Thursday Thesis: “Misconception of Mental Illness”

This week our nation experienced a horrific act of violence.  How ironic that the place which refers to itself as “The City Beautiful” is now the landmark of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.  Orlando which is home of the “happiest place on earth” is now in the midst of extreme grief.
     As our people come to grips with another mass shooting, the question arises why does this happen?  The responses usually include gun law debates, political scrutiny, religious beliefs and ultimately the mental instability of the perpetrator.  These reasons may contribute to hostility but my belief is that none of these reasons are the actual cause of a violent action.  Violence comes from the perpetrator’s choice to act on their anger and frustration in an evil way.  
     I myself have a mental illness, Depression.  My friends and family know I have voluntarily admitted myself to a hospital to be treated on several occasions.  Only my closest family knows my true diagnosis:  Major Depression with Psychosis.  Yes, psychosis, meaning like, psychotic.  When I become depressed I experience psychotic thoughts.  I am psychotic!  Yes I said it out loud!  Me, the person everyone thinks of as “the quiet one”.  My immediate family laughs when they hear others describe me this way because they know better!  I can be outspoken and even fierce when I feel the need to defend myself.  But yet, I would hurt no one.  Come on, I can’t even kill a roach!  Roaches carry disease and they completely disgust me but I still can’t kill one myself!  To get back to my point, even in my most psychotic state I did not want to go out to buy a gun with the intent to kill another person or even myself.  It is not mental illness that causes violence.
     I think society wants a simplified answer to the question of why someone would commit such terror but there is not an easy answer.  The American Public Health Association published an article in February 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/, which states “…gun crimes, mental illnesses, social networks, and gun access issues are complexly interrelated, and not reducible to simple cause and effect.”  I concur it is several variables together which contribute to a person’s choice to commit this type of crime.  We as a society cannot explain these belligerent acts so mental illness becomes the scapegoat.  And in reverse, most of society does not understand mental illness.  So we are using something that is not understood, to explain why something we cannot comprehend, happened.  Quite a vicious circle!
     So what is my purpose in writing this?  I cannot answer why people choose evil but as a person who lives with a mental illness, I would like others to educate themselves on the real cause of mental illness.  It is just that, an illness.  Yes I really am a sick person!  If you think someone is in mental distress, take them to the hospital!  Seek help from a medical professional!  I thank my God that he gave me a supportive, strong, loving husband who was willing to do the hard thing and admit me to the hospital.  We did not know at that time what was happening to me or why it was happening but thanks to his diligence I now receive regular treatment and therapy to deal with my mental disorder.  I manage my mental illness just as I am manage my several other medical diagnoses of Diabetes, Thyroid, Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Fibromyalgia.  No wonder I am depressed, right?  I know! 
     When one does not understand something one feels fear.  We fear people who have mental illness therefore we create assumptions about their actions.  Knowledge can dispel fear and misunderstanding.   If we educate ourselves about the illness we can help others with this illness to cope.
 
Contact the National Alliance of Mental Health for more information:
 
My deepest sympathy goes out to those affected by the Pulse Nightclub tragedy.  Please join me in prayer for Orlando. Together we are strong!  Orlando United!
Show Orlando your support:  http://www.oneorlando.org/
 
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