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Who's there to support those who need help?

Blues Skies
Catherine Al-Meten

A couple of times a month, I meet with a group of teens and adults who struggle with various forms of autism and some of the issues that the spectrum of autism includes. We spend about an hour doing yoga and meditation, and both before and after our sessions, we spend time together getting to know one another. This group was put together by one of the health care workers and some of the group members. Through their hard work and effort, they have formed a group that meets regularly to enjoy activities together, and to spend some time learning some alternative ways to dealing with some of their challenges.

One of the things I have noticed over the course of the last year since we have been meeting, is how much each of the group members depends on support and assistance in order to take care of some of the most basic tasks of taking care of their own health. Some of those who are part of this group, live with relatives, while others live in supportive group situations. Each has some access to basic health care and supportive services to deal with emotional, mental, physical, and financial challenges. Each week when we talk, the men and women talk to us about the issues that bother them. This week I was concerned about a couple of the people who seemed to be struggling emotionally. When I inquired and found the situations each was dealing with, I became more concerned about why it was so difficult to get help. I visited the NAMI National Alliance for Mental Illness and found that much has changed as a result of the government's cutbacks and slashes in funding for those who may be most vulnerable and in need of help.

What I have noticed is how much of an impact lack of access to services and the cutting of funding for those most at risk, in need, or the most vulnerable of us has had on this small group of people. What I have observed is behavior that arises out of fear and insecurity about health and housing issues, loss of caregiving, and ineffective or difficult-to-access assistance. This is particularly true regarding access to mental and emotional help during times of crisis, and long delays in time when diagnosing and treating physical problems (issues related to falls, accidents, or chronic physical conditions). Think of what it is like when you feel lousy or when you fall and hurt yourself. For some of us, we find ourselves isolated and without much support, but with at least some access to help and with some resources or the ability to find resources. For others, we have people around us who are there for us when we need help. Imagine what it is like for someone who doesn’t have the resources you have, and who is more dependent upon the support of the community and those who are willing and compassionate enough to reach out to help.

A number of people in this community are full-time caregivers to just such people like I describe. Many of the caregivers are aging, others are responsible for other children and family members, and are under a great deal of pressure and stress already. When resources are eliminated, the stress on a person with disabilities grows, the stress on the families and caregivers grows, and the stress on the whole community increases as well. What is the purpose of writing about this today? We live during a time when we are all just a bit overwhelmed trying to take care of the daily business of living. Most of us work and manage our homes and families, those who don’t work, worry about finding a job or looking for meaningful ways to spend their time and resources. What are we each doing to show compassion to those who struggle with greater burdens than we , do? What are we doing about letting our government and institutional leaders and managers know about our need to be heard about meeting basic needs for all people? What can we do to improve and restore services, support, and greater concern for those who need more help?

I do not have the answers, but in asking the questions, I seek to discover some ways that we can work together in our community to change the priorities a bit--to meet the real needs of people we share our lives with here in the Astoria areas. Many of the people I know here in Astoria, work tirelessly to help others. And they work without the necessary resources and support they need. When times get tough, it is not time to cut back on helping and supporting those who have the hardest time. It is time to remember that supporting the flow of compassion in our lives depends on us sharing what we have with others. Our Congress made the choice to act like a corporate robot by cutting off its base and rewarding itself. Cutting off the roots of a plant, kills the connection, and we cannot afford to do this to those who are part of the roots of our community. For all those who do so much for so little reward, thank you. To all those who try everyday to meet the heavy loads they carry, thank you. And for those parents and relatives who are steadfast in your care, support, and love to your family members who need you, thank you.

Some of the ongoing projects that help our community include: Women’s Resource Center , The Clothes Bank at First Baptist Church in Warrenton, Clatsop Community Action food pantries,, Deja Vu Thrift Shop and Boutique at 1389 Duane Street, Astoria, Oregon 97103 503-325-8624 , Online resources include: National Center for Learning Disabilities, , NAMI National Alliance for Mental Illness, Oregon , and Northwest Senior and Disability Services, and Astoria Senior Services.