To the Editor:
I think everyone who looks at the issues around mental illness sees them differently. The idea that some people have expressed is that if only we could keep people who have mental problems from somehow getting firearms, then these mass killings would stop. The main problem is that the people who say that have no idea, as far as I can see, what mental illness is. Understanding the problem is the first step to dealing with it.
There are two main misconceptions about mental illness that contribute to this sort of idea. The first is that people with mental illness are “weak” or otherwise dysfunctional. The opposite is true. If a person has a serious mental illness, the very act of dealing with everyday life makes them stronger than most people. “Those things that fail to kill us only serve to make us strong.”
The other is that somehow a person with mental illness can be sorted out from the rest of mankind. The figure I have heard is that one out of four people have at least one symptom of mental illness in any given year. That means, depending on how many people you know and the group you spend time with at work and otherwise, you may know many people who have such a problem — or even all the people you know are in this boat. My opinion is that a lot of people who get very upset at being told they are seriously in need of a mental health checkup are those same people who need it the most.
The Bible saying is that you need to worry about the beam in your own eye before the mote in the other guy’s. The saying some of my friends have is that other people are “more crazy” than we are, because we know we are crazy while they think they are “all right.” There are none so blind as those who will not see.
We all have problems, big and little. But to deny that people don’t have them just puts us all into a very leaky boat.