Thursday, February 22, 2018

Do You Want to Talk About Mental Illness?


I hate hate hate hate hate seeing politicians, the NRA, and their supports spitting out the mantra of "it's not a gun issue, it's a mental health issue" as a shield. Followed by doing NOTHING to increase mental health care in this country AT BEST, and actually a lot of them fighting as hard as they can to take away funding and reduce access to mental health care. 

A couple days ago, I got into a Facebook Fight against a friend of an old high school friend who used this line, and I got pissed. Let's just say I had to take time out of my day to make this:

Anyway, when I said, totally politely (lol), that mental illness does not cause mass shootings, she used the next stock line: "how could someone in their right mind massacer a bunch of kids?"

Part of me wonders that maybe if I had been NIIICEERRRR, I could have taught someone something about mental health. But another part of me hates even thinking that, as you might be able to tell, because experience has taught me time and time again that people don't want to learn shit.

But here's me reaching out to people. Because there must be people out there who are genuinely wondering, "how could a mentally stable person do something like this?" That's what makes the line so good. At least, in comparison to any other pro-gun argument, because god damn, are they terrible. I mean it's still not even good because it can be a little about mental health and a little about access to guns and hey don't forget white supremacy!

The point is, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are genuinely wondering how mental health plays into this. I became fascinated with psychology early very much because of a desire to understand how people could be like this.

And after 15 years of both independent study and taking classes and generally obsessing over it, I'm not really any closer to an answer. Like any science, the more you seek answers, the more questions you get.

Psychology is a new science studying the most complex part of the human body. It's still more complex than the most advanced computer on Earth. But unlike computers, the brain is unpredictable, subject to trauma, and constantly behaves in ways that don't seem to make sense so that we have to keep studying it and yet are continuously more confused.

Here's the thing. Someone who has, by all accounts, appeared to be completely psychologically healthy, can suddenly snap and murder someone. It happens. These are people who could have been put through a psychological evaluation by a professional with a doctorate and probably have been declared perfectly fine, because diagnosing mental illness is based on self-reporting. I didn't get diagnosed based on a brain scan. I told my therapists and doctors what I was feeling and they checked the boxes on the symptoms list. There's no blood test for mental illness.

On the other end, someone can go through some SHIT, and I mean some SHIT, and come out the other end pretty healthy and awesome. Some of our best, most successful and amazing humanitarians are who they are because they grew up in abusive households or war-torn countries fearing for their lives every day, yet they grow up to be entirely fucking well adjusted. Instead of murdering people, they dedicate their lives to helping people. Why? We don't really know. But it's safe to say that someone like Malala Yousafzai didn't have access to mental health care where she grew up. And now she's like the best person ever.

Would Nikolas Cruz have murdered 17 people if this country had possessed better mental health care when he was a kid? Or when he was 20 and considering murder? What kind of mental health programs would we need to ensure that troubled orphans get mental health care early enough to keep them from a bad road? Would Cruz have sought this care on his own? Why didn't the FBI fucking do anything? These are all valid questions.

If you really want to talk about mental health care, we can talk. I have long felt that what our country and perhaps our world needs is massive mental health reform from the ground up, complete with adding psychology to every grade level starting at Kindergarten, public information campaigns dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental illness and turning therapy visits into average, mundane activities, and generally making mental health as important and well-understood by the average person as physical health. I will do all I can to try and explain why good people sometimes do terrible things and why some people who just get shit on their whole lives come out good people, I will ponder with you how a human being could take up a murder weapon and murder a bunch of people they don't even know.

But if you don't actually want to do any of this, I don't want to hear the terms "mental health" and "mental illness" ever escape your lips/fingers, and if you use it as a shield to protect your precious murder weapons you treat like toddlers treat their favorite toys, I will fucking yell at you on Facebook no matter how many apology cakes I have to send people.

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