It’s time to break the stigma

My dad always has stories about work, working as he does in the county courthouse. His latest, told over Christmas dinner:

He left the courthouse the way he normally does, via Third Avenue (there’s another entrance on Fourth) and before he exited the building, he noticed a line straggling out the door. He goes over to one of the security guards and asks what the line is for.

Gun permits.

Now is not the time to talk gun control. Now is the time to talk mental health.

Photo credit: David Goldman, AP
Photo credit: David Goldman, AP

It angers me to know it took a fucking act of Congress to remove the limit on the number of behavioral health visits covered by insurance. Whoever thought your issues could be resolved in twelve easy visits to a shrink ought to be drawn and quartered.

It angers me even more to know that the people who need this sort of help the most are likely the people without insurance in the first place. A sliding scale fee, where the minimum payment for a visit is still far beyond the means of that same demographic, doesn’t help much, especially if no one knows it exists.

And this is what angers me most of all: people don’t talk about this shit until it slaps them in the face, and when it does, they blame everything else except the actual cause. Violent movies. Video games. Drugs. Poor parenting. Their neighborhood.

Mental illness still carries the stigma of straightjackets and Nurse Ratched. We don’t talk about it. We cover our mouths and whisper to each other, sliding surreptitious looks at one another, pointing and laughing in public while despairing in private.

And we’re afraid to ask for help. We’re afraid of being labeled unstable, insane, crazy, loony.

It’s the not asking for help that needs to change.

In my personal experience, I’ve known more women than men who will readily admit to having problems they can’t deal with on their own. Some have been diagnosed with an actual disorder, others are simply having a difficult time. They will head to therapy, or ask their doctor for a prescription (I have a MAJOR problem with this, but that’s another post) and do everything they can to make their life more liveable.

I’ve known a few men with issues too tough to handle by themselves. Most won’t admit it, and by not admitting it, they refuse to see they need help.

It is okay to ask for help. Let me repeat that.

It is okay to ask for help.

I haven’t read much of the news coverage on the events at Sandy Hook Elementary. But I did read this, and it was horrifying and heartbreaking. It makes me wonder if Nancy Lanza truly felt she could handle Adam’s illness on her own, or if she felt she would be shunned by saying she couldn’t control her son.

If that’s the case, it wasn’t her fault. It was ours.

Ours for making her feel like she’d be less of a mother. Ours for making her feel like she’d be branded, or blacklisted, or outcast. Ours for making her feel like she had no where to turn, and no options.

Makes you want to hang your head in shame, doesn’t it?


2 thoughts on “It’s time to break the stigma

  1. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, but you know we’re in a bad way if fighting the NRA is easier than dealing with the real problem. The stigma around mental illness you’re talking about goes back a lot further than gun control.

    1. I know, right? While I do wish there were stricter gun control laws in place, wishing for the impossible is a waste of time. So I’d rather focus on breaking down that barrier to mental health services.

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