Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Remembering women with mental illness who die without proper care, respect or dignity

Bob Sharpe, the president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health, based in Tallahessee, has written this op-ed about Esmin Green, who died on June 19 after waiting nearly 24 hours in the emergency room of the King County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY, because noone came to help her. As his article reminds us, the treatment of Ms Green is not extraordinary. Here is an excerpt from his article that also discusses the case of Edith Rodriguez, who "bled to death" on the emergency room floor of the Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles a year ago, and of Primrose Jackson, a mentally ill woman who lived in a tent outside her mother's house and is now missing.

The treatment - or rather, lack of treatment - that Esmin received is nothing new. Such an uproar was raised this time only because a disturbing video was found showing it happen. Just one year ago something very similar happened to Edith Rodriguez at Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles. Edith bled to death on the emergency room floor - a death that also was caught on video. She had been seen at the hospital at least six times in the month before her death and had spent 14 hours there the day before. In Miami, Primrose Jackson - a woman with severe mental illness - has lived for years outside her mother's house in a makeshift tent. She is now missing.

These are just a few of the many tragic accounts of people with mental illness who re alone, forgotten and facing death without proper care, respect or dignity. Every day, hundreds of thousands in the United States suffer in the same way that Esmin, Edith and Primrose have suffered. They are the faceless and forgotten Americans. They live on the streets, in shelters, in substandard housing, in jails and prisons. Why do we allow it?