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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Mental Health: Talk About It.

By:  Sweet Jane St. ClairI've ignored much of the internet this weekend because of how upsetting all of the events related to Friday's horrific tragedy are. I've tried to form an opinion over what's been going on. Here's the best I can come up with.

I grew up in a house with guns. A lot of guns, actually. I learned how to use them, maintain them, and clean them properly. My dad taught me how to make bullets in our garage. I remember helping him from a very young age. I plan on keeping guns when I have my own place some day. I've never turned a gun on any person, and never plan to. As such, guns are clearly not the only issue at play here.

On top of this, however, my mother in particular taught me how mental illness is a serious issue that gets ignored. People with mental illnesses are invisible in our society, and the services available to them are poorly funded and few at best. My parents volunteered with one of these services in our home town. They taught me what is important in life. Care. It is really easy right now to talk about gun control, and I won't pretend it's not an important topic. But please, please, please, take some time today to think about how you can help to improve the state of mental health care for the people around you. If we as a nation and as a broader society spend as much time *talking* about mental illness and services for mental illness as openly and as often as we talk about gun control, we may see an improvement in the lives of so many people around us.

So yes, please talk about the victims. Please remember them. Respect their families and the grief they are dealing with and will deal with for the rest of their lives. But I can't agree with further making mental illness invisible. We make mental illness invisible by boiling this horrific tragedy down to an issue of gun control, the Second Amendment, or the Long Gun Registry. We make mental illness invisible by projecting our own mental state onto others without knowing theirs, assuming they would make the same choice as you, or assuming you would ever be in the same position as them with the mental state that you possess. We make mental illness invisible through individual pathology while neglecting the systemic criticism necessary to destroy the stigma, and improve/multiply services and awareness around mental health. We make mental illness invisible by ignoring the fact that there are mentally ill people who do things that hurt. I've seen so many "motivational posters" that use images of people with disabilities - mental or physical - talking about overcoming challenges, always remaining positive, what beautiful people these are, and other such stereotypes. Disability and mental illness do not exist only when they are convenient to post about on your status in a way that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about yourself. It exists when it sucks, when it hurts, and when it damages. The point is, it exists. We need to treat it that way.

Feel free to dissect or denounce my argument here, or elsewhere, and everywhere. Hang me out to dry if you would like. But please, talk about it. Talk about it often, loudly, and critically. While you do that, here's how you can get involved in some of the services around you:

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