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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - October 2016 - Kansas City
Is the Political Personal?
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
With an historic presidential election in sight, many of you may be suffering from campaign fatigue. Perhaps looking at this from a different perspective might be helpful. I ask the question, “Is the political personal?” Do political and social influences affect the mental health of individuals? Let’s take a look at the many ways that political decisions and social policies do affect our lives.
Job losses and shifts in the economy have been the source of depression, anxiety, anger and loss of self-esteem.
Natural disasters occurring here in the US and around the world have wreaked havoc on the environment and, subsequently on the people living in these devastated areas. Civil wars and terrorism, causing mass immigration, have left many persons displaced, homeless and without appropriate aid. Many are manifesting serious mental health and medical problems. Stress, fear and worry can cause depression, anxiety and short-term and long-term medical issues.
Delivery of mental health services has been adversely affected by social policy. Beginning in the 60’s and the two decades following, most long-term treatment facilities for the mentally ill were closed. No safety net for the chronically mentally ill was put in place. Now, few in-patient mental health treatment programs are available. The term of care is decided not by need but by insurance company policy. Services, even for those with health insurance, are hard to find.
Community mental health centers, a wonderful grass roots movement of the 60’s & 70’s. were established to work with mental health education, prevention and treatment for anyone who needed it. Government grants and programs funded many of these. I was privileged to work at one of the first of these centers (1972-73).
With less funding these centers have become more focused on the chronically mentally ill with less time for prevention, mental health education and working with mild to moderate mental health issues. As mental health professionals are being asked to have more ‘billable hours’ the treatment hour may be shorter, more patients are seen and less attention is given to each person. Many mental health professionals feel burned out and powerless.
David Mechanic, in The Truth About Health Care says “…health care in America has evolved in ways that favor a myriad of economic, professional and political interests over those of patients.” He also notes that the US spends more per person on health care than any other country but the evidence shows that care is often poor and inappropriate. He says in an earlier report, “As compared with other disease-oriented interest groups, the mentally ill, and particularly chronic patients are significantly disadvantaged in the political processes…”
There are individual groups and organizations that have spearheaded efforts to work with persons with developmental disabilities, autism and severe mental disorders. These people are making a difference.
You may be a caretaker for someone in your family. Many people are making their personal contributions to making things better. It would be so helpful if the political and social support were there for you and others who are working so hard to help others.
Political decisions and social policy affect the daily life of each of us in so many ways. As you look at the campaign issues, think about how the policies/programs that are proposed will affect you, your children and your community for years to come. Dwight D. Eisenhower many years ago reminded us that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Your vote has the power to support good political decisions and shape social policy.
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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to