By Larry Teren
How many times have you said “Are You Crazy?” to someone when they said something with which you disagreed? I bet lately you have been a little reticent to use that expression, yes? If not, maybe you should be.
The other day I visited a client in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre in which more than two dozen people were killed including children. The company’s controller with whom I mostly interact is closely associated with a mental health illness help organization, NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Health Illness) . She does not speak for the organization but has dedicated much time to advocating for them.
We naturally got into a conversation about the recent killing along with the one the week earlier in Portland, Oregon as well as the Aurora, Colorado one at a movie theater showing a then new Batman movie. She pointed out that part of the problem with the public trying to deal with mental health issues is the stigma attached to it. So many individuals, she said, go about their business in daily life interacting with the general public but hide their illness. They are afraid that they will be looked at as being, well- crazy. Once someone knows that another person suffers from mental health issues, they look at them differently and treat them either patronizingly or shun them out of fear that they may go berserk.
For most mental health illness sufferers, it is not about doing harm to others but to themselves. Or neglecting to do something positive for themselves. The guy in Aurora may be nuts but he is evil as well. He planned every aspect of his crime and knew exactly what he was going to do. Adolf Hitler may have been nuts, but he planned his grand scheme as well as carried it out meticulously. The guy in Connecticut was just plain nuts. He killed his mother. Nobody kills their mother unless they are deranged.
The discussion here is not about whether crazy people need to be punished even if they did something bad while under the influence of demons. Society is too soft. Evil needs to be removed from this earth and not coddled with hope of rehabilitating it.
This discussion is about recognizing that there are so many among us who suffer from some form of mental health illness, take medicine to control it and have no intention of triggering into doing heinous actions. Society can go out of its way to accept and approve the aberration of homosexuality and punish those who refuse to approve of those who suffer from it. Notice, I didn’t say ridicule but approve. Advocates go out of their way to say that it is a genetic and not acquired disposition that cannot be helped. This vote is still being tallied. Check back in a few years- that is, if there is a society that is still repopulating itself depending on the percentage of heterosexuals still left in captivity.
Mental health illness deserves the same respect. Humans are born with so many genetic influences including some with various degrees of mental health illness. Let’s recognize that some of us have issues that can be minimized with proper health care. It’s crazy not to.