The Common Good

Health-Care Reform is a Life and Death Issue

We need health-care reform to ensure that others aren't caught in the web of inconsistent mental health care and the inability to get needed medicine. Here is the experience of my brother and sister-in law (Rev. Jon and Juni Nelson) in the death of their son Joshua.

The story of the life and death of our 37-year-old son, Joshua Nelson, stands as a vivid example of the failure of our current medical care system. Joshua was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and clinical depression as a young adult. He held several jobs as a young man, but none of his jobs provided health insurance. Periodically, he would be overcome by his mental health issues, become unable to work, and have to go on the state mental health program. The state provided for his care and medication, and after a few months he would be well enough to get a new job. He was always so happy to be working again. However, when he got a job, he could no longer afford either medical care or his medication and, after a few months, would cycle again and again back into depression and anxiety, and was unable to work.

We researched aid from pharmaceutical companies and found that they require a new prescription each month, but Joshua couldn't afford to see a psychiatrist monthly. Joshua died in early June of this year from unexplained causes while he was in the depths of depression after job loss and lack of medication. We feel sure that had there been consistent medical and pharmaceutical care available to him, he would have had a happy and productive life and would not have died so young and in such physical and mental pain.

Our broken health-care system let Joshua down, in a sense punishing him for wanting towork by denying him the chance to receive the necessary medical care when he was employed. We're hopeful that the health-care reform initiatives will address this catch-22 and include physical and mental health care for all people.

Mary NelsonMary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the West Side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.

To learn more about health-care reform, click here to visit Sojourners' Health-Care Resources Web page.

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