First,my thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. I can’t imagine what they are going through. However, I am sure, one question that they are most likely asking is “Why?”
For over twenty years, I have been trying to raise awareness of the problems that the mental illness community faces. I am constantly writing to people who I feel can help raise awareness about mental illness and the stigma that is still attached to it.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness. However, so many of them are not able to get the help they need because they either can’t afford it or are afraid they may lose their job or friends if they seek help due to the stigma that is attached to it.
It is so frustrating to know that so much of what I do falls on deaf ears. I sometimes think that the people I reach out to are afraid to deal with the situation themselves due to the stigma. So many people are not educated when it comes to mental illness. I often wonder if maybe the media does not want to say anything because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing.
This needs to stop! Politicians, the media, actors/actresses, musicians, athletes,(people of influence) need to start speaking out. They need to let people know that it is ok to get help. People need to know where they can go to get help for themselves or their loved ones who are struggling. Mental illness affects everyone! Even if you don’t know someone personally who has a mental illness, you are affected. For example, think of all the news events recently where it is determined the person who is responsible for killing others has a mental illness. How can you possibly say you are not affected by these events?
Please know that not everyone who suffers from a mental illness turns violent. Also, please know that although the people with influence like to say that those with mental illnesses don’t want to get better or they purposefully don’t take their medications, etc. This may be true for some, but most people with mental illnesses want help and do comply with the medications their doctors prescribe.
Yesterday, I heard someone say that those people who are over the age of 30 never really had to deal with this while growing up. If you are over 30, try and think about the tragic events that took place in public places over 20 years ago. You probably can’t think of too many. However, think of tragic events that have happened in the last 5-10 years, and you will be able to come up with more than 25. The things the younger generation is dealing with right now are sad and scary. Something needs to be done. I think people with influence can all agree on that one. However, give it a few weeks and this recent event will be pushed aside and almost forgotten. What is going to be done? We need to start holding these people of influence accountable. Now, they are all saying, yes something needs to be done. However, what has been done in the past and what is being done now? Hold these people of influence accountable. Tweet them, message them on Facebook, write emails, call them, send snail mail, start petitions. Do something so that these events don’t keep happening. You can make a difference!
If you know someone who has not been themselves lately or know someone who is struggling with a mental illness, there is help out there! You can start with NAMI. They provide resources, help and support for no cost. If you know someone who is thinking of suicide or you yourself are, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
I want to note that there are people who have responded to my emails, tweets, letters, etc. and I thank them. There are also a lot of organizations and people out there fighting to help those with mental illnesses. However, this is not just a problem for those people to battle. It needs to be everyone’s problem.
For more information of what you can do, please read: Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 7th thru 13th: What can you do?