The “they” refers to the Human Service Center in Peoria, Illinois–but I’m getting ahead of myself. Last Friday night, I decided that I really couldn’t wait for my Feb. 29th appointment at the neighborhood clinic to start being treated for my depression/possible bipolar.
So, having found out that my friend who’d gotten the Cymbalta had gotten it after she’d called a crisis hotline and been directed to a free clinic, I called such a hotline.
The line was busy for about an hour. I started wondering if I was calling the right number, then took a break. Then started trying again and the phone rang on the second try.
The volunteer I spoke with sounded very kind and sympathetic and was helpful. She asked me about my life and problems. Also, she directed me to call the local mental health association and the Human Service Center, which I couldn’t do until Monday.
After having spoken with her, I felt hopeful. It had been a long time, but I finally came to the conclusion that depression is treatable; something that I never thought would be possible. It was just the feeling that I had been waiting for. And my spirits were lifted even more Saturday morning by the synchronicity of seeing a table that had been set up by a local mental health group. I picked up some of their literature including a booklet on depression and asked if they were taking appointments or making referrals after describing my problems. They weren’t.
At home later that day I read the depression booklet and checked the symptoms I’ve been suffering from on its checklist so I could show whoever I spoke with what the problem was. The rest of the weekend, I felt rather good–optimistic that I’d soon be getting the help I need.
So Monday morning I first called the local mental health association, describing my depression, etc. and asked for resources. I was referred to the Human Service Center.
The Human Service Center in Peoria, Illinois is to helping people like me who need help what FEMA has been to helping New Orleanians after the federal flood. It’s run by the Fayette Companies. Here’s a link to their corporate/public relations bullshit.
The first time I called the Human Service Center, the receptionist said she was putting me through to Bill, the intake guy. All I got was his voice mail. I think this happened three times–after which I’d started crying. Because I thought an agency supposedly helping people in distress should provide human beings to talk to. I asked to be able to talk to a human being.
Then, the receptionist said she was connecting me to their Emergency Response Services. Again, all I got was voice mail. So I called again and was instructed to call back in a half-hour, which I did–and got the same results. Except that when I called again after that, I was instructed to leave my phone number so Bill could get back to me. I left my cell number–then had the presence of mind to ask for the Human Service Center’s address.
Fortunately it was easy to get to by bus, so I took the next one there. During which, I never heard back from Bill. The receptionist asked if I’d been told to come down there. I said No, then told about all the calls I’d made. By that time I was feeling terrible–which I also told her.
She asked me to wait–and soon Bill appeared. I told him about the depression (no chance to bring up the bipolar–he was so hurried) and how it had gotten so bad I knew I needed meds for it. He said the first opening for an appointment would be at 12:30 Feb. 29th, after which I told him about my clinic appointment for that day. So he said I should keep that and if they thought I needed help they’d refer me to the Human Service Center. He did mention that I could talk to someone in Emergency Response Services if I wanted to.
So I did. Bad idea. Because the person I talked to was an extremely clueless jerk with an artificial arm named Ed. (The jerk–not the arm!) Now, I know it must seem politically incorrect for me to mention his arm–but believe me, I would never have brought it up, had I been able to get the help I need. For if he knew what he was doing, this would not have made a difference. But for a reason I’m bringing up below, I’m mentioning it.
And Ed is the actual first name he gave, me, folks–I only wish I also knew his last name because this asshole deserves all the bad publicity he can get. I’m singling him out for criticism because he’s the only person there I dealt with at length.
I told Ed everything–about my depression/bipolar, which I’d had for years, that in the last couple of years had steadily gotten bad enough for me to need meds, how this had affected my job and I now need to apply for disability. He asked me a few questions like if I was having trouble sleeping, which I have been. And I showed him the symptom checklist I’d filled out.
Ed told me in effect that the Human Service Center has no interest in helping someone like me–who has no history of mental health treatment. This in spite of the fact that I had been crying and had told not only him but Bill and others there that I desperately need treatment including meds. He said the Human Service Center is only interested in helping what it calls a “target population” of people who’ve already had mental health problems and been getting treatment for them.
He also wouldn’t give me any info about applying for disability, saying people can only get that when there was a history of being disabled. (He was wrong–I just read in a book on bipolar yesterday that you can get disability if you’ve either had a disability for a year or more, or have a disability that’s expected to last for a year or more–which depression or bipolar would.) I had no chance to tell him that due to low energy I don’t feel up to the effort and the stress of looking for a new job.
