Organizing

Government must play a central role in ensuring better treatment for the mentally ill. Apart from pharmaceutical companies, private industry has little to gain from finding better ways to care for and treat people in need of mental health care. Patient advocates must pressure elected officials to provide programs to help those disadvantaged by brain diseases such as schizophrenia.

PACTs

In assertive case management programs or assertive community treatment (PACT or ACT) programs, health care professionals are paid to go into the field to deliver treatment. Even patients who have stopped coming in for therapy can benefit from such programs.

The professionals visit homes, hangouts, and other places where they might find patients who need treatment but aren't getting it. Such programs have been shown to decrease hospitalizations, thereby saving communities money. However, such programs need political backing to attain and maintain funding.

Far too few people who need PACT benefits have access to them. Lobbying to establish a PACT program in your community could bring benefits that will help both patients and their families.

No Shortage of Projects

In Surviving Schizophrenia, E. Fuller Torrey lists more than forty ways you as an advocate can improve mental health care services, which he describes as being, for the most part, “mediocre to abysmal” in the United States. The suggestions he offers are so varied, there is a good chance you will find at least one that will fit your interest and skills.

If you enjoy writing, for example, you might:

  • Gather information about mental health resources in your town or county and make it available to others online or in pamphlet form.

  • Rank all the facilities that provide mental health care in your state. Share your report. Keep it up to date as the information changes.

  • Collect key information about laws governing court-ordered commitment in your state and get it into the hands of anyone who might need it.

  • Research and publish a summary of the confidentiality laws in your state.

  • Counter misinformation about, insensitivity toward, and ignorance of mental illness by writing to newspapers, television and radio stations, and other media outlets when you hear something that is not accurate, true, or respectful concerning mental illness and mental health care.

  • Write to your local and state representatives concerning mental health issues and policies. Find out who and where to write on the government's official website at www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

  • If you enjoy organizing events or programs, consider:

  • Signing up local business and institutions to offer part-time or volunteer jobs to people with mental illness. Get the word out to the mental illness community after you have secured some promises to help.

  • Establish a self-help or social group to bring caregivers together.

  • Arrange programs to bring together people with mental illness and the general community. Ideas include sporting events, hobby clubs, or fundraisers. Fundraisers don't have to benefit a mental health care program. You can generate goodwill and better understanding of mental illness if you raise funds for other community needs using the efforts of people living with schizophrenia. This is a way for people dealing with schizophrenia to be accepted by the community as equals.

  • Identify outstanding mental health care providers and administrators, journalists who have written responsibly and honestly about mental health issues, and local volunteers who have contributed to the welfare of others. Establish awards to honor them or work with local groups to see that they receive credit and appreciation.

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