The thing is, I've got some mixed feelings about the conversation happening right now in our country. After the shootings I saw a lot of posts on Facebook that said something to the effect of: "The conversation about guns is scapegoating [not true, I don't think] and the real conversation is about mental health."
I am all for a national conversation about mental health. We absolutely need more support for people in this country with mental illness.
But please do me a favor when you're having that conversation, and remember that you're talking about me.
I don't want to own a gun. And I'm sincerely grateful that Washington, DC has strict regulations on owning firearms. I am sincerely grateful that, at my lowest, I was not able to just walk into a shop and buy a gun here. I am pretty sure I wouldn't have hurt anyone else. But I very well might have hurt myself.
I am one of the lucky ones in the country. As much debt as I'm in because of it, still, I was able to get treatment. And beyond that, I have a strong support network of friends and families and faith communities. So I'm really incredibly lucky. I was in the hospital with plenty of people who didn't have that kind of support and who were going to get booted from the hospital as soon as they were somewhat stabilized. They were going to be released into loneliness, maybe into homelessness, maybe into isolation.
So yes. We do need a national conversation about mental health in the country, and about the lack of support systems, and about the need for more and better treatment, and about the need to fight stigmatization and social isolation. But we need to have this conversation, not because people with mental illness are inherently more violent than anyone else--the common thread running through school shootings and other gun massacres in this country is not mental illness but white men with guns--but because there are too many people relegated to our streets and jails because there is nowhere else for you to go if you are mentally ill and don't have the money to pay for a private hospital.
So please be part of the conversation about mental illness in this country. And please push for more support and better treatment. But please be careful that the conversation doesn't drift into one about profiling and stereotyping.
Please remember that when you talk about mental illness, you're talking about millions of people.
Please remember that when you talk about mental illness, you're talking about me.