Even in the world’s richest country, mental health care is hard to come by for millions of Americans, who, in the age of coronavirus, have never had more mental health challenges.
There is no place more urgent than need in the Bronxwhich has the highest rate of psychiatric hospitalizations in the five boroughs, as well as the highest proportion of people with serious mental stress.
As lifelong residents of the Bronx who have experienced mental health crises firsthand, we have seen how our beloved community is chronically denied the comprehensive mental health care it needs and deserves. Much of the Bronx is still a mental healthcare desert: amazing 91% of the population insured through Medicaid in the Bronx He lives in a mental health shortage area. In the Bronx and elsewhere in America, mental illness continues to be criminalized and overtreated.
I (Ritchie) know firsthand what it means to struggle with mental illness with few options for care. I dropped out of college after going through a downward spiral into major depressive disorder. There were moments when I tried to commit suicide because I felt as if the world around me had collapsed. I have lost hope.
I wouldn’t have survived today – let alone a congressman – if it weren’t for the power of mental health care. I have always been a supporter of both psychiatry and psychotherapy, but no one, alone or even together, is a cure-all. The isolation that life often imposes can be just as devastating as mental illness itself.
Belonging to a community, backed by a strong support system, is the simple but often overlooked key to relieving the suffering of mental illness. Clubs can fill the human gap left by isolation and can provide a loving supportive community where none might exist.
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One of us (Arvind) was hospitalized more than 20 times, suffered one mental health crisis after another, and had to travel for hours outside of the Bronx just to get basic mental health care. But I’ve also been able to transform my life to be a leader, put myself through college, excel academically, campaign politically, and become persistently homeless and avoid hospitalization—all on the strength of community care.
Reimagining mental health care doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge. Community mental health care providers, such as Bronx House FountainThey have long demonstrated that there is a cost-effective and culturally competent approach to serving people with serious mental health challenges – a model of mental health care that has delivered life-changing results for decades. Fountain House members, located here in the Bronx and Hell’s Kitchen, have greater access to stable housing, employment, and education — as well as lower health care costs and recidivism rates — than most people with a serious mental illness.
club modelConceived by Fountain House since its founding in 1948 and present in more than 200 clubs across the country, it not only offers a more humane but also less expensive alternative to the failed approach traditionally taken by the government in response to mental illness. Instead of placing the mentally ill in jails, prisons, and institutions, as the government has historically done, clubs provide people with the human dignity to remain rooted in and connected to their local communities.
Clubs are local organizations that allow people with mental illness to remain in the community, rather than being involuntarily exiled to institutions Or worse, prisons – And the should expand To meet the growing demand for services and support.
The club model offers a comprehensive support system that connects members to free resources that build long-term independence, such as job training and housing support, empowering members to make decisions that will impact their care and recovery. At a time when mental illness provoked by the mediathe only solution lawmakers can seemingly muster is forced treatmentFountain House Bronx showed that we can engage people Before They are in crisis while they are dramatically improving outcomes and saving millions of taxpayers in the process.
By creating a safe space for mentally ill people, the Fountain House Bronx has been able to uplift those whose lives have historically been defeated by a system that cares more about criminalization than the weak.
Torres represents the South Bronx in the US House of Representatives. Sooknanan is a community mental health advocate and member of the Fountain House Bronx who also serves on the Fountain House Board of Directors.