There has been another shooting.
More families dealing with unspeakable grief.
Additional rhetoric by the media. However, still no long term solutions for the treatment of individuals suffering with a mental illness.
In the song Do Something, Matthew West sings, “I’m sick and tired of all the talking! …. I want to be someone who stands up as says, “I’m going to do something!” His words echo my heart this morning. Isn’t it time, we do something?
A couple of opinions you will NOT read in this post are: 1.) It’s the families fault and 2.) We need gun control.
In this particular tragedy the focus should not be on gun control. It should be on how our society addresses and treats individuals suffering from a mental illness.
My heart broke as I read the article which pointed out the shooter’s (Elliot Roger) family had contacted police in late April. Upon visiting with the young man, the police deemed him stable and left it at that. In a manifesto written by Elliot, he stated, “If they (police) had demanded to search my room … That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.”
“What if’s” and “could have been’s,” cannot change the outcome of this latest shooting. However, serious conversations and immediate action in regards to education and treatment of individuals with mental illnesses can.
To date, I have written very little about the personal aspects my family experienced with Mom’s mental illness. However, as I watched news coverage and read articles about Elliot Roger. The memories flooded my mind. There were those days when I sat next to Mom as she waited for a mental health evaluation. As a family, we recognized a need for intervention and hospitalization in order for her mood to become stable. However, even trained professionals, sometimes don’t get it right. The manipulation characteristic in mental illness can, at times, be difficult for even professionals to recognize. There were numerous instances when we were sent on our way, and Mom continued down the slippery slope into mania and/or depression. Most of the time when Mom threatened to harm, it was to herself. As I recall, there were only two instances she threatened harm to someone else. Both times, she was taken to a psychiatric ward before the threat was carried out. It goes without saying that I am thankful Mom received the needed intervention and treatment, yet, I can’t overlook the fact there are hundreds of individuals and families, like Elliot Roger’s, who do not.
So, when reading the account on Rodgers, I couldn’t fault the police. They are not trained mental health professionals. They did what they were supposed to do, a welfare check. I have no doubt the manipulative side of the mental illness Elliot suffered with, talked them into believing all was well.
Today, we know all is was not well!
Today, our entire nation should grieve along with the Roger’s family. This family recognized the signs, they asked for help. However, somewhere between April 30th and May 23rd, the system failed. I am not talking about the police department. And I certainly am not talking about the family. I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be. You realize a family member needs intervention and immediate psychiatric treatment, yet there is nowhere to turn. I can’t tell you how many times we heard “she needs to be threatening harm to herself or someone else, before we are able to intervene.”
Why does it have to get to that point? Individuals suffering from mental illnesses are typically not going to recognize and/or admit they are on a slippery slope spiraling downward. The family members who deal with these illnesses on a daily basis know better than any professional or policeman when their loved one is in danger.
When the individuals doing the evaluation listened to Mom instead of us, I always went away feeling angry, frustrated and helpless. Even though I know that sooner than later, she would be admitted. It was the in between time, the waiting and wondering what was going to happen time, that was paralyzing.
The helplessness and frustration had to be overwhelming for the Rogers family. They too had to be waiting and wondering what next. And the “what next” which came for Elliott and the entire Rogers family is something many of us will never, ever have to walk through. They are experiencing a grief few of us will ever endure and a sorrow no one should ever have to bear.
Matthew West continues to sing, “Right now, it’s time for us to do something. If not now, then when will we see an end? To all this pain. It’s not enough to do nothing. It’s time for us to do something…”
Before another individual struggling with a mental illness reaches their point of no return.
Before another shooting.
Before more families have to deal with unspeakable grief.
Before we talk anymore about gun control, let’s take a good hard look at mental illnesses, the diagnosis and treatment for… and then begin to search for positive, life changing solutions.
It’s time for us to do something!