The Witch Hunting of the Mentally Ill

Like many others, I have been processing the events of Sandy Hook on many different levels.  There are many thoughts and emotions involved when something so incomprehensible occurs.

I process events such as these on many levels:

1.  As a law student, I understand the legal requirements of gun ownership/control and the rights of the mentally ill.  On a legislative level, I would like to see the following:  If a person has a diagnosed mental illness, understands said mental illness and has RX medication and chooses not to take said medication and then commits a crime which causes bodily harm to another, I believe at that point the not guilty by reason of insanity defense should come off the table.  If one is coherent to choose not to take meds that will stabilize his/her illness or seek a dr. for a better tolerated medication, he/she is coherent enough to have chosen to commit the act and is therefore responsible.

2.  As the aunt of a 1, 2, 4 and 6 yr old, I feel the loss of potential and dreams that the parents and loved ones of these children held so dear.

3.  As a person unable to bear children, I am sometimes feel relieved that I have no children of my own to be fearful for.

4.  As one who struggles with mental illness and provides services to those with mental illness, I feel the stigma and stereotypes of society when public outcry screams “psycho, crazy, moron, wingnut, sicko” etc before all of the facts are even available.  Even after those facts are revealed, the terms don’t need to be used.  If it were any other illness, we wouldn’t use those terms.  That is akin to calling someone overweight “fatty, bertha butt, a sloth etc”.  It doesn’t help meaningful conversation.  Verbage matters.

Terminology such as that listed above only serves to create another Salem witch hunt in which those struggling and under a microscope while society waits for us to fall on our faces or to magically be cured occurs.  There is a prevailing sense of entitlement that society has to use any term that helps them process things within their comfort zone but using slurs will not help us to have the conversations that we need to have about mental health access (and the lack thereof), the cost of mental health care, screening for mental health issues, etc.  We only serve to push the mentally ill further into themselves or to create even more anxiety and resentment.  It is not useful.

I have seen and engaged in a number of conversations over the past few days in which the OPs have used such terms.  These are people that I love and respect ( a little less so in recent days but that will pass).  Free speech being what it is, I have no desire to shut down important conversations but merely discuss the issues without the name-calling.

At any given moment, none of us know all of the facts and to judge a DEAD person based upon an incomplete set of facts (investigators just now are trying to subpoena medical records and in recent days, it has come to light that the mother was going for conservatorship so that she could have the shooter committed so he could get the treatment he needed).  This mother did what she felt was best, including homeschooling her son and being solely responsible for him.  Perhaps she didn’t get him treatment as soon as the rest of us would have liked, but we don’t know what all she DID do to try to help him.  Society playing armchair quarterback, judge, jury and psychologist will not help.  Only by engaging in loving conversations and including those with mental illness in the conversations about mental health reform will things change.  Name-calling and perpetuating stigma and stereotypes won’t get us there.

Yes, I am hurt by the conversations.  Yes, I process them differently than one without my background but I speak for millions of your fellow brothers and sisters.  If you have read this far, thank you for reading.    Yes, I am angry so I needed to say these things.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. . .


11 Responses to The Witch Hunting of the Mentally Ill

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  2. sandnige says:

    An amazing speech , more is definately needed to let us be known as ‘normal’ I mean what is normal is it us or is it them lol. Thank you for your bravery in speaking out, I suffer with mental health issues and have done most of my life after a set of trauma’s when I was a child. But I am proud to say that I have 3 children and consequently grandchildren and am totally loved up. I also believe that if you can take yourself off medications and then cause atrocities you must face the consequences as one who is responsible. This is a big problem I find in the life itself noone wants to take responsibility for there actions, it is well ………….happened when I was younger that I did what I did, or so and so told me to do it I was too scared (man up). those that do these things to unsuspecting public usually kill themselves rather than face up to responsibilities and punishment. Then they say I was depressed etc. now I do know that I have felt as though I would kill a fellow man (not that I ever did) so I took responsibility and saw a doctor to get sorted. I am a well educated person in fact I am studying at the moment for a BA hon. degree in English Language /Literature with creative writing. So I think us MH people should show the nation that we are the ones taking responsibilities for our life and manning up so that we can be better citizens of the world and all others are irresponsible person that need to get there act together.

    • Thank you for sharing. Your background parallels mine. A lot of trauma, lots of suck it up and a long time before an official diagnosis was reached. It has taken a while but I am finally finding self-love and that includes healthy boundaries away from toxic people. I’ve also learned that strength can often be found through vulnerability. There are lessons to be learned outside the comfort zone.

      Like you, I am also highly accomplished. I am a published author and photographer, I am pursuing AA’s in Legal Assisting and Photography, teach journaling and art journaling to the mentally ill and volunteer to mentor at-risk youth. It is time to show ourselves as functioning and achieving, I think.

      • sjs59 says:

        I appreciate all that you have stated in your post…..I had been saying it ever since the Sandy hook shooting took place.

        I too am as upset that so many innocent lives were taken that Friday morning and I knew that the coonversations had to be about more than just gun control.

        I belong to an on-line support group for people who are surviving with the loss of their loved one to suicide and you do not know how many times I have heard about how inadequate the mental health system is in our country.

        If anything, I hope that this tragedy will prompt the overhauling of the mental health system and get individuals who are living with mental health issues the care that they so desperately need.

  3. Me. says:

    Such a great blog entry…that phrase “Yes, I am hurt by the conversations” really does some up how I feel about society’s attitude to mental health. As someone who deals with mental health on both a personal level, and also has several immediate family members affected by it, I really do take it to heart often. In a world where mental illness can feel so isolating as a result of the ignorant comments and viewpoints of a few, it is heartening to see others that have a similar mindset to me on the ‘witch hunting of the mentally ill’.

    • Society would often rather lock up the mentally ill, even the mildly depressed and comfort themselves by believing they are acting compassionately or “for the greater good” by doing so. Conversations about the poor state of mental health access and affordability need to be commenced and we need to be sitting at the table when they do. Thank you so much for taking the time and comment. It matters. Much love to you as you and your family walk this path.

  4. indytony says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reflections. I too struggle with a mental illness and have on many occasions felt the sting of the stigma society places on us.

    I just did a blog post on 18th century poet and hymn writer William Cowper who battled significantly with mental illness at a time when few treatment options were available. Still, he produced beautiful art and gave glory to God in song. Incidents like Sandy Hook tragically set us back in our hearts and minds, but we can still hope and keeping moving forward.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I took a long time to process my thoughts on the matter and then decided to speak. There has been some blowback from saying these things, but someone has to be courageous enough to speak for US.

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