Saturday, April 28, 2007
When I was much younger I had incredible rage inside of me. I had my own hit list. I was dark in my thinking and suicidal and desperate. I was also incredibly fortunate. I was able to reach out. I had friends and family and hope. God knows where I would be now without the support of the human angels who appeared to me seemingly out of nowhere during my worst nightmares.
The horrific massacre at VT was not about mental illness. It was about human nature and the darkness that resides in each and every one of us. Of course we want to deny that darkness. Most of us succeed in that denial until something overwhelms us to the point of either imploding or exploding. The darkness gets expressed in one way or another. Sometimes creatively, sometimes not.
A large group of people in the YouTube community are commonly called "haters." They write horrible, flaming comments on even the most benign videos. There are thousands of these haters. At first I couldn't understand why they would want to hurt strangers just for the sake of hurting them. But someone made a video about them, talking about how they actually represent the general population of people.
People who carry that much anger are all around us, in our neighborhoods, schools, and communities. But when we walk out our front doors to go to the store, for example, we don't see them because the anonymity is gone, unlike the haters on YouTube. Those haters can hate all they want on YouTube or other Internet websites, but they show a different face in their own neighborhoods and towns. It's not okay to hurl hate at any stranger on the street, but it's okay on the Internet, especially since you can easily get away with it.
What really goes on behind closed doors? How much hate and anger exists right before our eyes? How common is this dark side of human nature?
I believe it is much more common than people realize. I believe it is as rampant next door as it is in the headlines and on the Internet. We've just learned to show a different face when necessary, and we've learned to abide by the boundaries of expression. We've learned that talking about such things is taboo. But hate and anger and depression do exist. It's all part of the human experience.
Granted, not everyone commits murder or other horrendous crimes. The difference between those who do and those who don't remains to be seen. I could write an entire post on that topic, but for now, I will end this post with something I read today on Bipolar Blast :
'School violence: threat assessment'
Please consider the following profile of a troubled young adult, based on an actual case history:
1. Talked about suicide for weeks at a time.
2. Reportedly wrote dark poetry about thrusting a dagger in his heart and "draw[ing] blood in showers!"
3. Was described as "indifferent to transpiring events," and having "little to say" for extended periods.
4. Was known to "go crazy," requiring the removal of knives and dangerous items from his room.
5. Used opiates and cocaine.
6. Wandered around with a gun during periods of suicidal ideation.
7. Was fascinated by a woman he was too shy to approach.
8. Was described as being in a "morbid" state.
9. Collapsed while speaking openly of his hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.
10. Was eventually diagnosed with "recurrent major depression."
Who was this risk to society? The answer is Abraham Lincoln .
Source: Joshua Wolf Shenk, Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (2006)."
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
This is what the creater (Phil) of this video wrote:
"I was very torn about making a video on the subject because the shooter is being glorified. I believe the people that need to be glorified are people like Zach Petkewicz, and others like him, and the ones who were not as lucky. I tried to make a video talking about it, but I broke down each time. I made this instead. I think the worst reaction to this is hate. At this time we need to be about love for those who are now gone and can not speak for themselves, and their families. I wish you all the best. PS. The volume of the music is intentional. In case you say you cant hear what he says. ------------ The song that plays is called "Hide And Seek" by Imogen Heap PS. For people who say the song is used to "joke about the situation. The song was made....not for the OC season finale, not for the SNL Parody of the finale, which made fun of timing and cheesiness of the OC finale... but for meaning. Most people realize this when they listen to the lyrics."
Thursday, April 19, 2007
I have something to say about mental illness.
This incident is not about mental illness! If it becomes about that, we just went 20 years back in advocating for the rights of those with mental illness. Cho Seung-Hui is no representation of mental illness. He is a representation of terrorism. He had guns, an elaborate plan, and believed himself to be a martyr. This was a suicide bombing, except that it was carried out by an individual rather than an organization.
So doesn't the fact that Cho was delusional in his beliefs make him "psychotic"? The 911 terrorists believed they would be greeted by virgins after crashing into the Twin Towers. They believed they would be honored as martyrs and that they were saviors to those who had been victimized by Americans. Why aren't they called "psychotic?" Cho's thinking was very dark and evil, and I see no difference in the way terrorists think.
Our need for a scapegoat in the face of tragedy is more apparent in this situation than in any other that I've seen since the Iraqi war. The only one to blame is Cho! But since he's dead, the need for a scapegoat remains. So let's just make one up. How about something really convenient, like the mentally ill?
Oh great. Bring on the stigma. Like we need more.
The more the media makes it about mental illness, the more rights of those with mental illness are jeopardized. Our rights are always in jeopardy as it is. People with mental illness should not have to be the scapegoats of an evil terrorist!
This is the only thing I've read so far that comes close to what I'm saying:
Mental health professionals are concerned this massacre may imply people to believe mentally ill people are violent when in fact most are not. "It shines a light in a way that only reinforces ignorance and discrimination, and so I'm very concerned about that," David Shern of Mental Health America said.
Statistically, the population who are considered mentally ill are far less violent than the general population and are far more prone to be victims of violence. This is a known fact.
But when someone who commits a violent crime has also been diagnosed with a mental illness, the media jumps on it. It makes the story more sensational. What about violent criminals who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness? Are they sane? What is mental illness in the face of violence?
Those who hadn't been diagnosed simply had not sought treatment within the mental health system. Those who enter the mental health system get a diagnosis - for insurance purposes if nothing else. And it's so easy to diagnose the average person who walks through those doors. The DSM has everyone covered. It takes so-called "abnormal" human behaviors and places them into categories. If your behaviors fit a specific category, you get a diagnosis, and if it doesn't quite fit a category, there are wastebasket diagnoses to cover it. The term is NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). Getting a diagnosis has nothing to do with being violent, although violent behaviors, just like all "abnormal" behaviors, have their DSM categories, too. The DSM does not discriminate.
The truth is, nobody knows for sure what causes this kind of violence. Theories are abundant, and much damage can come from theory alone.
Much damage has already come from theory alone.
I need to stop watching the news. But I want to understand. I want to cry my eyes out and gain a perspective I can live with. I want to honor the families and light a candle and see the faces of those who died so I know who I'm honoring. I want to hear about the courageous stories. I want to feel hope for those who can't feel it right now. I don't want to hear about Cho's bout with "mental illness" or see his videos or hear his words. The last thing I want to do at this point is see his face and honor his dying wishes all over the media. The current media massacre is simply honoring a man who deserves no such thing.
The families of those who were shot have my heart. The students who are heading back to school on Monday have my compassion. My brother died of a gun accident when he was 35. It was incredibly difficult to process because it seemed like such a senseless tragedy. This was just one man and one gun where no terrorism was involved, and it was one of the toughest times of my life. I can only imagine what the families in Virginia are going through.
What about their mental health? Let's not overshadow their pain and fear and uncertainty with the pain and anger of some evil terrorist! Those students need us now. Cho Seung-Hui doesn't need anybody. He never did.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
This is more common than people realize. I know of numerous patients who were molested by not only psychiatrists, but also psychologists and hospital workers. One girl who spoke out in a state hospital was told she was delusional, then she was put on Haldol, the most powerful of all the antipsychotic drugs. She stopped talking about it. She stopped talking altogether. Other patients who were molested by this same worker never reported it because they feared being put on Haldol.
I had two other friends who were having sex with their therapists and bragged about it. Of course no charges were pressed in those cases.
It has always been taboo to report sexual abuse from mental health workers. Hopefully the taboo ends here.