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.

MentalIllnessQuoteGlennClose

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