A Team Effort

Framingham Tab Article
By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
August 1, 2008

A Team Effort

A house divided against itself is bound to fall. These are not my words, but many variations have been used as campaign slogans and uplifting encouraging statements. One I like and use is: “there is no ‘I’ in team”.

Around the office, it is often commented that “so in so” is a team player. Generally when people work together more things get accomplished. For example, major league baseball teams generally don’t win championships with one or two good players interested in grabbing fame. When the whole ballclub works together the wins start piling up. The Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics are good examples of good players, coaches and front offices working together for a common goal and obtaining exciting and winning seasons.

There are occasions when jealousy, greed, or self importance creep in and set the dynamics for a team failure. I don’t know of too many people who enjoy being a part of that team. The phase “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” applies here, which is why the bad apples need to be removed to save the rest.

There are champions on many teams. One place a person having a medical issue would expect to be safe and receive real help is in an emergency room. There have been occasions when mental health treatment has been sought in an ER only to be treated as less than, been left, forgotten or stuck in the system, or not received help only because of their disability and died. This is 2008 and we have all kinds of medical advances, but we haven’t got out of the dark ages when it comes to the medical condition of a mental illness being handled by many emergency rooms when people are forgotten and left to die. There are two champions at the state house, Rep Ruth Balsar (HB 2042) and Rep Peter Koutoujian (HB 1891) who have both filed bills regarding the rights of mental health patients in the ER. How many people need to be harmed before real action is taken?

Then there are people who claim to be a part of the team with a full time job to advocate for people who through no fault of their own suffer from a mental illness who condescendingly speak to or about those who suffer from a mental illness. I have witnessed a well known leader degrade the very people she is supposed to represent. When confronted she blamed the victim. I think at the very least this sets a very bad example. How far would she set the cause back if these conversations were taped and played at the state house? No one should suffer this abuse or have their reputation be ruined by the very person who is paid to represent them. This bad apple should go.

One can not play both sides of the fence for long. If the fence had points, as chain link fence, and one slipped, it would hurt.

The good news is that there are approximately 1200 NAMI affiliates and hundreds of thousands of NAMI members who work with the public, elected, and appointed officials, law enforcement, and the medical field to educate and advocate for people with little or no voice on their own in this country. People who suffer from a mental illness have many champions.

Stigma remains a large problem. People generally don’t mind talking about many medical issues they may have without feeling a judgment against them. When it comes to a mental illness people often feel judged when they speak to others.

People generally like to be accepted and welcomed, not shunned. People who happen to suffer from a mental illness are people.

Rev Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (located in MA and AZ) and current President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has support groups for family and friends in Framingham and Uxbridge, a new support group for consumers in Marlboro, and various Education Meetings on the first Thursday evenings of the months from September through May www.narrowpathministries.org and www.namigreaterframingham.org

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