This morning [December 13,1 999], as you may be aware, Surgeon General Satcher released the first-ever Surgeon General Issues Report on Mental Health "Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health." To view a copy on-line, see: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/index.html
While the Report covers many issues in its 487 pages, some notable findings (as cited
in its Executive Summary) include:
* The emergence of a powerful consumer movement that "has increased the involvement of individuals with mental disorders and their families in mutual support services, consumer-run services, and advocacy. They are powerful agents for changes in service programs and policy."
* A new recovery perspective that is "supported by evidence on rehabilitation and treatment as well as by the personal experiences of consumers (which includes) self-care efforts, and the opportunities to participate to the full extent of their interests in the community of their choice."
* "Severe or life threatening trauma experienced either in childhood or adulthood can further provoke emotional and behavioral reactions that jeopardize mental health."
* People with mental illness "welcome a proliferating array of support services--such as self-help programs, family self-help, crisis services, and advocacy--that help them cope with the isolation, family disruption, and possible loss of employment and housing that may accompany mental disorders."
* The importance of "fundamental respect for clients" in providing culturally competent services. "Sensitivity to culture, race, gender, disability, poverty, and the need for consumer involvement are important considerations for care and treatment."
* "It is important for society to ensure that concerns about protections for vulnerable research subjects are addressed."
* "Until the stigma associated with mental illnesses is addressed, confidentiality of mental health information will continue to be a critical point of concern for payers, providers, and consumers." Stigma "tragically deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society. It must be overcome."
*"Importantly, assuring the small number of individuals with severe mental disorders who pose a threat of danger to themselves or others ready access to adequate and appropriate services promises to reduce significantly the need (itals in original) for coercion in the form of involuntary commitment to a hospital and/or certain outpatient treatment requirements that have been legislated in most states and territories. Coercion should not be a substitute for effective care that is sought voluntarily..."
Acknowledgement and appreciation goes to a number of consumer/survivor participants in the development of this Report including:
-Planning Board members (and contributors): Ruth Ralph, J Rock Johnson, and Larry Fricks;
-Contributors: Jean Campbell, Jean Risman, Tea Arthur, and Laura Van Tosh;
-Participants: Laurie Ahern, Dan Fisher, and Bryce Miller.
The highlight of this AM's "roll out" events was Larry Fricks' remarks and introduction of Mrs. Gore. He was one of only four on the stage which included himself, Mrs. Gore, Surgeon General Satcher, and Secretary Shalala. His main message points were: the value of peer support,self-help and peer-run services, recovery, employment, stigma, and the detriments of coercion. He did it in a personal way - speaking of his own story and that of his grandmother and received a standing ovation.
Larry's concluding remarks were: "...the greatest potential for improvement does not lie in mental health systems, it lies within the individual who has faith that she or he can recover, does recover, and then shares that good news with others...."