The Tragedy of Mental Health Care in the 49th Rank

The Tragedy of Mental Health Care in the 49th Rank

Through my own story, I dream of making Iowa more than a statistic.

Hello, everyone. My name is Elle Loy and I’m writing to you today, difficult though it is, about my life and how the awareness and prevention of suicide is a tragic necessity in our world, but more particularly, in the state where I reside. This began as a speech delivered in honor of those lost to suicide in my community and has been furthered for this format, for spreading and sharing of a message so essential to have known.

I’ll begin with a short bio, a sort of résumé, if you will. My full title is Elle Loy, MDD, PTSD, BPD, ADHD, GAD, SAD. I am experienced and well-versed in attacks of panic, night terrors, and bouts of insomnia. I have tested SSRI’s, SNRI’s, MAOI’s, benzodiazopines, anti-psychotics, hormonal therapies, stimulants and sedatives of every size and combination and have certifiably survived my own nightly razor blade rituals, five attempts on my own life, four inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, and nine electric shocks to the brain. I’ve come to find I am distinctly screwed up in the most irreversible of ways. A dancing disorder, a collision of lost cosmos, and yet, here I stand. Alive.

Now, I didn’t write today to tell you what Depression is or what it isn’t, because, if you’re reading this, I think you have some idea of that already. You’ve seen the darkness, or you’ve felt the cold. If you’ve ever worn your diagnosis at the end of your name, like your whole identity, every experience and credential you could muster, was attached to a disorder; or if you’ve ever felt consumed to the point of breaking and giving up, I thank you for holding out. If you’ve tried and failed, I’m thankful you’re here. The world could use more survivors on the pursuit of answers.

The thing about suicide is that it seems like the only way to end the pain of an ill mind, but that is so very wrong. Though the pain may feel as if you are dead inside already, know that feeling such pain means there is still something inside you that has yet to fade. And know that trying hurts far worse. Because while the first handful goes down easy, the thought of those left behind is the hardest pill to swallow.

This is what I came to talk about today, tomorrow, the days after that, the thoughts which are hard to say and harder still to hear, the struggles our generation is fighting so hard to change because, to be young and not fighting to enact change is not only a biological imperative, it is tragically complacent. I write to speak about the things which hurt us, the things we’re afraid of, the things we must speak about regardless. So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about how we live in a state 49th in the nation for mental health care, about how insurance laws make it difficult to get affordable medication, about how it takes patients months to get a 15-minute appointment with an overworked psychiatrist or let’s talk about how mental health isn’t taken as seriously as countless other illnesses. Let’s talk about rising suicide rates in adolescents, the association between mental health and drug use, or crime, or homelessness. Let us use words as a force of eye-opening, change-enacting, emotion-riddled reality which may, in turn, bring about the very revolution our society so desperately needs.

But more importantly, let’s go beyond just talking about it. Let’s confront it. Let’s call up our friends who have seemed cut off or isolated, let’s be kind to classmates, neighbors, people on the internet. Let’s be an invitation to those we influence on a daily basis to live another day. Let’s share our stories in hopes of convincing another to fight alongside us, to become a survivor and lead others in the same fashion. Here’s to the hope that our stories of survival may light the way to the change we can all hope for: knowledge of suicide and resources to combat it, funding for the programs we so desperately need for a country and a state so deep in mental despair, hope for those who see no other way out, fueled by the stories of those who bear witness. Here is the story I wish to share with these very motives at heart.

Several hours after my 5th and final attempt, I wondered why I had failed again. I went back to my research on overdoses and couldn’t understand why I had only gone unconscious from what I had done. The statistics were against me but I was still lucid. I drove myself to the Emergency Room in the early hours of the morning when nobody was around, sat quietly in the waiting room to be called back and conversed politely with the nurses who stared at me, shocked as I was told my drug screen didn’t make any sense for what I had taken, a test which, statistically, was highly accurate. I realized in that moment I was meant to be more than a statistic. I realized that, as hard as it was to die, it was going to be even harder to live.

It was hard, it still is some days. Suffering through professionals who didn't believe me or couldn't help me was exhausting, poisoning my mind with drugs my body resisted seemed like a daily dosage of evil, and not being afforded the luxury of concise answers about what was going on with me was nothing short of hell. The sad fact is, I was one of the lucky few who has access to such limited and unsatisfactory care. Many die on wait lists and many more sit in emergency rooms because there are no psychiatric beds available. More still sit alone, to their own ill devices. But I made it, and I have faith that more people can one day say the same. That, one day, suicide will be preventable everywhere through education, outreach, advocacy, and the mindset of becoming a survivor over a statistic. It's my dream to change the cycle of mental health in the state I call home.

Depression taught me a lot, like answers are not always clear-cut, especially not when your world has gone black. It began with hypnosis, a method of drawing words out of the darkness to attempt to explain. It furthered with medication and group sessions, it progressed to an electric rebalancing, and continued to complete change in lifestyle. But it never finished.

As long as I live, I will always be contained inside of my mind, but breaking the walls and rattling the cage has let the light shine in. The darkness remains in the corners, something that creeps around behind me like my own shadow, something which will forever be a part of me, forever lingering the way smoke hides in the creases of your clothes, the smolder of a scotch gulped down in the emotion of the night. My resiliency has proven, however, and self love is a new strength, the music of a song continued after the sound has faded, a resounding echo through the mind, a battle cry to keep the darkness at bay. Because even my darkness, and all it has taught me, has its place in my life, though trained and contained. Like the moon illuminates the dark, exposing it for its depth and smolder, but doesn't dare to erase its mark.

I hope this message is heard and I hope you take yours too out into the world where we may ache to spread light to all who suffer, to make life solid enough to cling to, sweet enough to beg for more. In honor of those who lost their battles of the mind, let us work for the betterment of mental health care and support networks while speaking out to end the stigma. For those we’ve lost along the way, we hope for peace. For those left in the dark, know there are answers out there waiting for you. A new moon will rise.

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