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Correspondent of the Day COD, May 18, 2017: A half-century of no improvements hammer

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 5/17/2017

A half-century

of no improvements

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In response to your editorial "National shame": Thanksgiving eve, 1964, my husband, the father of our seven young children, had a complete mental breakdown. There wasn't a psychiatrist in the area and he was transported from the Shenandoah Valley to the Medical College of Virginia - 140 miles away. At the time, Virginia ranked 46th of the 50 states in mental health care.

No one admitted to a family member having a mental-health issue. My in-laws actually told acquaintances that I was keeping my husband in the hospital so I wouldn't have any more babies.

The stigma associated with mental health issues is so wrong. It took 20 years to diagnose my husband as bipolar and that became his label. But it is a health issue just as arthritis and pneumonia are. And just as are most health issues, it is treatable.

After writing to the the governor, my state senator and representative, I was asked to meet with former Del. Panny Rhodes about the exaggerated costs of mental health in comparison to other health issues. My outstanding health care plan decided to put a $50,000 lifetime cap on mental-health care.

My husband's final hospitalization was at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital. Imagine how it affected me when the first words out of the doctor's mouth were: "You know when they come here, they don't last very long." He was correct. My husband passed away less than a year later in 1995. They only had enough staff to warehouse the elderly patients. My husband had always been a hard working, very active person between hospitalizations.

I feel helpless and angry every time I hear that our government has put off doing anything to improve our status. How many mental-health tragedies will it take to waken those who can remedy the situation?

Mildred S. Good.



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