When Tragedy Hits Close to Home: Turning Fear into Compassion
Blog post by Nanci Shiman on the BringChange2Mind website
- As a nation, lately we’ve become hyper vigilant when it comes to mental illness and violence. Almost everyone seems to have an opinion about a) the problem; b) the cause; c) the solution; and perhaps most importantly in the eyes of some, d) who is to blame. As someone who has been immersed in the world of mental illness for a dozen years, I have a pretty solid foundation for my opinions. But something happened today that gave me a deeper perspective.
I received a phone call this morning informing me that a colleague of mine has been impacted by an act of violence related to mental illness. The impact was personal, profound, tragic and irreparable. Once I got past the initial shock and disbelief and started gathering the still sketchy bits of information, my mind got stuck. I got stuck on the fact that what happened really has very little to do with mental illness. This has to do with people about whom I care. This is about a family; a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, a brother, a community. It’s about life - hopes and fears, dreams, challenges, hurdles, barriers, break throughs, the unanticipated, the unexpected. Yet the news clips and the photos seem to miss all of that, just ominously intent on portraying someone who should be feared, dehumanized, and stereotyped. The reports are punctuated by that all too familiar phrase ‘the family had concerns about the accused’s mental condition’.
Here’s why I’m stuck. All I can think of is: We’ve got this all backwards. Violent acts occur every day in this country. In 2010 there were 16,259 homicides, 11,078 of which were committed with a gun. Studies show that approximately 10% of those homicides (1,626) were committed by someone with a severe mental illness. That leaves over 14,000 homicides committed by ‘sane’ people. Are these somehow less newsworthy? Or should any of these be newsworthy at all?
- Continue reading this important blog post on BringChange2Mind.org.
Nanci Schiman is a licensed social worker with a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has over 10 years’ professional experience in child and adolescent mental health, family support, advocacy, writing, public speaking and collaborating with local and national mental health organizations. On a personal level Nanci and her husband are parents of three daughters ages 16, 18 and 20. The oldest and youngest were diagnosed with bipolar disorder at ages 9 and 10 respectively.