About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."

2014/12/11

Psychiatrist's kid

I grew up on a psychiatric ward. My father is a psychiatrist and my mom was a psychiatric nurse. One of my earliest slivers of memory has me sitting under an elevated examination bed in my father’s office and banging all around with a neurological hammer. Later in my school years, I regularly passed through the waiting room. I still remember the diverse, sometime bizarre and always copious selection of characters seeking help in my father’s office. Alcohol and substance addicts, a depressed teacher, a manic storekeeper, a schizoid long-haired savior, parents with an autistic son, children with a disoriented grandma in early stages of dementia ...
    It hurts me greatly, especially with the beginning of winter, when I see a similar assortment of people around NYC streets staying homeless or almost homeless. Why is it that so many mentally ill people in our society end up on the streets (or even worse - in jails)? I know they can be treated more humanely and with respect.
   
Summer art festival at Psychiatric Sanatorium in Prague Bohnice.
with St.Wenceslas church.
When I was a minister in Prague, in the same district with my church there was one of the largest Psychiatric Sanatoriums in the country. It was founded in 1909 under the Habsburg Monarchy! It had a large chapel (in fact a sizable church, really) in the middle of the campus. A small clergy group took turns in leading worship. This hospital had not only an ecumenical church, it also had greenhouses and a horse farm for work therapy, a theater and several art studios, an symphonic orchestra and a jazz band and a calendar of concerts and events... Only two pavilions, to my best knowledge, out of about fifty (on its 160 acres campus) were so-called closed (to keep and protect the patients); all other pavilions were open and patients stayed voluntarily.
    When it starts to snow or it is freezing cold and I splash through NYC's slush passing by another disoriented or delusional homeless soul, it hurts me so much because I know there are better alternatives. If the Habsburg monarchy, a full century ago, was able to care for its mentally ill citizens, why isn’t our technologically and medically advanced society? It is important to talk about it, it is important to demand from our government a better, more humane, more enlightened approach to mental illness (at least on the level of 1909!). And very practically it is important for us at Rutgers to continue supporting and to celebrate WSFSSH (West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing). In our community it substitutes for and fills in the gaps of our negligent and inadequate government.
    This Sunday we will talk about and pray for social refugees and exiles- people pushed away from their homes because of their mental illness or difficult and complex family circumstances.

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