Aaron Mental Health Interview
Audio Length: 00:10:23
Audio Quality: Good
Number of Interviewers: 1
Number of Interviewees: 1
Start of Audio
Interviewer: Hi, everyone. Today, I’m going to go to the land of Youghal where people say “y’all” as a phrase, which is the American south and in a state called North Carolina, I grew up and my mother Kathy Coors still lives. I’m going to interview her today about mental health and her experiences with raising a child, my sister, who has mental health issues and her own experiences in the U.S. mental health system. Welcome to the show, Kathy, mom.
Interviewee: Thank you.
Interviewer: Yes, could you give the viewers a bit of background; how you came to know about my sister had mental health issues, how you struggled with the mental health system and then maybe I’ll ask some specific questions after you give a little background information?
Interviewee: We adopted Grace from Russia. From the beginning, we knew that something was not quite right. We adopted her, she rocked, especially when she was stressed and she sucked her thumb and she showed many signs of not being quite normal. It wasn’t until she reached the third grade and needed to befriend other children that she struggled so much that we decided to get counselling. She’s probably foetal alcohol, which has developed into a bi-polar disorder. She has a deviant disorder behaviour, a mood disorder and she really struggles with personal skills. In the beginning, the counselling that we brought her to was general. I just thought that nothing was helping us to solve her problems. As she became older and her disorder became critical, we moved to services that helped her in a different way. I had to discover all of this on my own; where to bring her and what to do. There were no set guidelines and it was very frustrating.
Interviewer: Yes, I can’t even imagine – well, I can a little bit, since I lived with you. Growing up with Grace, my sister, your daughter, did you ever encounter a situation where you noticed or observed the government or school systems reaching out because they noticed she had a mental health issue. Again, like you said, was this all completely on your own that you had to help your daughter, my sister, find help, professionally?
Interviewee: The school system was very helpful. We put her in a special school that was available in our town. She still couldn’t function there. As she got older, her inability to be social with other children really hurt her. Everyone was very kind and very sympathetic but they just didn’t have the facilities in our town to provide for her. Then we decided to place her out of home. She’s been in many facilities since then. Some of them as far as two hours, three hours away from the home. Her disability is specific because she is very bright. The foetal alcohol did not damager her ability to think. If she would be mentally retarded, there would be numerous places that she could get help, but you can’t put a child who has intellectual ability in facilities for the mentally retarded. This became a real problem.
Interviewer: Yes, I would imagine that these facilities, these high-level mental health institutions would be very fiscally expensive, not to mention, a huge commitment of time making sure that a specific facility was specific to your daughter, my sister’s health care. Did you get any help from the U.S. government, like Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare to pay for a child who clearly, from your perspective and we were talking before, clearly from the perspective of many mental healthcare providers, counsellors that your daughter, my sister had? Did you get any help from the government in terms of money and to pay for services that Grace needed?
Interviewee: We were very lucky. We applied for Medicaid first because you cannot place a child in any of these facilities unless they are covered by Medicaid. We also had her labelled disabled, so she’d get social security insurance. This is very fragile. We have to continually prove that she needs – if she loses the social security insurance, she also loses the Medicaid. My husband is a school teacher and our insurance has a clause that when a child is in critical care, which Grace was hospitalised five times last year for suicidal tendencies and cutting herself and basic social inability, our insurance kicked up and paid for that. What they didn’t cover, our co-pay Medicaid picked up. Through the grace of god, we have been very blessed in our financial help. Many people say that they are denominated social security insurance. We were extremely lucky to get it.
Interviewer: Alright. Well, I’m very glad. Is there any, as a final conclusion to this interview, is there any piece of, I guess, glean of information that you might want to give someone who might be listening here in East County Cork or West County Waterford in the Youghal area of Ireland who might not be familiar with the U.S. mental health system, just a piece of information that you would say if there was anything that you could pick that could be helpful about the mental health system in the U.S.? As mentioned, as we were talking earlier before the interview, you had actually contacted your local U.S. congressman, congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina to change the way the mental health system works in the U.S.? Is there any one piece of information you might want to give about what needs to be changed in mental health in the U.S.?
Interviewee: What I observed was that Grace needed a higher-level care but they only admit children into these facilities while they’re critical. As soon as they’re deemed less – I don’t know a word for it – less critical, they move them to a lower-level care, where she lasts for a month or two before she becomes critical again. Then they put her back in another level four facility. This moving of children in and out of facilities, they do not hold the bed because there are so many children in the system, that it’s first come, first serve. When Grace is moved from one facility to another, she doesn’t necessarily go back to the same facility that she was in before. This is so disruptive to a child with mental problems to be moved in and out of facilities. Our government is not going to pay for that high-level of care for a sustained time. This is what I met with, trying to get her in a place where she can stay and receive help on a continued level for a significant period of time.
