - this has NEVER been taken into consideration. Never. 

It's a very fine line deciding if someone should be involuntarily committed to a hospital for treatment. It's frightening to think that someone can be forced to get help that they don’t want. But what if they don’t get that help? They will continue living on the streets and may die on the streets. Simple as that. 

I wish being unable to meet their basic needs (food, shelter) was really a criteria for being taken into the hospital for treatment. That is the only way my friend is going to get help. Everyone in her life that loves her wants this for her, but no one can make her stay there long enough to see a difference. Occasionally her father is able to convince her to go, but she leaves before she has a chance to get stabilized.

The last time she was stable was after a 6 week stay in the hospital’s behavioral health unit. She was doing so great, if you didn’t know it,  you would be surprised to learn of her diagnosis. To see her today - you would probably be highly disturbed just to get a glimpse of her as she sits on a curb flailing her arms, talking to no one, laughing, having strange body movements, looking dirty, and carrying her trash bag of belongings.

This is my contribution to mental health awareness month. It's not pretty, but it's true. After losing Keven I had a literal ache in my heart that has subsided over the years. But it's back. My friend is still here among the living, but her true self is dead. She’s living in her body, but she’s gone. Even though there is a solution to bring her back to her true self, it's not available to her unless she wants it. And she doesn’t.


Thank you, Barbara. I suspect that the pendulum must swing further back in the direction of more required care.


LEE Varon
LEE Varon
May 10

Sadly so true.


So true. I have lived it too. My mother, my sister and my son all suffered. It is a painful journey. I know sometimes medication by injection can be used for someone noncompliant. Might be worth looking into. Also, the State of California took legal guardianship of my sister as an adult which allowed the court to order her to stay in a group home which was a safe place for her and her medication was monitored.

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