I find it very ironic that there are so many people talking about how there is a huge need for accessible mental health services and a need to provide nurture and care for the folks at risk of marginalization due to mental illness and personality disorders, when many of these same people forward memes with quotes suggesting that removing people from one’s life who bring pain and discomfort is what needs to be done on a personal level.
Another irony is how many people I know or suspect who are dealing with a mental illness or personality disorders, diagnosed or not, who all but demand that others around them accommodate and accept them, as they are, yet turn around and treat others with criticism, rejection, and judgment.
I find it ironic that in a country where we hold such contempt for politicians and the modern mockery of the legislative process, our cry is to the politicians to enact more legislation as the solution to senseless tragedy.
Certainly we need better access to healthcare in all it’s forms, especially mental health. Yes, we need to figure out better ways of preventing gun violence.
However, I fully believe that ignorance and faulty understandings about both mental illness and guns have played much bigger roles than we understand or realize in the stigma and marginalization surrounding mental health issues, as well as the sensationalization of gun violence.
Education is a critical component. I think that there are many, many early warning signs that someone could be at risk of developing a personality disorder or is manifesting symptoms of a mental illness which makes them a risk to themselves and others. I suspect, much of the time, these signs and symptoms may be unrecognized, ignored, or rationalized away by teachers, parents and others because most people don’t have an accurate understanding and perception of what’s going on.
I think that, in American society, we (and I include myself in this) have a tendency to blame and criticize others and hold them accountable to a standard of behavior and attitudes we assume should be universal which are anything other than standard or common.
There is a young man I know who is very intelligent and has developed a strong faith and belief in the God of love, forgiveness, and redemption – he has experienced personal transformation and had his life turn 180 degrees as a result of personal changes that came about in conjunction with his surrendering to faith. He attributes the unconditional love, belonging, and acceptance he experienced from a surrogate father figure as the turning point and key to letting go of who he used to be and becoming the person he is today.
Prior to his reconversion experience this young man exhibited sociopathic tendencies, had abused drugs, and was a master manipulator. These were survival and coping mechanisms he developed while growing up in a chaotic and unstable environment filled with anger and permeated with anxiety and despair. Sadly, not an uncommon experience.
The statistics for one growing up within the conditions he grew up are not pretty or good and he fell into them in expected ways. He grew up affected by mental illness, continual conflict, and occasional physical violence. The one who may have been the author of much of the destruction in his childhood, his mother, recognized the harm she had done and continued to do, despite her best efforts, and reached out at every opportunity to connect him with those better able to help him and show him what healthy love looks like.
His life is different now. He is different now. All because there were people who cared about him, who did not write him off.
On a personal level, this young man knows and acknowledges that people not giving up on him, people capable of showing him unconditional love, people able to let go of judgement from his past mistakes, and people able to differentiate him from his behavior and attitudes are what has had the most impact in his recovery and growth.
Yet, despite his personal experiences of redemption, healing, growth and change he exhibits many of the same attitudes, assumptions, and intolerance or judgement toward others which he experienced from members of our society who treated him with the prejudices and ignorance fostered by what is projected regarding people like him. This is partly due to the fact he still has more healing and growth to experience. He did not come to be the person he was in a year. He still has a lifetime of healing, growth, and learning.
I am not criticizing him. I admire him and I have hope that his future path will continue and he will become a powerful force for love and change.
I am just making the observation that even one who knows on a personal level how things like mental illness and violence impact and affect the personal, emotional, and psychological development, still treats some people exhibiting affected characteristics with negative assumptions and intolerance.
I believe if we, as a society, would care as much about educating our children in how to think as much as we care about training them on what to think, we could change the world we live in for the better. I think if we were more concerned with teaching our children how to handle trauma, disappointment, and painful feelings than we are with training them to succeed, regardless of the cost, the disparity between the haves and have nots would diminish.
I wonder if focusing on training our children how to get along and interact positively with others instead of instilling them with the competitive need to be right would create the atmosphere of cooperation and tolerance we say we want but seem unable to bring into being?
I wonder if teaching our children the principles of things from the Twelve Steps, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy before mental illness, personality disorders, and compulsive/addictive behaviors manifest might result in less to heal and recover from?