I stopped paying attention to the news after Saturday. The attempted assassination of a Congresswoman and the killing of a child, a federal judge, and four others were too much for me to take. Tragic. Appalling. I was livid and sad, and that’s not always a good state for me. Yesterday, I was told Loughner’s name and about some of the discussions surrounding his mental health. This morning I sifted through the Internet news coverage that is attempting to deconstruct the mental state of a killer. Tragic. Appalling. I am livid and sad.
I understand that something must be off in anyone who could commit this act. I am saddened by an apparent story wherein a kid needed help and didn’t get it, by this unfolding story wherein a system failed to provide help to someone who probably couldn’t know he needed it. I will not, of course, accept these stories as excuses for horrific action…
…because mental illness does not make you a criminal. Mental illness cannot be equated with evil. Mental illness is never the lone explanation for violence. The mentally ill are neither pity cases, helpless, ticking time-bombs, dangerous, nor villains. Shall we recall the oh-so-many people without mental illness who are dangerous? Shall we recall the oh-so-many people with mental illness who are not?
This might be harsh: We live in a violent and violence-laden culture. We also live in a culture that refuses to recognize many truths about mental illness. The mentally ill are just that: ill. They/We need medical care. We live in a culture that somehow can’t compute that.
Why I’m bothering to bring this up in this forum: Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are mentioned in most of what I read. I feel the stigma that keeps me closeted grow. Part of me says that we should all come out and speak up and show ourselves as examples of mental illness. Part of me is very sure that we’ll be seen as very special cases, that we’ll be labeled as the exceptions and not the rule.
I read one article in which the mother of a schizophrenic patient, in response to Loughner’s arrest, stated her fears of what her son may become. Tragic. Appalling. I am livid and sad.