Posts Tagged ‘military’

One in Six

September 28th, 2011

The U.S. poverty statistics came out a few weeks ago, and things haven’t been this bad since 1993. Look to your left; look to your right. About one in every six Americans is now considered to be living below the poverty level. In 1993, the average new house was $113,000, the average income was $31,230, the average car was $13K, and tuition at Harvard was at $23,500. By 2010, you could nearly double every one of those numbers except the average family income which rose only to $50,000, instead of the $62,500 it should have been.

African-American Senior Woman Wrapped in US FlagOne of my favorite comparisons has always been that of Harvard’s tuition, which hovered right around $40,000, and the cost to keep a prisoner in jan American jail for one year, by comparison: about $45,000.  Now, if you extrapolate the number of people in U.S. prisons based on the entire population of the United States, it works out to about one in every 31 adults. Between 2.3 and 2.4 million Americans are behind bars. America incarcerates nine times more people than Germany and 12 times more people than Japan. That adds up to nearly $104 billion dollars a year in U.S. prison costs alone.

The folks on Wall Street and in Washington D.C. who so cunningly helped to put us into this financial mess are, by and large, not in prison, and the percentage of inmates that are minorities is staggering. An estimated sixty-eight percent of prison inmates were members of racial or ethnic minority groups.  Are our prisons full because our minorities are bad people, or are they full because their jobless rate is 40% higher than that of Caucasians?

We’re also spending about $700 billion per year on our military. For reference, the rest of the entire world combined spends nearly that same number.  At $1.4 trillion a year, that adds up to $236 per capita worldwide on defense, and we still have 24,000 nuclear missiles lying around; enough to blow up the planet plenty of times.

According to the World Bank, over 1 billion people live in conditions of extreme poverty and 15-20 million people are starving every year.  I saw another set of figures today regarding food subsidies in the United States.  It wasn’t a figure indicating our generosity toward these one billion poor people, it was that between 1995 and 2010, our Congress voted to provide $260 billion to continue agricultural subsidies.  Okay, maybe some of that makes sense, but what about the $17 billion that is going to use the American people’s money to create artificial incentives to produce ingredients that eventually become hydrogenated fats?

We are an obese nation, yet we paradoxically continue to publicly subsidize high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats, so that our obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics continue unabated. Sheer folly, or is this about some really big businesses, with some really good lobbyists?

Maybe it’s time to look at things a little differently. We all know that testosterone makes us physically strong, but it also makes us more aggressive and competitive. This testosterone overload has continued to result in war and violence being accepted as the normal way to settle things, and, except for the supposed economic benefits of war, we also know that war is just crazy. It kills and maims people, and diverts resources that might be otherwise be utilized elsewhere.

We’ve seen time after time that if you are brutal and retaliatory with people, they will learn to hate and fear you. However, if you give people love, compassion and respect they will eventually return the compliment. Maybe we should take a break from all of this running-the-world stuff, and focus on doing the best that we can for the human ace.  Maybe we should walk the talk of our religious leaders for a change.

We ran a hospital like that for over a decade and it prospered economically and grew. This concept is neither rocket science nor brain surgery.  It’s the most uncommon of things in our current culture, common sense.

We cannot change the human condition – but we can change the conditions under which humans live and work!

Who Let Us Down?

June 12th, 2009

Recent news:

WASHINGTON, DC James von Brunn, the white supremacist who allegedly opened fire Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., suggest that a lifetime of hatred had reached a critical mass. The 88-year-old is charged with murdering a security guard at the building.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  —  A Muslim convert charged with fatally shooting an American soldier at a military recruiting center said Tuesday that he doesn’t consider the killing a murder because U.S. military action in the Middle East made the killing justified.

NBC News is reporting that at Camp Liberty, the main U.S. military base in Iraq, which is located near the Baghdad International Airport, a yet unnamed serviceman walked into a “stress clinic” in the camp, opened first, killing at least five. Contrary to earlier reports, the soldier did not kill himself but is now in custody.

When things like this happen, we all stop and ask what went wrong?  In two of the three situations, we had relatives or friends nearby.  My daughter-in-law’s friend was working at the museum, and my son-in-law is stationed beside the stress clinic at Camp Liberty.

I’ll never forget when the Reagan administration began the movement to close down  mental hospitals.  A friend worked at the mental hospital nearby.  We had had a rash of threatening letters, some very upsetting encounters, and a several other incidents in the community when this friend said to me, “You know, we had 2,000 inpatients and 500 outpatients at the mental hospital.  Now we have 2,500 outpatients. Nobody’s left town, and when they don’t take their meds, there can be problems.”

Pfc. Joe Dwyer carried a young Iraqi boy who was injured during a heavy battle between the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi forces near the village of Al Faysaliyah, Iraq, on March 25, 2003. Dwyer died of an apparent overdose at his home in North Carolina on June 29, 2008. Photo credit: Warren Zinn / Military Times file
Pfc. Joe Dwyer carried a young Iraqi boy injured during a heavy battle between the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi forces near the village of Al Faysaliyah, Iraq, on March 25, 2003. Dwyer died of an apparent overdose at his home in North Carolina on June 29, 2008. Photo credit: Warren Zinn / Military Times file

When you consider that there are about 6.5 billion people in the world, if only 5% of the total people living on this planet are suffering from some type of mental illness, we’re potentially talking about the equivalent of the entire population of the United States with some mental health issues. ( Sorry if  my math is slightly off.)  Point is, that’s a lot of people.  So, what are we doing for them?

The Rand Corp. released a study of returning service members and is estimating nearly 20 percent of the 1.6 million who have served since this war began will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That is nearly 320,000 PTSD sufferers – more than the population of Pittsburgh.

White supremacists are such old news.  We have had to hear about their beliefs over and over during the past sixty years or so.  Maybe when they are arrested,  as James von Brunn had been more than once, it would help them to serve their time doing community service as tour guides at Auschwitz?

Our soldiers, however, are an entirely different story.  We have spent the past several years meeting with experts in mental health who do know what to do for them.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that this care is not being rendered.    The military has strict guidelines on the treatment of PTSD, but, if you ask our returning soldiers how faithfully these guidelines are implemented, the general answer is that “There’s not enough money to provide this care for our Guardsmen and women.”

We don’t pay our school bus drivers a living wage, and they are in charge of our most precious loved ones.  We couldn’t afford to send armour with our early troops deployed to Iraq and have had more amputees than in any war since the Civil War, and now we don’t have enough money to treat PTSD.

That type of rationalization makes me tired.  We have enough money, we just don’t have our priorities and incentives in line.

depression female young woman african american black mental health Nick Jacobs

Did anyone notice that James was boiling over with insanity?  How about Mohammed?  Our PTSD patient in Iraq knew that he was in troble, but we busted him, and then put him beside a driver with a gun on his hip.  That weapon became his killing tool.

This blog was not intended to be depressing.  It is intended to reemphasize that we in healthcare should be about caring. It is about teaching caring, love and respect.  It is about helping those who need help, and detaining those who won’t accept that help.   We have drugs, but, as the Virginia Tech shootings demonstrated, in certain phenotypes the receptors are not there to allow those drugs to be absorbed into the body.

Mental health help has a long way to go, and we all need to be part of that journey.  Telepsychiatry, PTSD clinics, screenings for radicals?  Surely someone cares.