Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Jack Kerouac and mental health

Last night I completed another shift as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, and mental health is on my mind this morning. There's a lot pain out there. Fortunately, there are resources available for people experiencing mental health issues.

Long-time readers of The Daily Beat know that I experienced my own mental health crisis in 2013 and I wrote about it on a couple of occasions. I don't want to make this about me by revisiting the details in this post. If you're interested, such details can be found here and here.

It's very typical for people with mental health issues to hear that they need to "get on with it," "toughen up," "deal with it," and so on. If a friend told you they had cancer, would you tell them to just toughen up and deal with it? I don't think so. The last thing someone with mental health issues needs is such uninformed (and often unsolicited) advice. What they need is to be heard and for others to have empathy for the difficult situation in which they find themselves; and, of course, they may need professional services.

But, you ask, what does this have to do with Jack Kerouac? As I detailed in those past posts, Jack Kerouac was no stranger to mental health issues. The Navy once diagnosed him with dementia praecox (a no longer used psychiatric diagnosis), and he faced mental health issues as described in Big Sur. In The Dharma Bums, he writes about Rosie Buchanan (real-life Natalie Jackson) and her suicide. Another member of the Beat triumvirate, Allen Ginsberg, spent time in a psychiatric hospital. There's more, but the connections are clear.

I say all of the above to get to this: if you or someone you care about is facing mental health issues, there are steps you can take to get help. For example, anyone in crisis can text Crisis Text Line at 741741 and have a conversation (all by text) with a trained volunteer crisis counselor. There is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to call (1-800-273-8255). Both are free 24/7 services. There's the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and resources they recommend (click here). And so on. Whatever issue(s) you might be facing, there are resources out there.

Remember that you are valuable and you are enough. And that help is available. Spread the word.

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