I Do Not Fear Mental Illness – I Fear Our Perception Of It

I sat in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin by the water with my 8 year old son last night. It was beautiful…and scary. It wasn’t like this before. I found myself looking over my shoulder every time I heard voices coming in our direction. I kept a judgmental eye on people who seemed to be moving in a way that didn’t seem normal.

The typical safety I feel by being surrounded by a baseball diamond full of players & other folks enjoying the weather… was gone. It does not matter how many people you’re surrounded by when there could be one individual in the crowd who is unstable and battling an inner struggle that you or I cannot comprehend.

mental illness quote michelle obama

[Police: 4 dead, including suspect, in Menasha shooting]

At 7:30pm on May 3rd, 2015 in a park in Menasha, Wisconsin four people werementalillness killed, including an 11 year old girl.  Grief struck me last night as I sat with my son; I felt sadness for a child that will never experience life & for her mother who survived. I looked at my son, put my arm around him & realized I cannot protect him from a mentally ill person with a gun. When a human being is overcome with a negative shadow, rarely is an offense they commit planned out. Randomly, they seem to take their aggressiveness and feelings out on innocent people who never see it coming.

Gun control, gun control, gun control… in America we all have an opinion. We read about it, we talk and debate about it – if we, as a nation, discussed mental illness the way we ranted about gun control… we might get somewhere. But, the focus remains on a belonging, rather than people.


I’ve always been an overly-analytical person, trying to understand things by dissecting every aspect of a scenario, regardless how big or small. While watching people in the park last night, I started to wonder how the shooter’s family and friends are grieving the loss of him.

Were there red flags that now haunt them? Had he attempted to reach out for professional help, what steps would have been taken by doctors… medication?  I can’t help but get angry when mental-illness is downplayed or not taken seriously.  We’re failing not only a person who has something terribly wrong with them… but we’re failing the 11 year old girl whose life got cut short.

Sitting in a quiet park in Wisconsin with my son, should be anything but an anxiety-ridden experience. The pleasantry of the trees finally being filled with green leaves & the sounds of kids running around, without a care in the world have been replaced with an uneasy pit in my stomach.mental health quote glenn close1

4 thoughts on “I Do Not Fear Mental Illness – I Fear Our Perception Of It

  1. I like the points raised this. My son has some issues and the problem is they seem to think that they can get through to him by keeping on, hammering away. I see this in society in general too and it never works. People need to think they way round problems more, rather than using confrontational methods.
    It also amazes me that none wants to help him, despite the fact that we ask for it. Is because of these kinds of issues that so many childe’s


  2. Children are being let down. It’s a tragedy to see and even worse when it turns into extreme violence later in life. It would be a good thing for societies in all countries to put and end to the ignorance and fear.


  3. It’s just so hard because mentally ill people rarely know how to get help, and some don’t even know that they have it until it is too late. How close to you was the incident?


  4. Mental Illness is definitely something that our country needs to get a better handle on. As a mentally ill person myself (panic disorder/anxiety/depression) I find that even finding acceptance is hard, which in this day and age shouldn’t be the case. We’ve come so far with so many different forms of acceptance, but mental health still lags behind. And…it is hard to get care! It’s not easy. Health insurance is a big deal, plus the hoops you have to jump through to be sure your services will be covered, plus it’s hard to admit you have a problem and need help and talking to a stranger can feel really violating/exposed.

    I like your take on this. We need to talk a lot more about mental health and less about gun control! So true! We need acceptance/understanding/empathy and for it to be okay and easy for people to get help. The hard part, I find is that people with the most severe forms of mental illness often don’t believe they have a problem or are so enmeshed in their illness that they don’t have the awareness that they need help, so in that case, the community or people close to them need to ring alarm bells. Great post!!!

    Liked by 1 person


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