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Octavio N. Martinez Jr. M.D.

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Restore sense of mission in mental-health care

Octavio N. Martinez Jr., M.D.,  executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, writes in HealthAffairs that it’s time to restore a sense of mission to American mental-health care.

He concludes that:

“Without an old-fashioned sense of shame at the suffering we allow to endure through neglect and selfishness, we don’t have the motivation to act. Without a shared sense of values, about who we are and what we care about, we won’t know where and how to act even if we can mobilize a sense of moral urgency.

“I don’t know any more than anyone else how to generate that shared sense of purpose and values. It’s the work of broad social movements, inspired by true moral and spiritual geniuses, and it comes unexpectedly. Philanthropic foundations like the one I lead are rarely at the vanguard of such social movements, and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for us to try to be.

What we can do, and I know this precisely from the example of those pioneers and evangelists of mental health who came before us, is think in the most fundamental ways about how the ideas and tools of mental health can help heal the world as it is now. We can give support to those who are doing the most creative and meaningful work. We can be skeptical of orthodoxies, including our own. We can speak from our hearts and souls. And we can have a true sense of mission.

“My predecessors’ faith in reason and knowledge was excessive. But I don’t believe their sense of mission was excessive.”

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