another in the series on mental health…
I love my sister. She is a nurturing, loving mother. She is a warm hearted person who loves to laugh and make people happy. I call her Keebler because she might be an elf who was switched at birth.
She’s also a right wing nut job.
In fairness, she thinks I’m a commie freak. We have waged a lifelong battle over all things politics and, in particular, gun control. We share genetics and a common upbringing, and we can find no common ground on that topic. It does not make me optimistic that our disfunctional congress will somehow find the big boy spines to take any meaningful action.
I posted previously that I believe gun law reform is important and should be addressed, but it is treating a symptom. Mental illness is the root. Let’s face it; mentally healthy, well adjusted citizens do not commit mass murder or suicide regardless of the available tools at hand. Let me also state, before I’m barraged, that the vast majority of the mentally ill are not statistically any more likely to commit violent acts than the rest of the populace. However, I think we can agree that mass murderers are, by definition of their acts, not mentally well.
Since I’m not optimistic about any substantial change in the ease of access to tools of death, I have been happy to see an increase in the conversations about mental health. Here are a couple interesting articles I’ve seen recently.
Since I “came out” a few weeks ago and have been blogging about mental illness, I have been stunned by the number of people who have shared their own struggles with me. I’ve had several friends acknowledge that they too had attempted suicide. In this admittedly non-scientific sampling, I would conclude mental illness is an epidemic; one with horrific, tragic outcomes.
Each of these conversations has begun with concern for my well being, thanks for sharing my experiences, and then a confidential admission. I appreciate their concern for me and understand the courage it takes to make the admission. Therein though lies one of our challenges in fighting this epidemic. By and large, these are well educated, successful, mature adults. If they fear public acknowledgement of mental illness, that it carries a stigma, that it is an indicator of incompetence or deficiency, imagine what a child feels.
The slight increase in the public conversation about mental illness is a positive, baby step. Diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care must all be addressed. However, education may be the most important element. I spent years in denial and shame that I was damaged, and believing that I could “get better” on my own. I couldn’t, and I was back in a secure psychiatric facility a few months ago. If not for prompt action by someone who loves me, the outcome might have been much worse.
We need to have these conversations. Not just at the national media level or in the halls of congress, but in church, at work, and among friends and family. Mental illness is an illness. It needs to be treated. Those with or without it need to better understand what it is. Until we take away the stigma, all other action is just a bandaid.
I’m Darren, I’m mentally ill, and I attempted suicide. Those words are still so hard to write, but they’re a little easier each time. We need more people to come out. Assuming my circle of friends is not a statistical aberration, you know someone who is suffering and hiding it. Maybe when enough people discover that their friends, family, loved ones or coworkers are struggling, we can have a meaningful dialogue on how best to help them and our society.