War, Drugs, and Our Abhorrent Mental Health Care System

by Cyan Bass

appeared originally on Global Thought Project in September, 2016

Don’t go to war. Let me show you an example of why not. You sign up, and you get shipped out to Afghanistan to serve a four-year term. In four years, you never once see any action, but the last week you’re supposed to be there, your camp gets bombed. You survive, but the same can’t be said for any of your battalion. Now take a step back. You just witnessed people you have grown to call family over the last four years get blown to smithereens.

Something like that is extremely traumatizing, and now you have PTSD. When you come back to America, you realize that trying to function in normal society takes all your willpower. Everywhere you look you get flashbacks of watching your friends’ burning bodies get flung through the roof of your tent, and you have other horrendous visions. After about 2 months, you lose your house because you won’t go to work; you’re too scared. Living on the street, 6 months later, you try heroin to attempt to kill the pain or reduce the nightmarish flashbacks.

A year down the road you are hopelessly hooked on the powder, wishing every second that you had another shot running through your veins. One morning, the police pick you up and take you downtown for sleeping in a public area. They run your pockets and find a needle, cotton, and a little ball of tar. Now you’re facing 15-25 years in federal prison for a completely non-violent crime, all because the establishment wouldn’t help you out when you first came back from the war with your PTSD. Now you’re stuck in prison, where the withdrawals nearly kill you. In fact, lots of mentally ill people who try and use to get away from whatever’s in their head do end up dying from severe withdrawals in prison because the state and the federal government don’t give funding to on-location rehabilitation centers in jail. It’s ridiculous. You have a government that wrecks your life by asking you to fight for “your country,” then if you get mentally fucked up because of it they don’t help you out unless you have lots of money. Then they arrest the people who have to try and find their own way to deal with the trauma, mostly for nonviolent crimes, just to fill up cells in private federal prisons.

It’s all fucked, and it starts in public schools and is encouraged by the school to prison pipeline. If you don’t feel like you’re going to graduate on time, it’s recommended that you join the military. Then if you get traumatized by something you experience in the war (which is very likely; war is a scary thing, especially when you’re the one fighting it), they don’t sign you up for any institutions, they don’t give you a therapist, they don’t actually help you “get better” in any way. Finally, when you try and help yourself get through the pain, they swoop in and send you to federal prison, big boy jail, all for having a little baggie of drugs.

The way we treat mental health in the United States is abhorrent. Most homeless people living on the streets are only there because we don’t give them a place to feel safe, to call home. It seems ridiculous, but as a country we spend about $60 billion a year on state and federal prisons, which is around 50x as much as we spend each year on helping people with addiction and other mental illnesses (less than $1 billion annually). We are more focused on sending general issue Joe’s to fight wars and funding privatized prisons that generate income than we are actually helping people who need everything they can get. Since 2009, cuts in non-medicaid state mental health spending dropped 1.8 billion dollars. thats like 80 percent! It’s crazy.

The deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities nationwide has led to what could be called an epidemic; 50{ad240bdc933e8291c170e386d0b01f82788bc4a8ea0d319192e75b222859f323} of people diagnosed with a mental illness have no way to treat it or get help, and those are only the people who have been diagnosed. Mental health is a big issue blocking our country’s development, and even the world’s development. If we spent half as much money researching brain functioning and mental health treatment as we spend on war, we would be pioneers in neuroscience and medicine, which is a big thing in our day and age.

Cyan is a recent high school graduate currently traveling throughout the Southwestern United States.

3 thoughts on “War, Drugs, and Our Abhorrent Mental Health Care System

  • November 12, 2016 at 15:49

    You are turning from a Hero of the United States into a victim of our criminal justice system. Most young people have the wrong idea of what the Military is like before joining. Some of them are trying to escape their past or just simply want to become a Hero. The Military promises a lot of benefits such as free college education, health benefits and future employment opportunities. Many aspects draw people to decide to become a part of it. I work at a restaurant and I have customers coming in all the time celebrating a family member joining the Marines or the Navy. At this point they are all so happy and proud until the day they realize that his/her decision changed their life forever. He/she might not be returning or returning with severe injuries. No one comes back as the same person.
    But that being said, if no one would join we wouldn’t have a military to protect this country. People sacrifice their lives daily for others. Doctors, nurses, police officers, EMT’s, Fire fighters ect.
    I agree that more money should be invested into programs to help and support mental health.

    • November 12, 2016 at 16:35

      From what I see we don’t need anyone to protect the country in less they are protect the country’s people from the people that are running the country. Are domestic problems far outweigh our foreign problems. We have not gained any extra protect from bombing countries all the way across the map. That money that is being used in these endless wars could be money to better the people of America and the broken systems in America. If we truly desire protection we need to get the people out of power that hold power, treat the people here equally and just, and we have to up the readiness of troops within the states. While focusing on readiness of state troops we must also trained and educate that the force that is possible is not for the people of the country. Currently Guards member are more willing to combat the people of the state instead of the people who are causes them to protest to have their voices heard.

  • November 12, 2016 at 16:29

    The military doesn’t care about you. Four years without or without an deployment will tell you that. I was in the Army National Guard for four years, and I couldn’t be happier that I am out. Patriotism is shoved down your throat the second that you start public school. Children are not taught what the military does and how the government treats them. The system only teaches that these people need to be respected because some have died for you. Most of the people that I served with did not believe in the mission. They were there for free school and other benefits. These people were not putting their life in jeopardy for the people of the country. They joined to get further ahead and to feed their families. So, when I live the Army life I got a full understanding that people who were serving were doing it for them and no one else. the sick twisted part is that these people have their back against a wall. Once you have signed up you can do what they order you to do or you can go to jail. Most people choice to do what they say even if it goes against their moral. The hardest part of it all is no one wants to hear that the government doesn’t care about the military, or the personnel in the military doesn’t care about the general population because it has been beaten in their heads and aren’t willing to change. People may feel this way because less than 7{ad240bdc933e8291c170e386d0b01f82788bc4a8ea0d319192e75b222859f323} of American citizens are veterans. They are the only ones that can form a perspective based off experience. The other 93{ad240bdc933e8291c170e386d0b01f82788bc4a8ea0d319192e75b222859f323} are basically cheerleader protesting for the home team.


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