People want lots of things but I know many who would trade everything they own – including money – to have peace of mind. Life is complex; demands incessant; responsibilities weighty; work loads ever- increasing; retirements & 401 K’s iffy; health/ healthcare precarious; relationships rocky … And love – especially the unconditional kind – seemingly in short supply. I would vote that love is THE most important state of being in this life; the most important thing we give and receive. Life would be a black hole – an infinite void of ‘nesses’ (emptiness, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, nothingness) – without the universal breath of enduring, all-inclusive love. Unfortunately, there are millions of people suffering in a perpetual state of “nesses” – simply because they suffer from a mental illness. Obama recently spoke to the need to abolish the stigma of mental illness … that the mentally ill need to come forward and get help – not hide out for fear of retribution from exposure. I ask, how safe and realistic an act is that in a country where the media blitzes us with horrific details of murders and shooting sprees committed by a relatively small number of active mentally ill individuals? When is the last time you saw or read something positive in the media about great people who made miraculous contributions to society (Michaelangelo, Hemmingway, Churchill, Newton, Beethoven, Van Gogh …) who happened to have suffered from mental illness. When is the last time you witnessed widespread, positive publicity about the millions being successfully treated for mental illness – living full, productive lives? I can assure you – if the recent shooting in Santa Monica, CA (5 killed) was by a mentally ill individual – an exponentially high number of sick and suffering mentally ill across our country will invariably remain mute and hidden from society for fear of stigmatization or persecution. I have worked in human behavior research with mentally distressed populations for the past 6 years. The suffering is very real – every bit as painful as those suffering from physical illnesses. Yet the dilemma remains that we tend to rally around and support a cancer patient but distance ourselves and shun someone with depression, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. People tend to avoid or negate things they fear or don’t understand. Kudos to the famous who are now publicly advocating for the mentally ill – people who may have a major positive impact in how we perceive mood disorders (Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw, Jane Pauley …) More successfully treated mentally ill individuals live amongst us than the public can imagine. There is no question that we need to live cautiously and pay vigilant attention to our surroundings in an unsafe world. At the same time, we need to remain open and willing to extend help, kindness, compassion, and understanding towards those living in a mentally ill mind-bind who feel damned hiding out – and damned stepping forward for fear of being psychically/emotionally harmed or totally tossed aside like yesterday’s garbage.
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