Mental illness continues to be a hush topic even though time and time again it rears its tragic head and presents itself directly in our faces, for instance, yesterday’s shooting and killing of a TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, plus Vicki Gardner who survived. 1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives suffer with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to the person directly experiencing a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected. 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% of mental health conditions develop by age 24 and some even later in age.
With all this knowledge, the Mental Health System is still like a soaking wet sponge. People continue to fall through the severely cracked system. Over and over again we witness the damage done to individuals who are left behind by a system put in place by our government to help, whether it’s by shootings, homelessness, suicides or other destructive behaviors. However, as soon as an incident arises, the media, the government and mental health officials cloud the air waves speaking on the issues of what, why, how and, but as soon as another topic become news worthy the issues of mental health are once again pushed to the side.
When will the talk become action? When will we as concerned citizens get fed up enough to demand a change? When will we as family, friends and loved ones of the affected unite and fight together to better a situation our family member or friend didn’t choose, but was given.
Mental illness shouldn’t be a stigma. It isn’t contagious. It shouldn’t be on a wall of shame. It should be a priority. Those suffering from mental illness should be able to receive help with needed services, counseling, medicine, have access to outreach programs that will afford them a better quality of life.
Every time I hear someone ask, how did this happen or how did we not know, I want to scream. I do scream at the television and say, “THE SYSTEM IS THE PROBLEM, TOO MUCH TALKING AND NOT ENOUGH ACTION, TOO MUCH RED TAPE AND DEVELOPING POLICIES, TOO MUCH JOCKING FOR AIR TIME ON A MAJOR NEWS STATION, TOO MANY EGOS FILLED WITH POLITICAL AMBITION AND NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE WITH FIGHT IN THEIR HEARTS, and THEIR SPEECH AND THEIR ACTIONS. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
My family is affected by mental illness. Every day brings new challenges. I sometimes get tired, but I press on. My armor is pierced, yet I continue to fight every day to be a voice for the one in my family without one.