Your support [does not] allow us to say yes

Refusal of mental health services, donation season,
and maintaining self-respect

‘Tis the time of year for donation solicitations. In that end-of-the-fiscal-year spirit ARISE, a central New York organization that supports those with disabilities, sent me a request for support. This particular organization and I have a bit of a history. One of my essays about mental illness and compassion appeared in their annual art and literary magazine. They also turned me down from joining their dialectal behavioral therapy group after my first hospitalization in February. Part of my care plan on discharge from the hospital was to join such a group. Upon returning home I phoned ARISE. It took them six months and many unreturned phone calls to ultimately get a rejection. Six months of frustration and lifewithout that brand of prescribed care. After more expedient rejections from four additional organizations I finally began receiving the care I needed in October — eight months after I began asking for it and eight months after I absolutely needed it.

ARISE’s donation solicitation reads as follows:

I’m writing to you because I know that you share the same dedication to inclusion that drew me to ARISE over twelve years ago. The unwavering commitment to ensure that every child, parent, adult, friend, and neighbor with a disability has the same opportunity to succeed.
Today I am asking you to join me…in this fight for the same rights that many take for granted — the ability to have control over our lives and to have access to all the opportunities in our communities.
I hear some disheartening stories. Every day, we at ARISE are connecting with people with disabilities who have been blocked at every move, denied at every turn, and told flat out and quite simply — no.
…In a world filled with no, living in a world that wasn’t designed for people with disabilities….your support allows us to say yes.

Part of the letter reminds me very much of ARISE, unfortunately not the elusive “yes” that they proclaim. I know that they do wonderful things for people with physical disabilities, but my experience is not unique for people struggling with mental illness. They have a reputation of not returning phone calls, of leaving people wondering if help will ever materialize. With ARISE it seems we have been told “flat out and quite simply — no”.

I wasn’t going to take this offensive solicitation without reaction. The recycle bin was insufficient for conveying my message and unless I learned to send smoke signals burning the letter was also out. So I wrote a response. A response I sealed in the hopeful donation envelope with cc’s to the Executive Director, the president of the board of directors and the director of mental health services. My letter read as follows:

Dear members of ARISE,
I received your donation solicitation, but I cannot in good conscience support your organization. You see, I have been blocked, denied access, and told, flat out and quite simply — no, but by ARISE.
I suffer from major depressive disorder and severe anxiety, conditions for which I have been hospitalized multiple time. Upon discharge from SUNY Upstate’s psychiatric ward this February it was recommended that I begin outpatient dialectical behavioral therapy as a critical part of my recovery and was directed to ARISE for care. As soon as I returned home I called ARISE and was told there was, as expected, an approximately three month wait to be able to join the group. At month four or five I called to enquire about the list’s progression. I received a curt voice mail a few days later explaining that the current therapist was not properly licensed, so my insurance wouldn’t cover my participation in the program. None of my follow up phone calls enquiring if I could pay the full amount, or if any discount that may be offered to those without insurance could be extended to me were ever returned.
I don’t doubt that ARISE does wonderful things for those with physical disabilities, but my lengthy, yet mostly silent, experience with ARISE and an inability to join dialectical behavioral therapy groups at four additional organizations meant I had to wait eight long months, which included an additional hospitalization, before I finally received the care I needed.
ARISE not only did not say “yes” to me, their delay in ultimately telling me “no” and being unwilling to work with me to find an alternative method of payment greatly delayed me from finding someone who would tell me yes. In speaking with fellow sufferers of depression my case is not isolated. ARISE is known for not following through. For not being the advocate we need. For not saying yes.
I do hope that things change at ARISE so that those of us with metal illness are more effectively welcomed into your programming, but until that time I am unable to support your organization.
Liz Droge-Young

Now I am back to waiting for a response from ARISE. This time, I am hopeful.

Liz is also on Twitter and will be recounting her experiences with depression and mental health services on Medium

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