Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings: Why

OK, so the whole country’s in knots about the Virginia shootings and I’m writing about flowers. Call me shallow, but I think a time like this is when we especially need flowers.

I haven’t been following the details. I don’t watch TV even on a good day, and I’ve decided not to subject myself to the endless and merciless rehashing that is the hallmark of TV news coverage at times of crisis. A few glances at the print media tell me of any new developments, and that’s enough.

I don’t need to be forced to think about it because I already think about it all the time. I have a mentally ill relative whom I (we) fear could do something like this some day. We have our reasons for these fears, which I'm not going to go into on my blog.

But that is not to say that anybody with a mental illness is a volcano on the verge of an eruption. There are more mental illnesses than you can shake a stick at, and most do not lead to violent behavior. If you know someone with a problem, be careful not to put that on them. The stigma of mental illness is bad enough already. Let’s not all start acting like everyone with any mental problem is super-scary.

And here’s another thought: I hope people don’t judge the shooter's family and imply that they could have prevented this tragedy. I guarantee the family has been through hell for years.

The most constructive thing I’ve done about this so far is to participate in a twelve session weekly class run by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (
NAMI). It’s free. You can learn about the brain and psychotropic drugs, mental health resources, and how to avoid losing your own mind while dealing with someone who seems to have lost hold of theirs.

The second best thing I’ve done is to buy this book: “I am not sick, I don’t need help” by Xavier Amador. Vida Press, New York, 2007. It’s about “how to help someone with mental illness accept treatment.”

Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Help takes long, and occurs in small increments over time.


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