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RESPONSE TO NYC MAYOR ADAMS NEW PLAN

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I hear it all the time around the online world. Mental health issues are ”in”. Mental Illness as a societal concern and reform is ‘trending” now. Perhaps the biggest misconception is, “It’s OK now to talk about mental health,” issues continue circulating on blogs and forums. These statements are all bald-faced lies. 

People make these statements for several reasons. One reason is people want to believe reform is in the works. The problem is people need to learn the truth. I see the truth every day on the streets. I also see the mental health crisis walking past the clinics. I even see mentally ill people wandering the streets. I can’t help but see mental health issues go without relief every day. Don’t you see it too?

Most people don’t care about people like you or me. People don’t care about people with severe mental health issues. So, what mental health talk is trending? Acute anxiety, depression, single episode, and other aberrations. The truth is, the more chronic and the more complicated, the uglier, the fewer people want to address or talk about it. 

Have you ever seen someone losing behavioral control or getting loud on the subway? In my experience, people look away. They hope the person either regains self-control or gets off at the next stop. How about someone on the street who also has a hard time? Like the bystander on the train, people avert their eyes and walk to the other side of the road. People do just about everything they can to avoid interaction with the person. The least of all, help the person in crisis.

Every day, people do all they can to avoid chronic mental Illness. The same sort of attitude goes beyond the bystander on the street. Family and friends often make themselves unavailable for family/collateral support. My point is this goes beyond apathy or indifference. So, when people say mental Illness is “in” or “it is OK now,” I hope people understand why this isn’t true. 

Like most societal “problems,” mental health is political. Mental Health is a public issue, not a political one. Mental health is a general issue because it involves the welfare and needs of the population. The problem is mental health is politicized, if not even weaponized, by people in political power, as a weapon. The weapon is the metaphor that intersects life for people with mental health disorders in a genuine way. Just ask New Yorkers with a mental health disorder.

If you are still waiting to hear about Mayor Adams’s new plan to clean the streets, pick up a newspaper and read. Take a moment and acknowledge the reality of the mentally ill people in New York and other cities. The plan, in layperson’s terms, is to help people that cannot help themselves. The program makes perfect sense on paper. Shouldn’t all people that cannot help themselves get public assistance? In the case of people with mental health disorders, this theory should be even more accurate. 

Under the guise of Kendra’s Law, the Mayor is forcing help. How will this impact people with mental health disorders? Crisis workers often connect people to valuable resources and Treatment they might not have received before this new plan. In the case of many others, people will be subject to more injustice, plight, and trauma from a broken system. In terms of the question, is this doing more harm than good? I have to believe everyone will fall somewhere along a spectrum.

For most people, the concept of Forced Treatment is totally off their radar. Forced Treatment is a challenging concept. It is almost unimaginable for someone who has never experienced a hospitalization or time in a mental hospital against their will. With this said, do people understand Mayor Adam’s plan to help the mentally ill people help themselves? For the same reasons I stated earlier, if people dont care about mentally ill people, why does Mayor Adams care so much about helping them? Stigma, money, votes? I’m sure of all this and more because people dont care about us unless there is a political motive. 

I’d also like to highlight the politicization of people like me and you. I want to make it very visible. You would not have even been reading this to ignore what I am saying. Mayor Adam didn’t consult mentally Ill people. The Buro of Mental Health and Hygiene in NYC did not consult with people with a mental illness. 

People in the mental health movement have a mantra—nothing about us without us. 

So, why didn’t Mayor Adam consult with DOMH? I am the Chair of the Consumer Advisory Board, CAB, for DOMH. The DOMH oversees the funding and regulation of mental health practices and programs in NYC. I can tell you first-hand that CAB never collaborated with the Mayor or his team during the rollout of his new plan. The CAB committee never got the memo: this is a huge problem. This is the peer-advisory committee for NYC DOMH.

As a person with lived experience, I have to worry about the few people in charge that govern and regulate the provision of care, keeping me alive and healthy in the community. If people like myself at such high levels were not involved with Mayor Adam’s plan, why not? Who did Mayor Adams consult with? And why not people with lived experience?

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in New York City. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a ‘2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10’ award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes about his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

‘I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,’ Guttman says. ‘After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.’

‘In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity, and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and Recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.’

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