They are Dead and I Choose to Mourn Publicly

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Hamptons Spotlight: They are Dead and I Choose to Mourn Publicly

They are often forgotten quickly by everyone except their families. Lost in the obscurity of our very busy schedules. We are often told that ‘life moves on’ and so it does but there is a sadness that the passing of 12 souls will only be briefly remembered by those not directly affected by their passing. I choose not to be brief in my acknowledgement of their lives and the mourning of their deaths. I choose to mourn publicly! I have tried to read about these twelve victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting; to learn a little more about them. It is uncomforting to know that so many of these people had daughters. I have daughters. Many were sports fans as one might suspect. One, a volunteer to make sure that the nests of Bluebirds was prepared to receive their small hosts. They had hobbies; they were family people, all the stuff that makes life worth the living these people had in their lives. Gone in an instant.

I would write about my opposition to high capacity weapons without any opposition to the right of ownership of guns but that is a story for another day. Today I feel the need to focus on the plight of people and families suffering with mental illness in their midst. I have first hand knowledge about the silent suffering of those with mental illness because that sorrow has been visited on my family. It is extraordinarily difficult to manage because of the nature of some of those illnesses. Many times the illness is unrecognized or ignored. In some instances the onset is early in life and sometimes there is a late onset. Mental illness affects children, adults and the aged with varying degrees of affliction. Always there is pain and suffering with the individual and there is too often shame, hopelessness and helplessness experienced by the family. What to do? Where to seek help, a voice of support, respite from the endless hours of caring and concern with no escape. As you can see there is often no rhyme or reason to how mental illness will strike. This makes the care and treatment of this malady so difficult to manage. There are some studies that indicate that up to 20% of our population suffers with some form of mental illness. That’s a whole lot of people.

Those suffering with some forms of mental illness do not feel they need help, as this is a manifestation of their disease. This makes seeking help difficult for families and love ones trying to address the illness. Many times, without the acquiescence of the sick individual, everyone, including medical and primary care practitioners are unable to intervene without a court order. This can be daunting to family and significant others trying to get treatment for the ill.

Since the 1980’s, institutionalization of the mentally ill has been frowned upon but there was a concurrent reduction in both federal and state budgets in providing outpatient services for this population. This contributed to the explosion in homelessness, crime and subsequent incarceration. This has always been a shadow illness because of the shame, perceived or real, that was associated with those suffering. Families afraid of the whispers and innuendo tend to hide the afflicted. Drugs as well as biochemical imbalances or genetics induce some mental illness. I say… SO WHAT!!!! Whatever the cause, it is past time to look at mental illness squarely and to address the inequities of funding and services necessary to combat this epidemic.

The experience that I obtained dealing with mental illness in my family prepares me to explain some of what you may encounter as you deal with this trauma. You must persevere; it will be a long arduous journey that you embark. There is success and relapse, sorrow and jokes, laughter and heartache; all those things that are associated with mental illness. This is no soft sell. This is hard, very hard. Because the science is not absolute and treatment is as much an art as it is a science, the ill may have a varying degree of cure. And yet, sometimes a treatment fits like hand and glove. It almost seems like magic when you see the cloud that has settled between you and the ill part and reveal the person you have been searching for, for so very long. You will need to vigilant because that cloud can separate you again and again. Be prepared for the frustrations as well as the miracles.

There are support groups and associations that can be very helpful in assisting you to get the help you or your love one needs. Do not be afraid to confront the disease, denial is a recipe for disaster. Talk to your friends. TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS!!!! That is why they are friends, to help you when times are difficult not when times are good. Seek medical advice as well as the advice of mental illness specialists. I know this all sounds reasonable but I have learned that we tend to function at diminished efficiency when we are in the eye of the storm and this is indeed a very frightening storm. All Managed Care and Long Term Care agencies have provisions for mental health services. All HMO’s have provisions for clients with mental illness that can be accessed. There is a political element as well that must be addressed. When Congress or local and State government attempts to reduce the funding for mental illness related services you must be prepared to fight to retain those services. We owe it to memory of the twelve victims of this last shooting or the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School or Aurora, Co, or Tucson, Arizona or…….They are Dead and I Choose to Mourn Publicly

For more information on Mental Illness and Support:
Mental Health Association of NYC
Office of Mental Health NYS
Mental Health Related Support Groups
The Mental Health Association of Suffolk
Suffolk County Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services
Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday 853-8500 
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