Interviewer: Alright. Well, thank you for coming on this show today, mom. I hope you have a happy Christmas season and I thank you for sharing your story with all of Irish over here.
Interviewee: Well, thank you very much for interviewing me.
Interviewer: Alright, have a good day.
End of Audio
Radio show 1 Aaron
Audio Length: 00:16:51
Audio Quality: Good
Number of Interviewers: 1
Number of Interviewees: 1
Start of Audio
Interviewer: Aaron is still with me here. Aaron, let me ask you a little bit about what motivates you? I know you’re quite young still, you’re in your early 20s. What motivated you, especially at a young age, what were the kinds of things that influenced you and made you interested in social justice issues at home and abroad?
Interviewee: It is always really interesting when you look back in retrospect at your childhood after you’ve become an adult and think, “Why do I do the things I do?” You think it’s just happened the way it is, like the turn of events, and maybe that’s true to a certain extent but also, I think that everything that you find important, every characteristic of your personality is nurtured. It has something to do with some experience you’ve had previous and you’ve homed in on it, like, again, social justice and caring about certain issues, like this refugee crisis. I think, for me, it’s definitely been growing up in a household where my dad was full boy scout, he got all the way up to eagle in rank and he was always – as I’m sure many know of boy scouts – and their motto, scouting in general, is: Do a good thing daily, open the door for someone behind you or in front of you. Look out for other people.
I definitely had that instilled in me, that core set of values of caring for people other than myself and looking out for others. I think my parents were definitely huge when growing up, that nurtured environment was a huge influence. In addition, I am a post-graduate now studying at the University College of Cork, Relations Masters, again. I also, when I was an undergrad, I did a history BA and I studied for an academic year, like an Erasmus-like program in England. At the end of that academic year, I did a fundraiser with an organisation that’s a European charity called Link Hitch. In March of 2014, after you’ve raised 295 British pounds for this charity, which specifically was trying to fund Universal African education, you got to go on their hitchhiking trip to either you could pick Morocco or Croatia and I picked Morocco.
After we hitchhiked all the way through France and Spain to Morocco, we rode the train from Tangier to Marrakesh and the train made various stops along the way in Morocco. In Morocco, it was the first time that I was really – well, the second time. I went to China before. It was the first time I was really exposed to – when I was in China I was with a tour guide who showed me only the nice parts of China where the wealthy people live, where the people who had these opportunities and who had economic and educational options and had taken advantage of them. Whereas, in Morocco, it was the first time I was in what you would call a second world country, a developing country where I was on my own and I was able to see how the people really lived. When the train was making its various stops between Tangier and Marrakesh in smaller villages, I could see children running through dirt roads and cinderblock houses, just water running down the street. It wasn’t even a street, you would call it just a dirt road because it was dirt again. Wearing what I would consider not enough clothing to be either hygienic or…
Interviewee: Dignified, yes. It was a very humbling experience, that not everyone in the world has what you had growing up in a developed western country. That definitely played on my conscious to go out later and volunteer with you and help refugees and try to sell postcards. We sell postcards over Christmas or seasonal cards for the refugees. It definitely made me think. I was very intrigued by the fact of going to Morocco as a holiday sort of a thing and that was part of the reason why I raised the money for charity. Once I saw the way that many on the African continent live in Morocco, passing by on the train, those villages, I was very glad, really glad that I raised the money for African education because I saw that there were people there who needed it. I would like to think all my motives are altruistic, I don’t know if it’s something that’s necessarily – I do think that they are inherently good human beings and there are people that for whatever reason are just born with this idea of giving. I think for the most part and as I think this through with my own story, altruism, selflessness, social justice, it’s definitely something that’s nurtured and it’s definitely something that as you experience and see other people struggling and suffering, you then only can you have a true – not sympathy, I feel sorry for you and I’ll just give you a smile and walk away, but truly be empathetic and say, “I see you struggling and because I have a relationship with you, I want to help.”
Interviewer: You do think relationship is very important in social justice, don’t you? You like that idea of relationship and relationship building. Do you want to say a few things about that?
Interviewee: Yes, definitely during this work placement in the various organisations that I’ve helped. I think that is something that is the very reason why work placements are so valuable in an educational experience. For example, if you’re working in a doctor’s office and you are interning for a doctor on a work placement, you develop, even if it’s just a professional relationship, a relationship of a trust that is a relationship by definition with the person and when someone trusts you, and psychology tells us that they’ll share their vulnerabilities, they’ll share very special moments that they might not share in public with some strange they don’t know. They might tell you, for example, “When I first did this operation as a doctor, this happened and it was very special. I knew the patient and later we developed this great friendship. It enlightened my view on this particular operation of this particular medical issue.” In that work placement because you developed that relationship, or in any social justice field, you get something very special, very personal that you couldn’t get from just reading a book about social justice or reading a book about work placement. You have to actually experience it.
