Sep 25 2011_0898

As a parent I was saddened to hear about the tragic deaths of schoolchildren in Connecticut. As a grandparent of two 6 year olds, I was even more horrified. It’s scary to think that our children are exposed to such violence.

One of my personal triggers (internal response to an external event) is watching news such at this, and my action plan (how I cope) during those times is to turn the news off. While visiting family this can be a bit of a challenge, so I’ve decided to use another action plan… writing.

During our travel to Illinois after first hearing the news, I was talking to my husband. I mentioned that “I can almost guarantee that the media is going to make this tragedy all about mental illness”.

One of our last stops before arriving at my Aunt’s was at a Nostalgia store. I remember seeing a sign there with a quote from The Wizard of Oz… “Nobody gets in to see the Wizard ~ Not Nobody, Not No How”. Driving away I related to my husband the irony of that sign as it relates to people seeking help, support, acceptance, treatment. People living with a mental illness have SOOOOOOOOO many obstacles to overcome; many of these only to be turned away.

Watching the news these past few days confirmed what I suspected. One commentator on Tuesday, after talking about the potential for training teachers & school staff, arming them stated “and what if one of those teachers suffers from depression?” Today the NRA spoke out saying “We need a national datatbase registry of the mentally ill”. His other remarks shocked me…. Talk of “deranged evil people, people who hear voices”. For a while I was just speechless…until I remembered that Wizard of Oz sign.

It seemed to me the NRA speaker was all for less restrictions on guns, more restrictions on persons with mental illness. I came to this conclusion based on his remarks, and what this registry he spoke of would mean for people diagnosed with mental illness. Increased Judgment Increased Stigma, Increased Isolation; Less people willing to talk about what’s going on and, less people willing to seek help. From my understanding from the commentary after the NRA press statement, The NRA is opposed to having any kind of national database registry of gun owners.

What many don’t realize is that persons who have a mental illness are far more likely to be a victim of a crime. I’ve heard less than 5% of crimes committed are by persons with a mental illness. That leaves 95% by others. Do people who have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and such commit crimes? YES! Are those reported as such? NO! Why not? It doesn’t sell news. Sensationalism in the media needs to end.

No one is exempt from having a mental illness. No one asks for it, just as no one is exempt from or asks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc.

Look at the video games that are available, that kids are playing these days, listen to the music that our children are listening to; the movies that are made. I believe these pieces are a much more viable reason for such heinous crimes.

Years ago having a mental illness was hush hush. Many suffered in silence, the fear, shame, and guilt over a disease that no one asks for, but is judged for. Many felt alone and isolated. These days people are more open to talking and sharing. Mutual support vs isolation helps.

If you know someone suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness, reach out a hand of friendship. Let them know you care, that they are not alone. Listen without judgment to whatever they may be experiencing. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, if you were this person, how you would want to be treated. Remember, mental illness affects everyone differently.

©Sue Anderson, I.T.E.
Certifiably Silly & Positively Amazing TOO!
Certified WRAP Facilitator/Peer Support Specialist
An-ders-(S)on-shine, Silliness, Stories, Legends, Laughter, & Love™
“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” ~C.H. Spurgeon