Often in discussions about healthcare here in the United States, the focus us on affordability. Insurance rates, Medicare and Medicaid eligibility – these are the topics that get the most attention. But, I think we should look less at the availability of the healthcare, and instead look towards its effectiveness, because what’s the real point of having healthcare if it doesn’t make you well?
I am a dual citizen of Ireland and the US. I have never sought health care services in Ireland, but my father did – or rather, he had to.
When my dad was living here in America, he started having mental health problems. He was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and needed help. The thing is, mental health care is not all that great for people in the US. Long story short, my dad ended up returning to Ireland because the healthcare there is more helpful for those with serious mental disabilities.
[bctt tweet=”Everything that my dad made fell apart is because of America’s mental healthcare.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Disability services in Ireland were able to provide my dad with a small house where they conducted weekly visits. He was not forced to take his medication and he was not forced to change his habits. A nurse or doctor would come and hang out with him once a week, maybe play chess, and maybe he would take his medicine. This service allowed him to live well, and he was not forced to be locked away every night in a frightening mental ward.
In the US, this type of help, designed to address mental health concerns while they’re still fairly minor, just doesn’t exist. People are taken into custody or admitted somewhere when they are considered a danger to themselves or others, but once they go through an initial treatment, a lot of the time they are released and some find themselves back in these quick hospitals.
Although my dad kept drinking and smoking and even sometimes avoiding his medicines in Ireland, it was okay. The system there still provided him housing and most importantly, supervision and care. In the United States, he would not have been able to receive that same kind of care if he were to continue his drinking and smoking habits.
[bctt tweet=” In Ireland, the system understood the nature of his disease.” username=”wearethetempest”]
With schizophrenia, a lot of the time a patient will feel better and then stop taking the meds, or they use alcohol to help deal with the voices and delusions and so on. It is not an easy cut-and-dry type of situation where you can just tell a patient that they have to stop these behaviors in order to receive treatment, which was what happened to him in the US. In Ireland, the system understood the nature of his disease.
My dad was admitted to hospitals for stabilization a couple times in the US, but then he would be released and no further check-ups were performed. In Ireland, they did not just leave him to his own devices until something drastic happened. He had visitors who would offer him the medication, but also did not force him to take it. He was checked up on, which did not happen in America.
In the US, we tend to wait until disaster strikes. You wait until that pain in your side makes it impossible to move, before going to the emergency room, and you wait for a mentally ill person to either check themselves into a facility or for them to seriously hurt themselves or others.
[bctt tweet=” He created a life for himself, but then he had to leave. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
My dad came to the United States in search of a better life than was available for him in Ireland. He got it. He got a job, fell in love, got married, and had me and my sister. My parents bought a house together. This country gave him the life he’d dreamed of.
But when he got sick, the United States failed him. He created a life for himself, but then he had to leave. My sister and I grew up without a dad because America couldn’t take care of him properly. My father loved America more than he ever loved Ireland, but in the end, Ireland let him have a better quality of life.
The United States failed me because I grew up without a dad. Everything that my dad made fell apart is because America’s mental healthcare is so poor. We are supposed to be the land of opportunity, but can that be true when something as basic as healthcare is denied when it’s most needed?
I was born here, but if I get sick down the line, will America help me?