The Witch Hunting of the Mentally Ill

Like many others, I have been processing the events of Sandy Hook on many different levels.  There are many thoughts and emotions involved when something so incomprehensible occurs.

I process events such as these on many levels:

1.  As a law student, I understand the legal requirements of gun ownership/control and the rights of the mentally ill.  On a legislative level, I would like to see the following:  If a person has a diagnosed mental illness, understands said mental illness and has RX medication and chooses not to take said medication and then commits a crime which causes bodily harm to another, I believe at that point the not guilty by reason of insanity defense should come off the table.  If one is coherent to choose not to take meds that will stabilize his/her illness or seek a dr. for a better tolerated medication, he/she is coherent enough to have chosen to commit the act and is therefore responsible.

2.  As the aunt of a 1, 2, 4 and 6 yr old, I feel the loss of potential and dreams that the parents and loved ones of these children held so dear.

3.  As a person unable to bear children, I am sometimes feel relieved that I have no children of my own to be fearful for.

4.  As one who struggles with mental illness and provides services to those with mental illness, I feel the stigma and stereotypes of society when public outcry screams “psycho, crazy, moron, wingnut, sicko” etc before all of the facts are even available.  Even after those facts are revealed, the terms don’t need to be used.  If it were any other illness, we wouldn’t use those terms.  That is akin to calling someone overweight “fatty, bertha butt, a sloth etc”.  It doesn’t help meaningful conversation.  Verbage matters.

Terminology such as that listed above only serves to create another Salem witch hunt in which those struggling and under a microscope while society waits for us to fall on our faces or to magically be cured occurs.  There is a prevailing sense of entitlement that society has to use any term that helps them process things within their comfort zone but using slurs will not help us to have the conversations that we need to have about mental health access (and the lack thereof), the cost of mental health care, screening for mental health issues, etc.  We only serve to push the mentally ill further into themselves or to create even more anxiety and resentment.  It is not useful.

I have seen and engaged in a number of conversations over the past few days in which the OPs have used such terms.  These are people that I love and respect ( a little less so in recent days but that will pass).  Free speech being what it is, I have no desire to shut down important conversations but merely discuss the issues without the name-calling.

At any given moment, none of us know all of the facts and to judge a DEAD person based upon an incomplete set of facts (investigators just now are trying to subpoena medical records and in recent days, it has come to light that the mother was going for conservatorship so that she could have the shooter committed so he could get the treatment he needed).  This mother did what she felt was best, including homeschooling her son and being solely responsible for him.  Perhaps she didn’t get him treatment as soon as the rest of us would have liked, but we don’t know what all she DID do to try to help him.  Society playing armchair quarterback, judge, jury and psychologist will not help.  Only by engaging in loving conversations and including those with mental illness in the conversations about mental health reform will things change.  Name-calling and perpetuating stigma and stereotypes won’t get us there.

Yes, I am hurt by the conversations.  Yes, I process them differently than one without my background but I speak for millions of your fellow brothers and sisters.  If you have read this far, thank you for reading.    Yes, I am angry so I needed to say these things.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. . .

 

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Under The Microscope – Tragedy and Mental Illness

So much sorrow and many, many thoughts and emotions as I process the latest mass shooting.  While it is early in the reporting, the implications of mental illness are very much on my mind.

My students and I discussed this in class today because these things are huge triggers for them.  Being mentally ill on the various levels that they are – bipolar, multiple personalities, Alzheimers, anger issues, etc – they are aware, perhaps more than many others of the stigma of mental illness.  They are aware that each time an awful act is committed by someone who is mentally ill and off meds or triggered, etc that many in our community and society in general wonder what it will take to make us snap.  It is a very uncomfortable feeling to be scrutinized in such a fashion.  The mentally ill face significant challenges on a daily basis to function well, to be aware of triggers, to lower anxiety and to do everything he or she can to foster well-being.  Still, overwhelm can creep in and people lash out, break down and yes, commit violence.

Do not misunderstand me:  I am not making excuses for the actions that caused so much collateral damage.  Every aspect of the shooter’s life and influences will be examined in the media, by law enforcement and the armchair quarterbacks will expound upon things of which they have no personal exposure.  Beware of painting everyone who struggles with depression with a broad brush.  We are all just doing our best to live a full and meaningful life.

Signed,

Mentally ill but hopeful,   My students and I

© 2012 Paulissa Kipp “The Beckoning Path”

 

 

The Value of Beginning

© 2012 Paulissa Kipp

© 2012 Paulissa Kipp

The Value of Beginning

To begin . . .to start, to commence, to undertake a task.  Beginnings can be exciting – a new job, a new marriage, college, parenthood or any other unfamiliar change can set our hearts aflutter and fill our minds with the promise of unlocked opportunity.  Yet beginnings can also unleash fear, feelings of incompetence, inadequacy and of being a fish out of water.

I have experienced this firsthand recently.  I left a job in a work environment that was draining and went back to school after 6 years of working full time and attending classes part time.  A huge change and a bold beginning.  Yet all kinds of fears have risen to the top:  How will I manage the homework for 3 classes, a home, a business and a marriage and how will I care for myself in the mix?  Add in a class in 2D design that assumes far more art knowledge than I possess and panic attack city, here I come. Beginnings can be scary.

But think of the way a child learns to walk:  he or she first crawls, then takes a tentative step while holding onto surfaces, takes a tumble a few times, gets bruises and bumps, practices, then walks without hanging on and eventually runs.

Learning in general is much the same way.  We often undervalue beginnings and want to jump right to expertise, assuming that mastery is easier.  Mastery may be more comfortable, but it doesn’t teach us as much. Beginnings teach us to humble ourselves, to be receptive, to listen and absorb, and to lean on others for help and support.  The greatest life lessons arrive wrapped in hard work and discomfort.  That, my friends, is when we learn about ourselves.  We learn what we are made of when we are pushed beyond our limitations.

What am I learning by being outside my comfort zone?  I am learning to push through my resistance at being a beginner.  I am learning to tell myself that even though I may be a beginner, I am not untalented.  I am learning the value of having a foundation to build upon.  I am learning to be open to receiving the gifts that learning through baby steps has to offer.  I am learning the value of beginning.

Remember, brave ones, that moving forward can be measured in many ways and that moving in any direction is OK as long as you are moving.  Baby steps. . .

Can you think of a time when beginning (even if you were beginning something you desperately desired) scared you?  How did you handle your fear to find joy in the change?

Your Mission:  write, create a piece of art or photography that shows what beginning looks like to you.