I hoped to avoid writing much more than a short acknowledgement of the tragic events in the past few days. I am heartbroken, both for my own reasons, and more, for everyone touched by these senseless, horrible events. But nothing I could possibly say could help anyone, change anything. Not only that, but I’m half a world away, in a country that has a totally different attitude to gun control, and it’s an argument that I can’t take part in right now since I am not well enough informed of any of the facts and circumstances.
However, I do feel. Just like every other human being. And hearing about killing after killing, I cannot fathom why tighter gun controls are not put in place. I’ve heard all the ‘guns don’t kill, people kill’ and ‘take away the guns and the baddies will still get them and then we will be unable to protect ourselves’ arguments. I don’t agree with either of those – it seems more often that the good people’s weapons are taken and used by bad people, or involved in accidents. And people kill people, yes, but why would you want to hand them an easy way to do it if the impulse strikes them?
Those kids.. they were just little innocent kids. I cannot even begin to understand how anyone, ever, could even consider killing a kid. A kid, let alone so many. So many precious, innocent lives. Potential lost. So many families destroyed. So much trauma for the survivors. And trauma ruins lives, for years after it happens.
This brings me to mental health. There have been a lot of people saying that this is yet another sign that we need better mental health care – better access to it in the first place, better standard of care and follow up, just better, better, better across the board.
Or even ADEQUATE would be a good start.
It is truly horrifying that in our first world countries, it is easier to get a gun than it is to get help for your mental illness. It is easier to kill yourself or someone else, than it is to get even basic treatment, understanding, and a sense of hope. It is easier to end it all, taking a few out with you, than it is to continue to receive adequate care and support for the full time that it takes you to recover and rejoin life.
It sucks that when something like this happen, a lot of people think that most people who have a mental illness do things like this, are dangerous, are downright evil or stuffed up enough to do something like this. That’s not true. There are sick people, and then there are bad people. You can be both, but being sick does NOT mean you are automatically bad too. I think people who perpetrate horrors like this are sick AND bad. It is far from the norm for people with mental illnesses to be violent or dangerous. But we are tainted with the same brush as the bad eggs, and acceptance among mainstream society takes another dive.
The stigma surrounding mental illness is still alive and well, today. People feel they cannot tell their friends, their families, because they will be ostracised. They cannot let their employers or colleagues know or they will lose their jobs or at least lose respect in the workplace. And they feel the brunt of having a ‘lesser’ illness daily. Mental illness causes unbearable distress, disability and death. And yet people who have them are treated like it’s a personal failing (which it is not) rather than a genuine illness that they never asked to have (which it is).
Because my biggest problem is the eating disorder, I will talk more about that now, but the problems with getting help and understanding are across the board with mental health care.
If someone has cancer, everything is done to try and get them into treatment for it as soon as possible. And everyone recognises that they are sick. No way would they be told “You are not sick enough yet, come back when your cancer has spread to some organs or to X percent of your body.” You wouldn’t be told “If you just wanted to not have cancer, you would not have cancer. Put a smile on your face!” or “Just do it!”.
You wouldn’t be treated like a criminal by your treatment team. You wouldn’t have an inpatient experience that is akin to being jailed. Sure the nature of eating disorders can make us dishonest and sneaky – mostly with ourselves – but that’s the illness, not us. It’s what we need their help to treat – not derision or punishment. If we need restraint and supervision, it is very possible to do this with kindness and retaining the patient’s dignity – and yet often the treating people do not seem to think these little yet essential things are worth consideration. Have they not realised that their treatment of people this way not only hinders their recovery chances, but if they just put some kindness and the willingness to try and understand into it, they would get better results all around? And how is punishment such as not allowing someone to see their loved ones, taking away their possessions and clothes, and forbidding them to engage in activities they enjoy helping them? Short answer – it’s NOT.
If someone has cancer, they will not be told they are incurable and left to die unless they really are. And even then, they will be offered comfort measures and support. But with an eating disorder, many are told they are ‘hopeless cases’ as if it was their fault, and, apart from when they are at death’s door, left to just survive in the community. They deteriorate physically and mentally and they lose hope. They exist in a living hell – unable to live, but not allowed either to die, just in limbo.
I have heard of people in other countries being unable to get into or kicked out of treatment centres because their insurance companies would not pay. I have heard of people who have travelled thousands of kilometres and mortgaged everything in order to just have a chance to survive. And I have countless friends who have died, and heard of countless others who also have died.
It’s just NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
There are a heck of a lot of problems in this world that come back to mental illness, and a heck of a lot of people in pain. We cannot just ignore mental illness and hope it goes away. Doesn’t happen. Never will.
How many more innocent people have to die, how many little kids? All for the want of adequate care, understanding, and treatment.
So where do we start? What do you think would be a good starting point?
Have you struggled to get help?