Isn't it time we recognize that, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, an illness is an illness? That behavior is as legitimate a symptom of a need for medical intervention as a temperature or a seizure? That those of us who would reach out to anyone who faints, should reach out anyone who acts as Jared Lougher has for years?
|Photo of Loughner playing the saxophone as a teenager in a jazz program. |
Photo courtesy of Robert Blanco Photography
Two thirds of the way through The Washington Post article, researched and written by three Post staff writers, was this:
In the past year or so, the crumbling of what was once Loughner was clear to anyone who bothered to look. Teachers, fellow students, even the anonymous e-buddies who substituted for the real friends he had lost - many suspected mental illness and said so, to one another, to Loughner, even to people who might have taken action. But no one did.Later on in the article comes ...
By last summer, evidence of Loughner's increasingly deteriorating mental state was littered across the electronic worlds he inhabited.
On one site, Above Top Secret, Loughner left dozens of posts with bizarre theories about U.S. currency, the Constitution and grammar. Finally, another regular on the site wrote back that "I think you're frankly schizophrenic, and no that's not an amateur opinion and not intended as an uninformed or insulting remark. I really do care. Seek help before you hurt yourself or others or start taking your medications again, please."
Loughner, known on the site as "erad3," responded, "Thank you for the concern."There's already been a lot written about how inadequately we, as a society, deal with mental health. Here's an excerpt from George Kubin's OpEd in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune.
... As a nation, we fail over and over to address the problem of mental illness and then wonder where these people come from when there is a mass murder. These people do not see the world like most rational people. Applying a rational form of justice on an irrational individual does nothing to address the core problem. Rather than viewing these events as isolated incidents, we as a society need to do a better job of educating people about what options there are to get people with mental illness the help they need.Sure. Sure. I agree with Mr. Kubin completely. But, to me, the language of this piece still somehow separates the mentally ill from the physically ill, as though "these people" were somehow something other than "people."
This issue is personal with me, as I am chronically ill with both the disease of addiction and the disease of depression. Both -- hallelujah -- are in deep remission through treatment, but I am still ill. If I hadn't gotten treatment, who knows what I'd be doing this fine bright morning instead of blogging away for WMRA!
Treating the mentally ill begins with accepting -- and I mean accepting -- that "mental" illness is no more of a stigma per se than any other illness; say, for example, diabetes. Both are conditions that threaten a person's ability to lead a healthy life as a fully functioning member of society. Both need medical intervention. We've got to stop separating how we, as individuals and as a society, view the two.
This post is a plea to examine your own attitude toward the "mentally" ill. If you think of Jared Loughner as "an other," then think of me as "an other" as well. Conceivably, the difference in what we did with our lives could be attributed, at least partially, to the difference in the help we got.