It's on all our minds, this week before what many of us think of as the most joyful time of year. On friday December 14, 2012, a young man was suffering so much that before he took his own life, he felt the need to commit an unspeakable act of violence that killed his mother, several educators, and twenty sweet babies in their school room.
Scrolling through my social media accounts yesterday I read an overwhelming call out for "Gun Control". It's almost like a mantra among my friends and online acquaintances with whom I share a mostly left leaning political stance. One of the most common themes..."it's easier to obtain a firearm than to receive treatment for Mental Illness".
Indeed that may be true, but when smart, troubled mentally ill individuals go so long untreated that they commit acts of violence against our most vulnerable people, including themselves, they are not deterred by laws or regulations designed to prevent them from committing those acts.
Here's what I want to know. Where are the calls for Mental Illness treatment? Where are the angry demands for awareness of these debilitating conditions?
We have weekend long telethons to raise money for Cancer research, AIDS research and heart disease. But I have yet to hear any celebrity or Medical spokesperson, call for money for researchers search for a cure for Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar disorders, or any of the other mental diseases that affect millions of humans all over the world.
These illnesses have symptoms we cannot see, sometimes, until it's too late. The symptoms of Mental Illness do not require canes, or IVs or wigs. We cannot cure these horrible diseases by injecting poison into the bodies of their sufferers to kill rapidly reproducing cells, or surgically removing damaged organs. Elderly sufferers don't get handicapped parking spots. The very young who are afflicted don't get visits from entire football teams, Ronald McDonald, or Make A Wish visits to Disneyland.
We can't see these afflicted individuals, until we see them sleeping under a freeway overpass, pushing a grocery cart, or God forbid, toting a couple of semi automatic guns into a school, shopping mall, or movie theater. Then we call for More Gun Control.
I believe I have the right to ask these questions because I am the mother of a person who suffers from one of these life threatening conditions. I have been one of those persons who chalked it up to my own poor parenting skills, or post traumatic stress from abuse at the hands of a (possibly mentally ill) neighbor. I spent many years alternating from overwhelming anger at others, guilty anger at myself, using the word I know think of as an obscenity, "should".
Now my child is an adult. As adults we are responsible for our own health. And for the mentally ill, that is a daunting responsibility. It's frightening to watch, it's heartbreaking on so many levels. It's unbearable sad.
Here are some resources for learning more.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, http://www.nami.org/
The National Alliance for Mental Health
Mental Health America, Mental Health Americal
World Federation for Mental Health, World Federation for Mental Health
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