By Barbara Mayer
(April 7, 2015)
A huge jet airliner screams downward, exploding against a mountain side as 150 souls are lost in a moment of horror and the quick release of death. One soul, however, remains the cause, and that one soul feeds the stigma so tightly held by some – mental illness. That’s the cause. That’s where we put the blame and feed the stigma even more.
Once again, however, the facts betray the label. In the scarring of that mountain side and the stealing of life from all those innocent souls, our search for meaning requires us to comprehend the terror, yet understand the deeper truth. This was a suicide, and while suicide usually occurs between an individual and her or his psychological problems, murder-suicides are very rare and almost nonexistent among airline pilots.
Addressing the case of Flight 9252, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Mary Giliberti states that co-pilot’s precise history of depression may ultimately be seen as unimportant compared to other issues he was battling in his life. Giliberti also states, “Senseless tragedies must not be allowed to perpetuate stigmatizing stereotypes that associate anyone with a history of mental illness with a propensity to violence.” Mental illness is treatable, and people do recover, she reminds us. “When depressive symptoms occur, people need to seek medical assistance because underlying medical issues can often mimic a depressive episode. Side effects from medications or other potential medical causes must also be considered.”
At this time when the case of Flight 9252 is still high in world news, the Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley is announcing its first Mental Health Awareness Week to take place May 11th through May 16th. Films and different events will address various forms of mental illness in an effort to encourage greater mental health awareness, and also to help fight the stigma any mental health illness may cause. Watch for articles and announcements soon on this very important week, and plan to attend events which supply solutions rather than stigmas.
In the planning for the past several months, Mental Health Awareness Week will feature events in various Sedona and Cottonwood venues, and most events will be free to the public. More news on this important week in our area will be coming soon. Also, feel free to visit the Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley website: www.mhcvv.org/.
For now, remember help is always available and compassionate awareness is the key.
Rev. Barbara Mayer is a poet, author and interfaith/interspiritual minister who lives, writes and shares the Spirit in Sedona, Arizona.
Thank you for sending me your thoughtful commentary on this tragedy. A big reason why people who need help are afraid to ask for it is the social stigma that surrounds mental illness.
We need to keep pointing out that the majority of people with mental illness are not dangerous to others. The existence of stigma feeds the secrecy and shame around acknowledging depression or other psychological problems. People who are courageous enough to get help should not be considered unreliable or dangerous to others. They are far less dangerous than those who suffer in silence.
When we have a physical illness, we seek treatment. It should be no different for a mental illness.- we should seek treatment.
A person who recognizes a problem and seeks to address it, should be commended, not scorned.
Cancer, diabetes, heart condition are all “unseen,” yet, may be recognized and treated – similarly mental illness may be treated if recognized.
And for those around us who may not recognize their own symptoms, and thereby get the help they need, remember, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, we may need to help them get help.