The health care system in this country is not something that I am extremely well-versed in as a scholar. I understand enough about my own insurance plan (through my father for one more year!) to get by and luckily my parents have been wonderful about picking up the slack while I am still in school. I never really stopped to consider just how very privileged that makes me.
Throughout the past three years I have come to a much more personal and intimate understanding of how this health care system is damaging, destructive, reckless, and just so unfair. I briefly mentioned many months ago that I went through a devastating break up. That break up was caused by my partner's serious and severe mental illness. He had struggled with depression since childhood. At the time we broke up he was twenty seven and had been living without health insurance since he was seventeen. He was bounced around free clinic to free clinic to see therapists and get medications. At least while we were in Milwaukee he saw the same therapist who kept an eye on the medications he was given by different psychiatrists every few months.
When we moved to Chicago the situation became much more precarious. He had no therapist, no way to get his medications and still, no insurance. We were able to get him in to a free clinic that re-filled his prescription for two months and set him up with an appointment to see a psychiatrist in three months! Well, he came down to the end of the prescription, was very busy with school and his part time job and preparing for the holidays (during which his depression always got much worse). This was when the meds ran out and he abruptly stopped taking them. Anyone who knows anything at all about anti-depressants knows that you should never stop taking them abruptly or without the guidance of a physician. Of course, he did not have access to a physician or a psychiatrist and that is why he ran out in the first place.
His behavior that following month can only be described as erratic. He ended our three year partnership, he dropped out of school, left his job, moved to Philadelphia on a whim and abandoned the kitty he had adopted eight years ago. When he finally did managed to see a psychiatrist again and get back on the meds his life was so screwed up that he wasn't able to recover and the anti-depressants made him just not care.
He moved back to Chicago but without proper management of his medication and depression he was unable to hold a job and was quickly evicted. I have been dealing with helping him find resources for the homeless and mentally ill. Last week I had him committed to a state mental institution so that at least he would have a place to stay and someone to assess his situation and (hopefully) medicate him properly.
I have watched a sweet, kind, loving, patient and generally wonderful man reduced to homelessness, debilitating poverty, suicide attempts and general misery for himself and everyone who loves him. And I blame the pathetic excuse for health care we have in this country. If only his five year job had allowed him to work an extra two hours a week so that he could be considered full time so he could be eligible for health benefits, if only the city or state would have some options for people who work $8/hour jobs and can barely pay their rent much less health insurance premiums. If only people understood that depression is cyclical. A person can get too depressed to keep a job and then not have access to the resources necessary to deal with said illness.
It makes me so sad to think of how much different things could be in my own personal life if this system weren't so terribly unfair. I cannot tell you the misery that this had caused me and certainly not the misery it has caused him. Right now it is a fight for survival, two years ago all it needed to be was a monthly appointment with a psychiatrist.