ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Mentally Ill People Dealing With "Sane" People's Violence

Jack Bragen
Friday June 27, 2014 - 02:19:00 PM

Persons with mental illness are more affected by news reports of war, compared to a non-afflicted person. 

War seems like the ultimate of abuse. Most persons with mental illness have received some abuse in their lives, including but not limited to abuse perpetrated by the treatment system supposedly intended to help us. 

(This is not intended to be a put down of mental health professionals; most are in the business because they would like to help desperate people. This is also not intended to denigrate persons who serve in our military who have signed up with the intent of protecting the American people. When politicians want to go to war, or when another country poses a real threat, the soldiers are the ones who risk and sometimes lose their lives on our behalf.) 

Someone I know was having a manic episode during "Operation Desert Storm." This war was being shown on all of the televisions including the ones in the inpatient psychiatric ward. When my friend was admitted, she had the delusion that she was a participant in the war. 

It seems like a no-brainer that whoever was in charge should have changed the channel. Needless to say, depictions of war will exacerbate symptoms of someone with mental illness. 

Someone else I knew met his demise shortly after the beginning of W's Iraq war. The US had been at peace for the entire Clinton Administration. When W came into office and invaded Iraq, it was part of the disturbance that led to this person's manic episode and ensuing demise. 

Thus, for those of us with mental illness who are keeping up with the news, it can be traumatizing to learn of the violence now taking place in Iraq. 

(The US had to get out of Iraq at some point, and it was probably inevitable that chaos would ensue and that the artificial government "installed" by the US would topple.) 

But that is not the only insane violence wreaked by supposedly sane people, which affects us mentally ill people. 

Today, with horror, I viewed a video of Albuquerque Police shooting and killing an innocent mentally ill man. His name was James Boyd, and he was 38 years old. He was highly confused and had been arguing with police for several hours. The officers apparently lost their patience with the man, and they opened fire. This man was killed in cold blood as though shooting a wild boar for a cookout. 

Except that the boar would get better treatment. In the video, police went out of their way to inflict more pain on this man; he was down from the gunshots and dying when police shot him with bean bags and sent a police dog to bite him. 

Apparently the officers weren't punished for this, and are still on the Albuquerque police force. Why weren't police officers prosecuted for a crime that should have brought about capital punishment, had a civilian done the same thing, and had the victim not been mentally ill? 

If the mentally ill subculture could organize and if we weren't medicated into submission, you could bet this incident would have sparked nationwide protests. 

As a man who has lived with mental illness for more than thirty years, I have been on the receiving end of mistreatment from both cops and criminals. I am sure many people who have been living with mental illness could say the same thing. 

As persons who suffer from mental illness, we have been called crazy. We have been stereotyped as violent, sick and unconscious people. In fact, the people who are really sick are those who have all of their faculties, who are conscious of what they are doing, and who, at the same time, gun down a harmless man or woman in cold blood. And our society is culpable for allowing this to happen with no retribution.