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Monday, December 01, 2014

The Politics of Mental Illness

He awakened everyone in the house that night with his screams.  The terror that engulfed him while he slept was almost too much to bear, his body trembling, covered in a thin layer of sweat.  He has suffered quietly for many years, keeping his emotional duress to himself, sharing only fragments with the women in his life in the hopes of finding understanding - only to see it used against him by the same people he trusted.  Time and again throughout his life, he tried to find respite, to have that one person who truly understands his struggle but he never did.  This particular night, it became overwhelming, invading his dreams, his subconscious thought.  After the family checked on him, and he reassured them all was well, he quietly got dressed and walked toward the door.  He stood there for a moment, looking back, realizing this would be the last time he would ever see this place he called home.  He left, never to be heard from again.

In American society, men aren't allowed to be emotional, nor is it socially acceptable for men to show weakness.  And in some cases, we can understand why it's so difficult.  The media pushes a traditional view of the "manly man" who should shun all things emotional and if you're a man struggling with mental illness, you're at the bottom of the food chain whether you like it or not.

The recent revelations about Scott Stapp (lead singer for the band, Creed) have been painful to watch.  He is an incredibly talented musician, fronting a band that a lot of the media elites enjoyed ripping to shreds, and now, he is at an incredibly low point in his life.  Wrestling with mental illness, Stapp is an example of the reality that everyone from every walk of life could have to face, the disease of mental illness.  And his case is one that proves that there will always be assholes out there to make fun of emotional distress.

Since the Reagan era when mental health was stripped of funding and multitudes of mentally ill were released from facilities and became the next generation of homeless, it's been a struggle to gain acceptance that there is still a desperate need for treatment and treatment facilities.  Conservatives see it as a problem that should not be funded by taxpayer dollars, liberals want it to be over funded.  Somewhere in the middle lies the answer - at least the beginning of a solution.

And this doesn't even begin to address the number of America's veterans who are wrestling with mental illness and are receiving horrific care.

The truth is that mental illness is an equal opportunity destroyer - it impacts people across the political and economic spectrum.  It impacts men just as much and just as deeply as it impacts women.  The fact of the matter is that men are just not hard wired to talk through their problems or to show weakness of any kind.  If men show weakness, we are somehow looked at as less than men, but rather a hybrid of sorts and the target of ridicule.  We can do better than this.  Our communities deserve better.

This is just my opinion and I could be wrong - but I seriously doubt it.