Interviewer: Very good, yes. How did you bring that into the classroom with other students and share that? How did you find the sharing in the classroom of different experiences of social justice? How did you bring that back to a discussion with other people?
Interviewee: It’s very hard to showcase a relationship because a relationship by definition is between two specific people and only those two people can really ever – because they’ve experienced it, how can you really show what’s in your mind and your care and your love, if you will, for them. How can you showcase that in a class in a 15 minute or less PowerPoint presentation? In our work, PhD school of education, your PhD collaboration group, bringing in several people from the organisation which I built the relationship with and worked for and helped them put together videos about their own personal histories and talking with them in a familiar way. It shows to other people when they see us being familiar, that he built a relationship with them. Now, they can see how I shared with these people and how it’s special. Not just how it’s special but in this conversation that a gleaming gold piece of information.
Again, interning in the doctor’s office, something that you might share with the class, “Yes, the doctor told me because we spent so much time together in the ER that this is what happened the first time he did this operation.” When those two people came in from the organisation I did the work placement for and worked with, I was able to talk with them in a familiar way that I think showed to the other people in the class that the relationship is valuable and they were able to take some away from our conversation about information I might not necessarily get if there wasn’t a relationship between these two people.
Interviewer: Yes. As well as that, you learned an awful lot about the issues facing that particular organisation, which we won’t go into the detail of now, but you learned a lot about issues for the organisation, the kinds of issues in that group, for example. I’m sure that’s the case. One other thing I wanted to ask you is, you talked a lot about religion and I think, am I right in saying, that religion has also influenced your involvement here, the social justice issues again, the catholic church teachings? Would I be correct in saying that?
Interviewee: Yes, definitely. I think that people who grew up in the catholic church with that catholic upbringing has this idea that the catholic church promotes this idea of private charity. You, as an individual, need to go out in the world and help others. Now, this idea of social justice is quite catholic. I definitely, as a practicing catholic, you know, I wake up in the morning and thank the define for simply existing. I think if you are able to appreciate just one single moment during the day of beauty, whether it’s the sunset or the sunrise or a nice breeze and then you think about and you’re aware of what’s happening in the world of other people who are struggling to take a breath and appreciate what they have, or rather what they don’t have. Which is a moment of freedom, like, for example, the refugees and all of the very strained camps in Lesvos in Greece. I can’t see how I’ve not called to help them in some way. Yes, to answer your question, religion definitely – like everything, I try, it doesn’t always work out in practice to fundamentally… as Louis said, Jesus is like the sun, I try to fundamentally look at everything through the lens of helping others.
Interviewer: Okay. Fantastic, Aaron. Just one other question, since we are here on a community radio, how useful do you think that radio is in terms of your learning here about these kinds of issues, as a tool really as well? How useful has it been to you? I know you worked in local radio and you’ve done a little bit of work with us here, as well. How have you found it as a tool for learning within your education and within the classroom and bringing all your – even today’s conversations – do you think it’s a useful tool in social justice, for raising awareness about issues of interest?
Interviewee: Yes, definitely. I think that radio, if any person has ever been to counselling, I know I have, there’s something about human psychology, there’s something about articulating out loud our issues and our struggles that helps us to process it and that’s the whole point of going to counselling, is that the counsellors don’t push a “that’s easy” button on you and you’re somehow fixed. You talk about something and you’re able to think about it in a different way because it’s out loud and someone else is listening and you’re able to process it better. Like that, I think that in the radio, each person who’s a part of it, like in this student collaboration about Seria is able to give their own voice, their own take on things. Whereas, if it was in a project, like a PowerPoint presentation where people were just putting slides together and they just showed the slides, or some other presentation. Not that those presentations don’t have worth or merit in their own way. I think the radio, it literally gives voice. Each person gives a voice and in their own phraseology, in their own words about what they found in their own research about how others are struggling and how they think that those struggling should be helped.
I think radio, because we as humans are such visual and we’re auditory, because it’s literally a voice, you hear another human being’s voice and there’s something evolutionary about it that I think to a listener, to someone listening to this radio today will go, “They’re human, they’re talking about this Seria refugee crisis and let’s hear what they have to say.” It’s a conversation almost. A person listening to the radio doesn’t get to respond often times, but they’re listening in way that I think if it was just a PowerPoint presentation or website they’re going to look at, it’s more human. Again, it’s a voice.
Interviewer: Okay. What fantastic answers, Aaron. I’m very impressed. Yes, we’re coming to the end of the show now. I think we won’t get Elaine Marta from Cork Group in today but we’ll have her on in next week’s program. I’d just like to thank very much Aaron, you in particular for all the work that you put into this program. Thank you very much. I’d like to thank Geraldine Kid and I’m like to thank Pierce McHenry for all your help in putting this program together today.
End of Audio