Mary Hall: People in need

Published: 6/28/2021 6:55:37 AM Perhaps Northampton began to be a less buttoned-up community in the early 1970s, with questioning i...


Published: 6/28/2021 6:55:37 AM

Perhaps Northampton began to be a less buttoned-up community in the early 1970s, with questioning if people with mental disturbances required incarceration. Most with psychiatric difficulties can live safely in the community with adequate support. As a host community for a now-closed state hospital, Northampton was geographically well situated to help those being released from confinement. However, human service workers have been poorly paid, and the treatment government does fund may not be sufficient or best suited to meet some people’s needs.

Bob Nagle’s June 1 column speaks to inadequate clinical monitoring of complex psychiatric medication regimens. He also repeats the claim that many psychiatric patients have ”anosognosia,” and lack awareness of their ailment. I have seen someone fail to realize they had had a serious heart attack, while another for several days avoided medical attention to what turned out to be a fractured hip. Perhaps, instead of claiming so many psychiatric patients lack insight, we might just say, people can be fearful or defensive.

I would expect becoming homeless could be a good way for anyone to develop a psychiatric condition who does not already have one. People who did not already have drug problems could acquire those, too. Sexual exploitation must be a constant danger.

The book, “Toxic Charity,” explains that some folks can make a good living off of appearing to be hard up. The book says really helping people can require living together with them in solidarity. Jalil Johnson reports [June 9] having come out of poverty, and thus having lived experience to draw on for understanding.

I try to really see panhandlers, and ask myself about them, knowing not every heart-wrenching bid for help may be truthful. A handout is at most a token, while available hand-ups may not be enough. Some encounters with panhandlers can be unpleasant, not only in Northampton but also, for example, in Springfield.

President Biden has brought forward help for people in need. Every houseless person could be a broken Humpty Dumpty who has fallen off the wall. Restoring Humpty’s life cannot ever be easy.

Mary Hall

South Hadley



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