A piece I wrote years ago is still relevant today as Clinicians are still hard at work to advocate for those we serve:
He's shown as a grainy figure running through the mall.
High powered weapon in hand, striking fear in us all.
It is quickly pointed out early on that he was disturbed mentally.
Another "one of those" unleashed on an unsuspecting assembly.
As his deeds are spotlighted more and more and victims mount upon his list, I cringe again, another misrepresentation of what it means to live with a mental illness.
If you look with an open mind in so many other places, you will be surprised to discover that mental illness has so many other faces:
Take the up and coming or seasoned professional who is living quite stable, but has disclosed his or her illness to very few people, however because of the stigma of the label.
Or the pastor entrusted to feed a hungry flock. Proclaiming healing and deliverance to all whom ask, seek or knock. He grew up with many anxieties, verbal abuse and a father quick to use his rod. The pastor still struggles with these issues today, even as a Man of God.
Consider the parent of a loving and beautiful child. Being a wife and mother was once her dream lifestyle. On good days, she feels vibrant and brilliant. On bad days, she doesn't feel worth one red cent. She stopped telling her family how she felt a long, long time ago. She was ridiculed as lazy, weak or lacking intelligence more often than you know.
Take the celebrity, you've heard of his downfalls, his meltdowns and yes, even some of his mayhem. But because of his status and who he is, society is convinced he can't be "one of them."
The real truth is 1 in 4 American adults experience some mental health challenges each year. Many are spouses, parents, children and neighbors that you will never have to fear.
Many, while dealing with the illness, are living productively each day, and many have experienced amazing breakthroughs along this journey's way.
Some who suffer from mental illnesses do use violence, of this there is no doubt. But I just wish that these stories of violence didn't receive such clout.
I too understand confusion and psychological pain in the head. I'm sorry that there are those who dismissed healing as an option and chose violence instead.
I'm heartbroken for all of those families who are or will one day be affected, but I'm trying hard to live responsibly and my efforts should not be disrespected.
So him, him and him or even her, reeking carnage no matter how mentally ill that he or she may be, is not a fair representation of most of those experiencing mental illness. He or she is not a fair representation of me.
Copyright 2012 Linda A. Haywood#MentalHealth
Linda Haywood, LMSW
Neighborhood Services Organization