It’s a sad day in Pittsburgh. Facts are still unknown, but to brief, seven (possibly nine) people were shot at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at UPMC in Oakland today. Two were killed, one being the shooter. For awhile, reports on twitter involved a hostage situation and potential second shooter. As of 4:33, those appear to have been false reports.
But there’s an underlying current of hate on twitter right now, and it’s not against the shooter.
It’s against mental illness as a whole.
There are more. Many more. Jokes, puns, flat out hatred toward mental illness. People are injured and dead, and we’re taking to twitter to make fun of people with mental illness. Classy.
It’s frustrating. It’s discouraging. It’s a conversation that needs to be had, shooting or otherwise.
Western Psych provides services for mental health and addiction. Let me tell you something about places like Western Psych: There is no shame in seeking out help, in going to therapy, in having hope that there’s something more beyond the shadow in which you currently live. If we don’t want, as the shooter has been referred to ceaselessly on twitter, “crazy people” to “shoot up” buildings, then we have to have places like Western Psych. We have to have access to services and treatment. We also have to help spread the word that mental illness does not deserve the social stigma we still attach to it, whether it’s depression or bipolar disorder or postpartum psychosis or anxiety or eating disorders or addiction or ADHD or what have you. The finger pointing, the name-calling: they don’t help.
More over, Western Psych has a great program for children and adolescents. They have services for autism. For teens at risk. Behavioral intervention. The list goes on and on. In fact, Western Psych has more specialists in children’s mental health than any other behavioral health provider in the nation. These are children — innocent children who need help for various reasons. Could you look at one of them and call them crazy, simply because they’re wired a bit differently than you?
So we’re just going to say that the people at Western Psych don’t matter because they’re “crazy.” That people with depression aren’t worth our time and effort. That children with autism are useless. That trying to overcome addiction isn’t worthwhile. Really? That’s how we’re going to play?
Because I call bullshit.
I stand with those at Western Psych today and ask you to drop the name-calling, the finger-pointing.
I have anxiety. I have sought both in- and out-patient therapy for my anxiety and various bouts of depression. I have taken medication, sought alternative remedies and generally fought to live a normal life… despite the fact that people make fun of me when I say I have to go to therapy. Despite being given a hard time by friends who don’t believe that anyone should ever take medication for mental illness. Despite the stigma and shame that are thrust upon those who aren’t “normal.” Despite being told I’m “broken” or “less than” or that I won’t ever be good enough unless I ignore my diagnosis. But I am me. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I have fought Postpartum Depression. I am me.
I urge you to drop the crazy talk, tell your story and encourage others to do the same. What happened at Western Psych is a tragedy. It’s not less of a tragedy because it was in a place where people with mental health issues go for help. In fact, when you stop and think of it, it’s an even bigger tragedy when we invade a place that should be safe for all people and ruin it with senseless violence.
Our prayers go out to the victims of this senseless crime. We hold you in our hearts during this awful time.