March 2, 2010
This past week has been one of the worst weeks I have had, since leaving Calgary last spring. I have always avoided blogging when I am depressed… mostly for fear of saying something I will regret later. To begin with today, I want to share a little known truth about myself… I have a mental health issue. I have clinical depression, I have been off medication and successfully self-monitoring for 4 years. This means I have to very aware of my mood changes, what is triggering my moods, and how I interact with people during those times. My philosophy is to never do or say anything that I cannot own with pride. So this explains my silence over the past week or so and confirms the presumption that most homeless are mentally ill.
Actually this is a very comforting statistic because it separates us from them (homeless). Allowing us to think it will never happen to me (but it can ...I was into middle age before my first episode of clinical depression). Plus depression is a reasonable and sane response to homelessness. Any major loss in one’s life will trigger sadness (lowering serotonin levels in the brain) If one remains sad over an extended period of months the brain starts considering these levels normal, resulting in a clinical depression. Imagine how much one needs to lose to end up in a shelter, job, family, self-respect, sense of efficacy, social network, furniture… feel free to add to this list. Clinical depression is best treated with the gradual introduction of an SSRI (serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) and close monitoring (weekly) by a physician.
Sadly what I have seen happening with the homeless is that a person is diagnosed with depression handed a one month supply of meds and left to their own devices. I am not blaming any one for this situation… it is a combination of factors not the least of which is the dire shortage of family physicians in most parts of Canada. Using walk-in clinics one is often seen by several different physicians, which does not allow for any real repore to build between patient and professional (this is true of anyone with a chronic disorder). Also the transient nature of the population makes follow-up a very difficult matter. This is why a housing first initiative (affordable housing) would be very productive for the community is saved health care costs, for any health issues, physical or mental.
I will talk more about mental health issues in the future, because like many issues around homelessness myths and misperceptions abound. So look forward to Abnormal Psychology 101 to run as a blog, one day soon.