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I regret to use this blog yet again as an acknowledgement of and reflection on violence and murder in the past week since I last wrote. I hope this doesn’t become the norm.
Thursday evening of last week, July 14th, there was another terrorist attack, this time in Nice, France. This occurred on Bastille Day, the French Independence Day. 84 people were killed and 303 injured when a man drove his truck into a crowd, crushing as many people as he could.
Last Friday, as my family celebrated my brother’s birthday, we watched on the TV as there was an attempted coup in Turkey which left hundreds dead and many more wounded. Friday’s events have led to a complete social upheaval in that nation, with the firing of all suspected opposition and some calling for the execution of all those involved. Thus there will be more violence, only in this case it will be state-sanctioned murder.
To top it all off, back home in the States on Wednesday this week, Charles Kinsey – a black man and behavioral health therapist – was when he was shot three times by police while trying to assist a client with autism to get out of the street. This is further disturbing evidence that black men are at particular risk of violence, even when they are not doing anything criminal – clearly even when they are doing good by helping others! The fact that the violence also involved someone with autism (police were apparently responding to a report of attempted suicide) also shows how imperative it is that our public safety personnel gain adequate training in de-escalation techniques and mental health crisis intervention, rather than relying solely on their weapons. A stern voice and show of force will not calm someone down who is having a mental health crisis – in fact it’s much more likely to result in an escalation of the situation through increased agitation. Lack of adequate training (never mind racism) is not acceptable.
As mental health advocates we can’t be single minded in our approach to activism. Just as the mind is an intricate system of nerves which interact with all of the other intricate systems within our body, so too (I believe) is the issue of mental health one part of a larger system of related and interconnected issues. I believe that all three examples above are symptoms of societal illness, an illness which is both a cause and effect of micro-level individual maladies. I am using the terms “illness” and “maladies” loosely, referring not only to clinical conditions but rather broader problems/issues. I can’t diagnose the exact causes, but clearly these problems stem from issues serious deep seated issues. What drives a person to get in a vehicle and feel compelled and/or entitled to end the lives of so many others, so callously and brutally? At what point does someone find it acceptable to use violence against and end the life of another for political change? How can someone be shot 3 times for doing nothing, and why does it just so happen the victim is yet again a black man in America and his assailant a white officer?
I don’t have the answers, but I believe that as we improve mental health around the nation and world, it will lead to a reduction in some of these other issues that we are seeing so frequently lately. Not that all of it is related to mental health – I do believe some people just have an untreatable malice and lack of regard for life. I don’t understand why some people are like that, but I believe they are. But some of these issues are indeed preventable and are related to how we operate at the internal, interpersonal, and communal levels. At the end of the day, all humans experience interaction with one another, from the micro to macro levels. Therefore adding better mental health to the mix can only help.
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