Sunday, January 04, 2015

Schizophrenia In The News-- My Thoughts For Today

Yesterday I posted an article about a young Florida man who has schizophrenia and killed his mother. I originally found that article during my travels on Twitter and I thought long and hard about whether or not to post it. I thought I'd explain a little bit about my motivation behind that. It was not my intent to foster stigma that surrounds schizophrenia and mental illness rather it was to shed light on a particular event that included someone with schizophrenia.

While I am frankly exhausted by the media's unfailing attempt to report about people with mental illnesses doing violent things, I did feel that they reported, this time, accurately, in that this young man was actually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Often, in fact most of the time, the media just guesses at a diagnosis or perfectly describes a mental illness diagnosis without coming out and actually saying THE DIAGNOSIS ITSELF. It is this kind of thing that angers me because they are busy perfectly describing the symptoms of schizophrenia and getting away with murder as far as I am concerned because they get their message out there that it was a violent person who did this all while eluding to the diagnosis thereby incriminating the general population of people living with schizophrenia and eluding to their belief that ALL people with schizophrenia are violent. This game of cat and mouse between accurately informing the public of the story and eluding to a diagnosis brings me to my limit, and often beyond, of tolerance for media reporting.

However, this article that I posted accurately reported his diagnosis and while a part of me is angered that yet another person with schizophrenia is reported about in the news complete with the requisite wide-eyed, strung out looking mug shot, this article also illustrated PERFECTLY the need for proper mental health care in the United States. All too often, in fact more often than not, the people who need it most, the ones struggling valiantly yet losing the battle with mental illness, are repeatedly falling through the cracks time and again often being incarcerated instead of being treated in a mental health facility where they really belong. Our jails have become our mental institutions because we flat out don't have enough mental institutions to house those who are struggling with mental health issues. It is this situation that is the TRUE MADNESS in our society and it is in dire need of an overhaul. As such, I made the executive decision to post the article for those reasons. We need to get angry at the media. We need to get angry at the politicians who turn away from the issue and shoot down legislation concerning mental health. We need to get angry so that we can exact changes in the system.

So, because of that, because of my anger at "the system" (both media and government/policy makers) and because the young man in the article wasn't properly treated in his travels through the mental health system, I decided to post it to shed light on that particular aspect of the reporting. I realize that the "average Joe" is going to look at the picture--to begin with--and condemn not only the man in the article but EVERYONE living with a mental illness by saying,

"Yep, another "crazy" has committed a crime and they should go straight to hell."

It is these kinds of attitudes that need to be changed, YESTERDAY, and the only way we're going to do that is by doing what I'm doing here and that is shedding a more accurate light on the situation. I don't see this young man who committed this murder as a monster. Not at all. Any one of our loved ones could do the same thing given the "right circumstances" (going off meds, not being properly treated etc.) so seeing this man as a monster instead of someone in desperate need of help is unfair and inaccurate. Not a single one of our loved ones with schizophrenia are monsters when they become violent, they are merely overtaken by a cruel illness that needs aggressive treatment. As such, the same is true about the young man in the article.

So, that is the reason I posted the article. Perhaps I should have put today's post along with the article to better educate people but I didn't. I am, however, making that right right now by saying what I'm saying here. To those who were offended by the article being posted, who believe it perpetuates the stigma, who only saw one side of the entire picture--that of the opinion that "here we go again, another media outlet reporting about a violent, mentally ill person"--to those who were offended, I apologize, however I was trying to make a point and I am doing that right now with this post.

Please, everyone, become proactive instead of reactive. Educate, fight, do what you must to move us towards a better understanding and to change the negative attitudes that permeate society about those living with a mental illness. It only takes one person to begin to exact change and I can guarantee you that right at this moment there are already more out there who have already joined the fight to educate people about mental illness and to change government policy among other things. You will not begin this fight alone.

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