Mental (Illness) In America

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“Welcome to my breakdown; I hope I didn’t scare you. That’s just the way we are when we come down”-Alice Cooper (Welcome To My Nightmare)

When your mind betrays you, what is left of cognizant thought? Often we take our ability to be rational thinkers for granted, as the societal criteria for normalcy, is often embedded within us from day one. We are conditioned to adhere to an established, systematic precedent of acceptable and unacceptable behavior, to which most of the laws and regulatory rules of our country are derived from. Those who operate outside these normal realms, often find themselves removed from the masses at large. They are labeled as outcasts, sociopaths, criminals and derelicts; however, are those labels truly accurate? According to Webster’s Dictionary, we have all exhibited episodes of insanity, as we are all guilty of continuously doing the same thing and expecting different results. So why are we all not removed from the confines of society? How often have you talked to yourself or declared “I think I’m losing my mind” due to a situation that may have taken you outside the comfort zones of your stability? We often find ourselves staring outside of normalcy, yet we will not afford others the same benefit of the doubt when they appear to be suffering from unconventional behavior. Now, let me not be an unrealistic, Holy, martyr here and emphatically state that there are some crazy people walking around that we truly need to be in fear of. Those individuals are the criminally insane, whose only contribution to society will be as a behavioral case study at Quantico. I’m trying to bring an awareness regarding those individuals who are suffering from mental illnesses that are treatable, but somehow fall through the cracks and never receive the proper help. We can start by revisiting the past several weeks.

The spotlight of the world has been shined upon Washington D.C, as the debate about ObamaCare has become the defining face of the United States capital. Oddly enough, health care is the proper segue into another face that has also defined the area and that is the issue of mental health. Three individuals of African American decent (I will explain the reference to ethnicity in a bit), were the subject of horrific acts that resulted in their own demise and in one case, several other lives as well. Aaron Alexis (Naval Yard Massacre), Miriam Carey (shot and killed by D.C Police for erratic behavior near White House) and an Unknown male who poured gasoline on himself and lit himself on fire at the National Mall (he would die not long after being taken to the hospital), all went from virtual unknowns to household names of infamy overnight. Both Aaron and Miriam were confirmed as having some form of mental illness and it is suffice to say that anyone who would douse himself with gasoline and strike a match, is also suffering from some form of mental illness as well. An estimated 26% of Americans (Age 18 and older) suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year. That percentage is equivalent to approximately 57 million people. An estimated 45% of those who claim to have not received treatment for their illnesses, cite money as their main deterrent. Even those individuals with coverage, estimate out of pocket costs ranging between $100.00 to $5,000.00, due to limitations within their health plans. Amazing that an illness that can cause homelessness, incarceration, violence, victimization and suicides when not treated, is not receiving the same type of heightened concern as those who are suffering from other diseases like Cancer and A.I.D.S. The profound impact that untreated mental illness has on a societal structure alone, is reason enough to raise awareness and to search for an affordable solution in treating the disease. If the past several weeks does not bring attention to this ongoing problem, then I’m not sure if it will ever have the voice required for change. It’s time to prioritize.

I mentioned African American in describing the individuals for a reason and here’s why. It is often taboo in my culture to seek psychological help or counseling, as it believed to not be for “us”. Well here’s a reason it is for us. Over the span of fifteen years, black suicides rates have increased a staggering 233%, as well as, blacks make up 40% of the homeless population while occupying only 12% of the U.S. population as a race. As I mentioned beforehand, untreated mental illness results in suicides and homelessness, so you can make the connection for yourself. The premise of this blog is to bring awareness to a silent disease that is often passed off as casual craziness. When your mind betrays you, what happens to cognizant thought? Well the answer is that disappears and results in detrimental behavior that can destroy lives and create havoc in the streets. We continue to see the Sandy Hooks and the Naval Yard Massacres and concentrate strictly on gun laws, but spend less time on the mental makeup of the assailants. Horrific results is a product of a sequence of processes or events that have gone wrong and not the product of instantaneous combustion. Duct tape is still a temporary fix, as we will ultimately need to go back and repair what is broken. If you know of anyone who is suffering from mental illness, talk to a professional and try to get them help. #awareness

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