And at any rate–suppose I was being properly treated with the combination of meds (once those that would be effective for me were found) and counseling I need to be getting? Perhaps I’d feel well enough to seek employment and work. But until this happens, I don’t know.
More about Ed–I wonder what his qualifications are and how he got hired (affirmative action because of the arm, maybe?), because of the obvious disconnect between the way I’ve been feeling and what I know I suffer from and the meds and other help I both need and deserve. And what he thought I’m going through and his not thinking I need help.
For a while I had the surreal feeling of being in a commercial, in which Ed would come out and say, “I’m no counselor–but I did spend the night at a Holiday Inn Express.” Or, “I’m not a counselor–but I play one on TV.” Or, “We can’t help you–but I’ve got some good news–I just saved a bundle on car insurance by switching to Geico!”
In short–Ed is incompetent at dealing with people who really need help for their mental problems and are reaching out for it. He’s to people like me what FEMA’s Michael Brown was to the people of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Heckuva job, Eddie!
And, considering how they feel about mental health care, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed were somehow involved with the Church of Scientology or some other anti-medication cult. Because here’s where I imagine Ed and Tom Cruise would see eye-to-eye: he said doctors are often too quick to prescribe medications. Perhaps in some cases this is true–but it wouldn’t be in my case.
Ed also gave me a new Emergency Response Services number to call if I ever needed to call a hotline–but I don’t think I’ll call that one. I’d probably get someone’s voice mail. He also suggested that I ask the clinic I’d made the appointment at to move the appointment up–which they weren’t able to.
Then Ed, after I’d told him I enjoyed being online, suggested that I “journal”–which I told him I’ve been doing, in the sense of blogging. In fact, one of the more clueless things Ed said was that he thought I was sad Monday because the library was closed that day and I couldn’t get online and was missing my support network!
So I told Ed I would be blogging–because little did he know I was way ahead of him. Unknown to him, I was already mentally going over what I was going to say in my diary about this experience incluuding Ed–which I’d been planning to diary on, whether I got help out of my quest for help or not. So others could learn from my experience.
And little does Ed know he’s going to get his 15 minutes of fame out of this diary! I mean, you can’t make this stuff up! The only good thing about my session with Ed, aside from material for this diary, was that it was free–so all I wasted was my time.
Lastly about Ed and Bill, the intake guy–I also wonder how big a role sexism played in the way they gave me the shaft. I wonder if both just saw me as a complaining, whining, neurotic woman who wanted attention. They just patronized me and treated me as if what I’m going through was no big deal. How seriously would they have treated what I had to say and the problems I was struggling with, had I been bearing a penis and balls? And explained the fact that I hadn’t sought treatment for so long because I’d manfully been fighting to deal with my problems on my own? Had I been a man, I imagine they would have been far more helpful–even if they were unable to help me, they probably would have given me places I could go for what I needed.
Where does one go if she suspects she’s been subjected to sex discrimination or disability discrimination (I also wonder if I hadn’t been taken seriously because of my speech disablilty), anyway? And above all, do I have to kill myself so they’ll help me?
Ed and everybody else at the Human Service Center should get out of the business or at least reform as an agency prepared to help people who realize that they’re afflicted with major mental problems that have been adversely beeh affecting their lives and are reaching out for help for the first time. If there were any justice in the world, Ed would be fired and have to go without health insurance–then start suffering from depression, etc. the way I have and be denied help by the Human Service Center.
I mean, what good is the Human Service Center if they won’t even help people who due to lack of insurance or whatever reason have been forced to let mental problems go untreated. Aren’t they even aware that this could be when such people most need help because their problems have gotten worse due to lack of treatment? And don’t they know that when people’s mental ills go untreated, more often than not, they’ll get worse?
Here’s something I need help with: I’m planning to crosspost this on depressiontribe, Daily Kos and my blog–but does anybody know of any mental health care consumer blogs (or health care consumer blogs in general) where consumers can post their bad experiences getting or trying to get mental health care? Or other website/blogs for people with depression, etc., who might benefit from reading about my experience? I think the word about how unhelpful Ed and the Human Service Center have been in my situation needs to get out in order to alert others.
And I’ve an idea: Here’s the phone number for the Human Service Center. (309)671-8000. If this sort of thing bothers you, call them and tell them that they’re very wrong to be rejecting people seeking mental health treatment who haven’t already been getting this treatment. Maybe if they’re flooded with irate phone calls on this topic, someone there will listen.