September is Mental Health Awareness Month. I would like to talk about that and I would like to take it one step further and add bullying…
Today as my friend and I went on a walk at work we passed a young girl sitting just off the sidewalk. She was dirty, and she was tweaking and swatting imaginary bugs off her face and arms. She was rocking and trying her best to not flail about… Her little arms and legs were twigs and I wanted to sweep her in my arms so badly but knew that it was not a good thing to do given how bad off she was. My friend and I just looked at each other and fought back tears… we both said at the same time “she is someones daughter”.
Her parents could be terrible people, they could be amazing people who wonder every second of every day where their daughter is. They could have tossed her out in frustration. I do not know what her prior life is but I can guarantee you she is and has been abused on the streets. We spoke of how terrible it was to think of what she has to do to get the drugs. I have never seen anyone that badly strung out. Of course we assume she is on drugs but she could just as easily be mentally ill or both.
Portland has a disgustingly huge homeless mentally ill drug addicted population. We walk past them not looking at them because we feel above them. We walk past them not looking at them because they smell, they make us uncomfortable and we make ourselves feel better by saying it is not our problem or OUR children or loved ones will never do that. We walk past them… we ignore them or say things to them or laugh at them or assault them.
I cannot read an article on James Chasse and not break down in tears. He was a mentally ill local man who was bi polar and his family struggled to help keep him on meds. He was walking down the street in The Pearl and someone decided he looked like he was peeing on the street (I guarantee you any other part of the city but the Pearl and no one would have cared). Reality is he was not peeing he was paranoid and scared and the police started to chase him. First let me preface this with this is NOT a slam of police I appreciate and respect them BUT we do not train them on how to deal with the mentally ill. I also am not going to debate bad cop good cop here. Bottom line is he ran they had no idea he was mentally ill and in the end this poor soul was beaten and slowly died of his injuries. Very few people tried to help him…. He was someones son and his mother died with a broken heart a few short years after his death.
Every single mentally ill person is someones child… someones parent or sibling or friend. There but for the grace of God…. We pretend that it will not touch our lives. I have been on antidepressants most of my life and likely will the rest of my life. We live in a society where it is taboo, the dirty dark family secret if someone is mentally ill or depressed and because of that we do not take care of our mentally ill. They end up on the streets or worse they end up murdered or having committed suicide. Mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and religions… There are mentally ill people who should be institutionalized and their are those who can mostly function in society if they have the support they need.
Can you imagine living in a world of constant fear, where your only hope in your mind is to flee and end up on the streets and on drugs. I am just as guilty as the next guy for passing judgement at times about the odd person talking to themselves or acting weird. But living in this city and seeing the level of homeless mentally ill has made me see a different side… and today, that beautiful damaged soul sitting on the dirt with her eyes so scared broke my heart and as painful as it was to witness I needed to see it. I needed to be slapped upside my head and I needed to be reminded that my life is damn good and I am damn blessed.
I spent years staring at a gun, holding a blade to my wrist or looking at a bottle of pills. I have friends whose parents, children, siblings or good friends have committed suicide. Is it selfish…maybe the rare occasion is someone trying to get back at someone but mostly it is people who are so deep in the depths of depression it is all they can do to breathe. That the only light at the end of their tunnel is a freight train bearing down on them. Many of them truly believe they are doing their loved ones a favor by ending it. I will never make those who refuse to believe it is anything but selfish change their minds. I pray they never walk in my shoes or anyone else who has struggled with this level of dark and I pray they never get that horrible phone call… If you really want to get a deeper understanding of it there is a documentary called The Bridge. It is heart breaking but eye opening.
Then there is bullying… we are bullying adults raising children to be bullies. The level of mean is so much that it is driving children and adults to kill themselves… Have you ever been on the receiving end of bullying? Have you been blatantly day in and day out ignored or mocked or poked fun of. Have you walked into a room and suddenly you hear crickets because they were talking about you? Have you ever had your child come home in tears because they have no friends and are teased at school. Have you ever been brutalized emotionally or physically, had people look at you and snicker and whisper. Have you been told you should kill yourself, or that you are a loser, you are ugly, you are a whore, you are a fag, you are disgusting. Have you ever done or said those things to someone else. IF you have never been on the receiving end of that you need to thank your lucky stars. If your child has not you better be happy. IF you have never experienced that but do it to someone else then you should go talk to someone whose loved one has killed themselves because of it. Could you live with yourself if you were the straw that broke the camels back? Do not think for one second that you are not capable of breaking someone…
I have been on the receiving end of bullying and so have my children and my sister and too many friends to count. We are a society of cruel people. We mock people on social media, our politicians are bullies, celebrities, media, athletes etc are bullies. I hate this election I HATE what it has done to my friends, society as a whole and it scares me. I do not know what the solution is.. I can make an impassioned plea but it is not going to matter to some people. We live in a world where making ourselves feel better know matter how we do it is all that matters.
I just ask if you are doling out this behavior stop it… stop and consider how you would feel. If you do not like someone that is fine but you have no right to make their life hell… if you know someone who fights mental illness do not hide it in shame. Help them help themselves. If you see someone on the street who looks so lost and vulnerable or even weird…. smile, say hello it costs nothing and means EVERYTHING and that one simple act could save someone life. If could give them hope be it mentally ill people or just the odd or homeless person.