I’m a firm believer that mental health needs a whole lot more attention, than we, as a society, are giving the subject. Mental Health Awareness month (October) has come and gone, and nary a word has been written.
Greater than opioids, greater than mass shootings, I believe mental illness is the biggest problem affecting us. Why because mental illness is at the core of many of our problems including mass shootings and certainly, homelessness.
This fall’s most successful movie at the box office, is “Joker.” It details how Batman’s nemesis became such a threat to Gotham City and its citizens. It takes us step by step through his younger years as he is ridiculed and laughed at by teenagers, co-workers and others because he appeared odd and somewhat deranged.
Of course over time, the ridicule and feeling of worthlessness became so pervasive and overwhelming, that it mushroomed in to hatred, and eventually violence. Although Joker is a fictional character, his maturation process can be seen over and over in many teenagers and young adults who foster the same feelings and sometimes have the desire to act violently because of them.
There is a stigma around mental health issues, particularly mental illness. Many of us steer away from the problem. Others ridicule and make fun of those that don’t seem normal. It’s a massive societal problem and one that will only be fixed with a monumental effort to encourage society to accept the problems and put them in a more positive light.
In other words we all have to make an effort to become knowledgable about mental health issues and recognize the early signs in people, so that they can get the help they need and prevent the illness from getting worse.
If we as a society are more aware, the homeless problem in our big cities might dissipate. Mayor Bill DeBlasio in New York City is throwing all kinds of taxpayer money at the problem. He is actually shipping homeless people to faraway places like Hawaii, where New York taxpayers set the homeless up and hope new surroundings will give them greater opportunities.
According to Dr. Drew Pinsky and several of his peers, New York is throwing good money down the proverbial drain. He says the only thing that will fix the homelessness problem is more awareness and help for the mentally ill.
The same can be said for the mentally ill that turn violent. We all talk about gun control, incarceration, and a greater police presence, but what we really needed is more understanding, awareness and a comprehensive plan to tackle the problem of mental illness.
We thought we were doing the humane thing 25 years ago, when we closed down the facilities that housed the mentally ill. We sent them out to fend on their own. We gave them addictive medicines. We’ve simply replaced the mental facilities with unsanitary tent cities that have cropped up in many cities. It wasn’t a solution then and it is not a solution now.
It is time to remove the stigma. It is time to embrace the problem and find solutions that really work.