Saturday, January 15, 2011

Let's fight crazy.

On January 10th, with the help of John Oliver, Jon Stewart began his Daily Show with an approximately nine minute monologue about the shootings in Tucson and whether or not they could have been prevented. The monologue was beautiful and encouraging, but I have to pick on one thing he said:

"Boy, would it be nice to be able to draw a straight line of causation from this horror to something tangible because then we could convince ourselves, is that if we just stopped this the horrors would end. To have the feeling, however fleeting, that this type of event could be prevented forever. It's hard not to feel like it can. You know, you cannot outsmart crazy. You don't know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way. "
We may not be able to stop an unhealthy mind from acting out in violence, but we sure as hell are trying.

In the week that has passed since the shooting occured I have spent ample time reflecting on how Jared Lee Loughner could have been stopped from acting on his delusions. Through this process I am reminded of the myriad ways in which Tucson as a community is reaching out to people with mental illnesses, from people like Jared who are delusional to children with behavioral issues to adults with PTSD.

Tucson is home to a plethora of support groups, community service agencies, therapists, and people reaching out to those who are hurting or struggling. This has increased exponentially since the tragedy: free support groups are being offered, a fund has been started for the victims and their families, and an enormous response was organized when it was rumored that the Westboro Baptist Church would be picketing at the victims' funerals.

This response, of course, must go deeper than just what is being offered. Reaching out to people with mental illnesses must occur daily on an individual level. This can be something as simple as a hug or as involved as accompanying someone to an appointment. Many people with mental illnesses will not seek help out of fear, lack of knowledge, or simply the inability to do so.

If we as a community and a nation hope to prevent future tragedies we need to change much more than just political rhetoric. We need to be more aware of what it means to be "crazy", of the obstacles that are faced by people whose minds are not fully functional and we need to act on this knowledge. If you know someone who is struggling with a mental illness, help them get help. Show them support and, at all costs, avoid judgment. Help to eliminate the stigma. If you are personally struggling with a mental illness, don't be afraid to get help.

It may be true that we can not eliminate all of the things on which a troubled mind could get caught. But we can address the troubled mind at the source. We, as a community, as a nation, as individuals, all have the power to help heal troubled minds. In doing so, I believe we can prevent future tragedies from occuring as a result of "craziness".

"From this sadness...make a better world" A note left outside of Gabrielle Giffords' office.

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