I am nearly in tears. I am shaking. I've got to calm down. I know I do. I'm just not good at this breathing thing. Once I get riled up, I'm terrible at getting … well … riled down.
I have sat back these last few days and watched as the media has gone on and on about politics. So-and-so said this and that's why people were killed in Arizona. So-and-so used that language and that's why a young man committed violent acts in Tucson. I have watched people I respect in the blogosphere relentlessly pointing the finger at those with different political views than theirs, people they never liked in the first place, without stopping for one second to acknowledge that those on their own side of the aisle use the same kind of political rhetoric and imagery all the time.
It finally came to a head for me this morning as I decided to respond to a poll on BlogHer about the Arizona shooting. As I answered each question, I became more and more upset. The questions asked included one on which political parties/groups (Conservatives, Liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party) use the most violent discourse. Another was on whether last weekend's events will affect the political future of Sarah Palin.
Yes, people died. They sure did. Horribly. It sickens me still. Why did they die? Perhaps a main reason is because people who knew that a young man was seriously disturbed either wouldn't help him or couldn't help him. Perhaps that's it. But our country will CONTINUE TO IGNORE (yes, I'm shouting) the sorry state of our mental health system so that we can focus instead on the juicy argument of who has used what kind of imagery on their website?
Here was my comment on BlogHer about the poll:
I have to say this poll frustrates me. In fact, it makes me mad.
It completely plays into to the media frenzy over whether politicians' language caused the shooting in Arizona. There is ZERO evidence to that effect thus far. In fact, the only information we have is that Jared Loughner wasn't particularly aligned with any political party.
Why are there no questions in the poll about mental health, and whether Jared's lack of mental health care (and the country's lack of good mental health care as a whole) was a major factor in the shooting? Why are there no questions about whether BlogHer members will pay more attention in the future to people who show evidence of instability and push for them to receive the help they need? Why are there no questions about whether we need better legislation to ensure people can access mental health services, and whether people would vote for someone who supports that type of legislation?
Instead, the poll seems designed to produce results that one political group can use against another in future elections. While I do agree that we need more civility in politics on both sides of the aisle, is that topic directly connected to Jared Loughner and his heinous acts last weekend?
I love BlogHer. They have been 1,000% supportive of women with postpartum depression and related illnesses. They have always been very thoughtful about mental health, and they have always allowed me to use their amazing forum to provide information to their readers on PPD. I will be grateful to them and loyal to them forever. I appreciate that they were just floating a quick poll on the politics related to this event. And I appreciate Elisa Camahort Page's quick and thoughtful response to my comment. This really isn't about BlogHer in any way. My anger arises from how media and pundits have driven the discourse on the shooting, and turned it into political football when we could be having a needed and meaningful conversation about mental health. The poll just brought it to a head in my mind.
Here's what I want people to know:
1. Mental illness and violence are not directly correlated. Most people with mental illness are not violent.
2. It is not appropriate for leaders and members of the media to further stigma by using words like "nutcase" and "lunatic" and "wacko" over and over this week on the airwaves and in print.
3. Many people in America who have mental illness have limited or no access to good health care providers and services.
4. Because of our laws, it is difficult to obtain care for people of legal age who have severe mental illness.
5. Even if you do suggest help, and even if you can get someone access to it, it doesn't mean they'll accept it.
We need to stop talking about Sarah Palin, for God's sake, and start talking about this. We need to talk about funding better services. We need to discuss the fine line between being able to commit someone who may be a danger to himself or others and also respecting people's individual human rights and civil liberties. We need to discuss why mental health and physical health are still treated separately in our country, despite passage of the Mental Health Parity Act. We need to talk about stigma, and how it prevents people from seeking help for treatable illnesses.
P.S. I hope you'll now hop over to read my article on the Arizona shooting over at ParentDish today. I connect to some really great opinion pieces that have been written by people this week who DO get the point, and some interesting data from the Huffington Post on mental health services (or the lack thereof) in Pima County, Arizona. Please go there and comment.
P.P.S. Update (Wed afternoon):
Oh, and to everyone who reads this/comments here, please let me say I respect you. That is very important to me. I don't think I communicated that enough in my post. In fact, I'm sure I didn't. I'm upset, because I worry so much that mental health is being obscured. But I'm not mad at you if you think I'm wrong, I'm not mad at you even if I think you're wrong, I don't hate you or anyone who disagrees with me. I don't feel that you shouldn't have an opinion or the freedom to share it. None of those things. I have just felt the conversation of this horrible event slipping to a discussion of a bunch of people (our politicians) who often behave poorly, and whose poor behavior may not have had anything whatsoever to do with this shooting. I hope that makes some sense. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
P.P.P.S. Update (Thursday morning):
After having such an amazing and engaging discussion with all of you, I've changed my mind. No one is wrong. We are all right. We each view what happened in different ways. We can have all of these conversations, if they make us better able to help and understand each other. Thanks y'all. I have the best readers on the planet.