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Without counseling, too many of us fall into a ‘black hole’

While working for the city of Albuquerque, it was pretty common to deal with the someone who was homeless or in obvious psychological distress. There was one disoriented man that I took to the VA Hospital several times after finding him dancing, shouting, lying in a major intersection far too often. Every time I found him endangering himself I would take him to the VA or to UNMMHC, where I was assured he’d get assistance and medications. But the next time I saw him he insisted the VA and the other mental health units weren’t helping him. I figured he just didn’t know how to apply their help to his daily life. I finally took him to the Bernalillo County Detention Center, where he was put into protective custody and the corrections psychologist was asked to help him.

Weeks later I saw him again at the same intersection he used to haunt. He wanted to say thanks for getting him some help. He was now on different medications and had gotten at least some counseling. His life was starting to come together for him. This was the first rational conversation I’d ever had with him.

Very recently my depression/anxiety/PTSD finally got the better of me. My only thought was that I simply could not go on. I couldn’t shoot myself, but there was nothing for me if I continued to breathe. It felt as though I were simply incapacitated and could not make a rational decision, express an opinion, form a logical plan to do the most simple project no matter how much fun I knew it could be. These things simply added to the overwhelming feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. My only solution – give in and give up.

How very fortunate for me that I was able to take advantage of the advice of my counselor, wife and PCP and admit myself to a local facility for psychiatric assistance. I had been taking antidepressants for well over a year, yet I remained stressed out and emotional beyond anything I could’ve imagined. I needed some counseling.

Unlike so many others, my retirement comes with health care insurance which covers psychological as well as medical issues. I also went home to a caring wife, a roof over my head, and food in the fridge.

If the other patients I met while there got no more counseling or therapy than I did, I wonder about their journey to wellness. Without health care insurance did they have access to counselors? To the right medications? Were they able to turn off the outside distractions so they could concentrate on just helping themselves get better? Do they have a caring home to return to? Now I understood what my BCDC friend was trying to convey to me about not getting the help he needed. Without one-on-one counseling or group therapy, I didn’t feel I was getting the help I needed.

I had never before known anyone personally who spent time in a behavioral facility or in therapy in an effort to sort things out. I was certainly not the only person falling into a black hole. There are so many others.

If the lack of counseling I received is the norm for our state’s behavioral facilities, maybe it’s time for better funding of all of our behavioral and psychological facilities, for the health and safety of us all.

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