Funding for mental ills critical

In society, illnesses have a pecking order.

There are the big ones – cancer and heart disease.

There are lesser ailments, which are lesser to anyone except the people that live with them.

There are obvious conditions such as a lost limb, and there are complex illnesses impacting the way sufferers function on multiple levels.

The mystery of mental illness falls into that final category.

For centuries mental illness was feared; became the ailment jokes; and only during the past four decades started being publically accepted as a genuine disease.

The confusing thing about mental illness, or anything dealing with the brain, is that there are literally hundreds of manifestations.

There are obvious mental conditions like schizophrenia that reveals itself with hallucinations, disorganized thinking and dysfunction.

With cerebral palsy a brilliant mind can be trapped inside an out-of-control body.

A common developmental disability is Down syndrome with the sufferer appearing to outsiders as being in a world of perpetual childhood.

Less obvious mental illnesses include clinical depression and its own expressions that range from fits of anger or tears of despair.

Illnesses of the brain include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and a wide range of rare conditions that rob the sufferer of controlled mobility, sight, speech, cognitive function and eventually life.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness an estimated 4.5 million Louisianans live with severe ailments of the brain.

State legislators are currently examining budget cuts that threaten to eliminate resources many people with mental illness rely on every day.

At the same time, Houma-based TARC marked its 50th anniversary this week. According to TARC Executive Director Mary Lynn Bisland this social agency has become a national model by helping clients with a wide range of intellectual and developmental diseases become contributing members of society.

By operating 16 local businesses that range from pallet makers, contracting jobs with large corporations, to a full-scale restaurant that Bisland calls TARC’s front door to the community, participants demonstrate what can be done when given an opportunity.

Terrebonne Parish Councilwoman Christa Duplantis commented last week that it does not matter what the heart or kidneys are doing if the brain, which controls all functions, is not working properly. We agree.

We applaud organizations that enhance the abilities possessed by people with mental illnesses and brain disorders.

We encourage Louisiana legislators to defend funds that help all citizens become productive members of society.

Just like cancer and heart disease, mental illness is worth thinking