There are no New Year resolutions coming from me, as has been the case for most of my life, but there are some things I believe I must pay attention to in order to keep equilibrium. Some are within my control and some are wishes I’m hoping others will deliver in 2013.
For starters, it would be wonderful to have people understand that what I write in this weekly feature is a reflection of me, and never an attempt at ill will toward anyone else. This is a straight-up investment in openness about the struggles of living successfully with the upshot/ignorance of mental illness.
Inadvertently, I may speak of situations that include or resemble some that occurred with you, but that’s because my life experiences are shared. Indeed, if you’re ever mentioned or implicated here you should feel privileged to be a part of my achievement in combating years of illness and facing life with verve.
I wish too, that I could find my way into the hearts and mind of T&T long enough to present the consideration that we all have mental-health issues—good or bad. Then, for me, my writing and sharing would not be in vain. The fact is every human being has a mind and so each of us has mental health, to which we must pay attention.
If your mental health is stable, give thanks and find ways to ensure that nothing threatens or shifts that stability. Do so recognising that the best among us can be railroaded and tomorrow my storyline could ultimately be yours.
If you’re uncertain or afraid to find out where you’re at, I represent courage in the face of discrimination and urge you to ride my strength to recognise your position and access the help you may need.
For those who, by diagnosis, know our mental-health status, let’s do everything to ensure we’re getting assistance for our continued healing and wellbeing, which we owe our community and ourselves.
The year 2012 gave us many occasions to participate in open forums about mental disorders, some issues having more leverage than others in the mindscape.
Of all the major news, no two incidents have stood out for me as much as the missteps in the Cheryl Miller incarceration here in T&T and the diagnostic discussions following the killing of 26 people, mostly children, in Connecticut, USA.
The latter left us with a sea of opinions and a tidal wave of misinformation, all of which remains alive if only because of the macabre nature of the incident.
I’m suspicious, though, that discussions on occurrences of these magnitudes could backfire, because somehow they distract from the day-to-day struggles of various mental-health issues and cause us to put so much more emphasis on the extremes of conduct, which at times cannot be attributed to mental ill-health.
Pronouncements in the aftermath of Adam Lanza’s murderous rage saw every journalist, analyst, and scientist searching the “manual” for a definition of the condition that could propel someone to such a gruesome act.
Not so long ago someone who killed others in that manner was a mass murderer acting on evil intention. We even thought of that person as soulless and without God.
Now that we have access to so much sophistication there are no end of suggestions about the psychology, sociology and religiosity of individuals and their circle of influence to which we can apportion blame.
That prognosis got me thinking that somehow, the world has got to a place where it is essential to find and name the condition that describes heinous acts of wickedness and brutality.
This is not to discount that Adam Lanza, the mass murderer, may have had an imbalance of one kind or another, but so often we are almost excusing away the responsibility that should be attributed to the individual’s own lack or loss of humanity.
For the past 20 years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) produced by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has been used by US clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. It is well respected by practitioners globally.
The DSM, whose fifth edition will be released early in 2013, “was first published in 1952, and has undergone several revisions to take into account progress in medical and scientific knowledge and an advanced understanding of mental illnesses.” (www.nhs.uk
I’m grateful for progress, and I’m an advocate for advanced understanding, but there’s a niggling feeling that our superior instincts on human behaviour are becoming too clinical, robotic even.
Organised diagnosis readily empowers the hand of judgement, at times making us set aside basic intuition about behaviour, kindness towards the frailty of others, and our engendered tolerance—and this, I surmise, may well have pushed the “authorities” into what became the Cheryl Miller debacle.