Human memories are similar to computer memory; they have to be refreshed often to remain viable. I think in certain regards, social media can be an outlet to do just that; don't you think?
One human dynamic I find curious, is the way we remember details of events in which two or more of us may have been involved. Many times the memories of one are remarkably different from the memories of the others. This happens regularly when my family assembles and swaps stories.
Perhaps that perspective changes more or less depending on if you were the brunt, the victim, the hero, the perpetrator or a passive observer. I left the last option available for those families with passive observers; there are none in my family. Our gatherings are more an orchestra of chaos.
At this station in my life, I often take the opportunity to reflect and reminisce. If I knew then what I know now, would I do it all again? Reflection tells me most of it I would indeed do again. But with age comes wisdom (hopefully) and certain things I have done would not be repeated.
The divide between those memories held precious, and those memories which unsettle when recalled, is, in my mind, simple.
Those memories created while with a friend or loved one, or with friends and loved ones, are the ones which satisfy the most. Not only is it the experience which brings a smile to a remembering face, but also that the experience was shared with someone we hold dear.
Most of those unsettling recollections are etched in the memory while alone. While it has been said that good deeds should be done in private, very often bad deeds or abject evil are also done while alone.
I maintain that association with other people (generally) allows us to tap into a collective conscience that keeps us centered on the straight and narrow. Humans were not designed to be solitary creatures. Interaction with others is paramount to civility. Most of the truly horrendous acts we hear about were perpetrated by those who, for whatever reason were solitary persons.
Whenever atrocious acts are perpetrated on society, it causes us to reflect and analyze. We try to make some sense out of a seemingly senseless act. We attempt to get into the mind of the villain and rationalize how such a thing could ever happen.
This analysis is a reactive response. Too many times, in response to horrendous acts, a flurry of blame is unleashed. Society looks for someone or something to blame and in a reactionary manner, attempts to amend the rules, or legislate change. If the horrendous act was committed with a firearm, new calls are made to ban the devices.
I am not going to get on my Second Amendment soapbox and take a pro-gun stance here. Instead, I hope to lay blame where blame belongs, squarely on the shoulders of a society that fails to nurture all of its members. Instead of more reactionary responses, we need to analyze where we have failed, and put into place proactive systems to help ascertain such things never happen again.
In a nutshell, to be proactive means we are planning ahead and anticipating problems. We learn a cause and effect, and do our best to eliminate the causes. Being reactive means we just wait for problems to appear before we address them. Many times these reactionary actions are mere bandaids which strip a little more of our liberties from us in an attempt to solve a problem which should have been dealt with proactively.
A proactive plan can help identify and eliminate problems before they get out of control. With a plan, and contingencies in place, as problems arise they are more easily remedied than if reactionary contingencies have to be developed as problems arise.
Our responses to mental illness as a society have been, by-and-large, reactionary. Drug regimens and other interventions are the norm. It is time for our society to take the mental health of its citizens seriously, and devise a proactive plan to deal with the issues. We need to spend more on mental health, and make this care readily available to everyone.
As it now stands, only the rich and the very poorest are able to get quality mental health care without breaking the family budget.
Medicaid or Title 19 is a program funded by the states and the Federal government. It covers health care for those who qualify-the very poorest. In Iowa, Title 19 is administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services.
According to the Kaiser State Health Facts, Iowa has approximately 523,000 persons eligible for Title 19. With a state population of over 3 million, this means roughly 1 in 6, or 16.6% of Iowa citizens are eligible.
US Census Bureau document S1901 states that 19.9% of US households earn over $100,000 per year, while with non-family households, it is 8%.
So, using these numbers, it is clear that 36.5% (or so) of Iowa households will have the ability to seek health care when needed, including mental health care. Without ready access to quality mental health care, we can extrapolate that 63.5% of Iowans fall through the cracks, and are not able to seek, because of the high costs, quality mental health care.
Recent anti-bullying initiatives in the schools are a good proactive stance. I applaud the idea. It is a good step in helping not to isolate those children who are different, unique, quirky or whatever. We are not all the same, and certain uniqueness should be celebrated. These fundamentals need to become entrenched in our society as we nurture and raise all children.
It is our duty as a society to identify those in need and make quality mental health care available to all. We have learned the ramifications of not making mental health care ubiquitous in our society.
It is also our duty as a society to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. We as a society need to understand that mental health is integral to all health, both to the individual, as well as society.
During 2010, the US spent $684 billion dollars on defense. We spend 57% of our Federal dollars on defense, 5% on health, and 6% on education.
Stop the wars, bring home our troops, and reallocate some of that "defense" spending on basic human services-health and education. Doing so will play right into a proactive plan for mental health in this country.
Until next time-
In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2005 - 2013 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.
Mike Gilchrist is a local writer. His columns appear regularly in the Toledo Chronicle. He has served for several years on the Board of Directors of the Mental Health Clinic of Tama County.