Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Letter to the Editor: Travesty of Mental Care

I must respond to the Aug. 30 letter "Mental state."

The analogy with cancer was a good one. I would not begrudge those with cancer any of the resources they have. But if we contrast those resources to what we provide someone with schizophrenia, the person with schizophrenia gets a raw deal.

When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, she met a team of health care professionals who devised a plan of care focused on a cure. They are accessible and responsive to her needs. They are familiar with the latest research and provide cutting edge treatment. They respect her preferences and make her an active collaborator in treatment. She has had access to patient education materials, support from volunteers and can attend yoga class for free at Cornucopia House.

We provide these resources for persons with cancer because it is the humane thing to do. We recognize that treating the whole person is important in dealing with such a devastating illness.
Such comprehensive treatment is often not available to persons with severe mental illness. The state stepped in years ago because no one else wanted to provide this care. There has never been adequate funding, and it is a travesty that the limited funds available are spent in such a wasteful way. We still have a long way to go to get things right.

Barbara B. Smith, Durham

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The writer is a clinical social worker who works in the Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program at UNC.

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