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The RoundTable

Awareness & Healing: A Discussion of Mental Illness

Fall 2007


Major Articles

  • A Life with Its Share of Pitfalls - Bill Gruhn
  • From Asylums to Homelessness - Teka Childress Accompaniment in the Journey Toward Health - Lou Powers Kimmell Post Traumatic Stress - Jim Allen
  • One Family's Journey - Alice Adcock
  • Uninsured and Underserved - Annjie Schiefelbein


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Karen House:

1840 Hogan St.

Saint Louis, MO  63106

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Regular Features

  • Cover - Leslie Holt
  • Why This Issue - Jenny Truax
  • Centerfold - A Chancy Path to Stability -    Lauren Koenig
  • Book Review - Tim Pekarek
  • From Abroad - Guatemala - Amy Gerth
  • From Teka Childress House - Jenny Truax, Annjie Schiefelbein
  • From Karen House - Tony Hilkin
  • RoundTable Talk - Mary Hargadon

Why This Issue:

Like many other Catholic Worker houses, we have many guests that live with mental illness. There are as many different presentations of illness as there are diagnoses. People with depression. personality disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder live with us. Some want help. Some, because of the very nature of mental illness, find it difficult to accept help. All of these women are very different, but what they ALL have in common, regardless of their particular situations, is that it is very difficult, if not impossible for them to receive mental health care.

Living at Karen House, I've learned that mental illness, like some physical diseases , can strike anyone at any time. All our accumulated wealth, education and experience cannot defend us - we've had guests with Master's degrees, professional experience, and incredibly wealthy families. The stigma of mental illness is described well in Alice's article. Unlike diabetes or high blood pressure, or even alcoholism, the illness these people live with is considered so fearful, and so repugnant, that they are judged to deserve their fate. People with mental illness could be described as twenty-first century lepers, or maybe in the words of Peter Maurin, ambassadors of God.

Often, we will ask a guest to consider getting mental health care if she may be dangerous to herself or albers, or if she is unable to care for herself. In the past few years, we have noticed a dramatic shift in the number of options available to our guests with mental health issues. Because of funding cuts, even the last safety nels are frayed. Even outreach services focused on mental health care for homeless individuals are largely unable to  serve people without Medicaid .  When one of our recent guests told us she had a plan to kill herself but didn 't know if she wanted to go to the hospital, the ambulance wouldn't take her - they weren't convinced that she really meant to kill herself, and they didn't want to " violate her rights".

This issue is a discussion on the issue of mental illness- we hear personal stories from Alice Adcock and Bill Gruhn. Teka Childress, Lou Kimmell, and Annjie Schiefelbein address the issues of access, medical treatment, and helping relationships around mental health, w hile Jim Allen describes one more disgrace related to our war on Iraq: the multitude of untreated U.S. veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In the wealthiest country in history that possesses the most advanced medical technology in the world, it's infuriating to witness the yearly decrease in funding for social spending and mental health services. As a society, we continue to marginalize "the least of our brothers and sisters" (Matthew 25) and their needs. Our priorities maintain a preferential option for the violence required to satiate our materialistic thirst for the latest Ipod, cheap oil, bigger and bigger SUVs, and upward mobility. At Karen House, it's both maddening and heartbreaking to witness the consequences of these priorities.

You'll find the word "relationship" in many of this issue's articles. Whether in family, friendship, or helping relationships, I think one thing that saves us is our love for each other.

-Jenny Truax



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