Pearls & Vodka

Maybe guns aren’t the only problem we have…

While the Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine, beat me to the punch, I have always had a special place in my heart for Prince William.

As a little girl, my daydreams of being a Princess revolved solely around marrying him. I watched in agony as he strolled behind his mother’s casket when she passed away. I was in the 6th grade, and we had a sleepover at my friend Ruth’s house. I felt so badly for Prince Harry and him. And though thousands of miles separated us, I was sure one day I would be a part of his life. As his hair began to fade away, so did my dreams of marrying him. My focus shifted to the wild-child, Prince Harry. I never really had a thing for redheads, but he sure grew up into a handsome young man.

I found my Prince who did not happen to belong to the Royal Family, but my fascination has remained.

I have been so impressed by the lives the two young sons of Diana have lived. And I’m equally inspired by the work they are doing with the Heads Together organization they have founded. Prince William said today, “It was Catherine who first realized that all three of us were working on mental health in our individual areas of focus. She has seen that at the core of adult issues like addiction and family breakdown, unresolved childhood mental health issues were often part of the problem.” [1]

Today is the 25th anniversary of the World Mental Health Day. The World Federation for Mental Health founded the awareness day in 1992, and people have been faithfully participating since then. [2]

The number of people affected by mental illnesses is staggering in our nation.

A few days ago, I wrote about my journey with anxiety to begin to shine a light on an issue in our nation that does not get enough attention, enough funding or enough health-care. Unfortunately, like many, I don’t feel like anything I do will ever be enough until the diseases are eradicated; which I know will not be on this side of Heaven. However, that doesn’t mean we should not stand up and speak out for those who cannot. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t advocate for those who cannot help themselves. And that doesn’t mean we should not do more every day to better our world.

Roughly 43.8 million American adults experience a mental illness in a given year. That’s 1 in every five adults. Somewhere around 8.5 million adults live with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. And 58 million Americans are suffering from severe depression or an anxiety disorder. I am one of those 58 million Americans, and if you are truly honest with yourself, you might just fall into one of those statistics as well. The gut-wrenching fact is that 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. If you have never lost a friend or loved one to suicide, you will never understand the devastation that is left in the wake of such a tragedy. [3]

The number of Americans who do not receive medical attention for their mental illnesses is crippling. The fact of the matter is we are one of the strongest nations in the world. We claim to be the strongest. Yet we leave such a large portion of our population suffering; whether that’s because of the stigma we place on mental illness, or because of the funding cuts we continue to support that endanger our community mental health systems. Only 41% of adults with a mental health condition even receive treatment. Less than 50% of children ages 8-15 receive mental health services. [3]

If just one person who needs help goes without, we are doing something wrong.

When will we as a nation, say, “enough is enough?”

When will we stop ostracizing our brothers and sisters because of a mental illness?

When will we finally see physical health and mental health equally?

When will we stop electing officials who care more about Wall Street than Main Street?

And here is where some of you might get a little testy with me…

When will we stop blaming each massacre carried out by a gun on gun laws and start realizing that mental health plays an equal role?

Before y’all start beating my inbox down with the hate mail, hear me loud and clear, I am completely on board that an everyday American citizen does not need an assault rifle.

I’m from the south. I say “y’all” and “yes ma’am” consistently. I grew up in school districts where the public schools were closed on the opening day of each hunting season. I still find homes without a set of antlers on the wall to be odd. I grew up shooting coke cans in my backyard with my BB gun. My Dad had a gun cabinet full of rifles. Hunting rifles. Shotguns. Not assault rifles. Arron bought me a pistol for Christmas the year Judd was born. I’ve been to the shooting range and actually enjoy it.

My neighbors don’t need assault rifles. And they certainly don’t need “bump stock.” There is no form of hunting that you would need to be able to fire 98 shots in 7 seconds. There just isn’t, and you won’t convince me of that unless you are on the battlefield somewhere, and that certainly isn’t in suburban America.

I wholeheartedly believe our gun laws need a fresh look.

My Mom is a mental health professional. I trust her opinion on mental illness. She told me the other day that the mentally ill are more likely to be endangered of being hurt by a gun than to actually do harm. I’ve struggled with this statement ever since. I trust her, and I know exactly what she means. As I said the other day on my blog, because the community mental health systems have been raked over the coals by our state legislators, our first responders are coming to the scene of manic issues under-trained, under-staffed and unprepared for what they might encounter. The homeless guy you pass on the street who seems off, he’s talking to himself, maybe even yelling. He might scare the wrong person who does have a legal concealed carry license. He may have had no intentions of hurting the person with the gun, but in today’s world, unfortunately, we can never be too sure.

While I agree with my Mom, I do believe that folks like Stephen Paddock have a mental illness. I don’t know what his diagnosis would have been, but his behavior was out of the norm. Here’s the thing, he doesn’t have to have been a schizophrenic to have carried out that Vegas attack. Maybe he suffered from depression. He obviously had social issues just by the accounts of his interactions.

Pointing this out does not excuse what Mr. Paddock did, at all. The purpose of this example is to say; we aren’t just failing our nation by having faulty gun laws, we are failing our nation by not having better mental health-care.

It is almost 2018, in the United States of America. The fact that any boy, girl, man, woman, child, or adult goes without the proper health-care, which includes mental health-care, is absurd.

This is not a vote for Obamacare; it’s as flawed as Trumpcare.

There is a solution, and if the folks in D.C., on both sides of the aisle, don’t get off their asses and do something more for the mentally ill in our nation, events like Las Vegas will become our norm, and not our rarity.

So today, on World Mental Health Day, write your legislators a letter, beg for their attention to the mental health community. Say a prayer for the ones who are fighting battles beyond their control with mental illness. And be a friend to those who need it most, you never know who’s life you might save.

[1] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/world-mental-health-day-prince-william-praises-kate-for-pioneering-royals-campaign-a3655141.html
[2] https://www.wfmh.global/wmhd-2017/
[3] http://fortune.com/2017/10/10/world-mental-health-day-2017-workplace-depression-anxiety/

Photo by Christopher Burns