On January 6th, 2014, a teenager with a diagnosis of schizophrenia died in North Carolina. He was shot and killed by the police that his parents called for help after he wanted to fight his mother.
It is said that he was “having an episode.”
Responding to the call of a family altercation involving a young person with a diagnosis of mental illness, police from several different precincts showed up. One of them, after a burst of escalated aggression, shot and killed the young man.
The CNN report on this tragically avoidable act of violence can be found here.
It can be summed up as an astounding outrage, an utter loss, a grievous accident of circumstance and person.
As a resident of the state of North Carolina, a peer advocate, and the mother of children, as well as a variably mad person and a radical mental health activist, I am processing my (totally overwhelming) response to this disgusting and completely unnecessary loss of human life at the hands of ill-trained men bearing guns.
The very first thing I did upon hearing about this killing is send out a few emails and post to facebook.
I didn’t “rant.”
I asked what the response was going to be.
I haven’t checked back to see if anyone has said anything.
The next thing I might do is write a letter to the editor.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to be articulate enough though.
To be honest, I’m outraged.
There is not much else to say, except that I’m also sad . . . and a little scared.
The part of me that is a little kid shaking her head just says, “No. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen.”
“They aren’t supposed to kill kids.”
“His parents thought they were doing the right thing.”
“They didn’t know what else to do.”
“The policeman is probably feeling sick.”
“I feel sick.”
Sometimes it’s hard to write words that will appeal to newspaper editors and legislators when one feels like vomiting over the utterly insane tragedy of the world.
It seems to me that this young person should not die in vain.
In solidarity with the masses of young people who struggle and die by the hand of adult authority, I’d like to see some significantly proactive uprising around the issue of this “mentally ill” young man being shot and killed in the state that I live in, and the issue of all the kids in all the states who have been killed by frightened adults.
Insult is added to injury in that it’s all so damned avoidable.
That young man didn’t have to die.
Right now, my biggest fear is that nothing will happen.
The case will quietly be resolved. People won’t talk about it, the same way they don’t talk about other unspeakable tragedies that are complexly close to home.
There may be a flurry of emails. A few exchanges on Facebook. Maybe someone will start a petition. A letter to the editor will be posted. There may be an article or two.
Some meetings will be scheduled.
Nothing changes fast.
It’s not like all of the sudden there is going to be masses of young people and families on the steps of the courthouses and in the streets, saying, “No more! Not in our state!”
. . . or something amazing like that?
What could even be done?
Could a bill be written, a law be passed? In three years time, will there be peer first responders?
Will police take trainings from middle-school students?
Will there be a family support network so far reaching and inclusive that caregivers had more places and people to call for help?
Would kids start talking with eachother about some of what they go through, what it’s like to be them, how they cope?
Would people be more kind to one another?
Maybe it would be understood that police are probably not the best people to respond to people experiencing what may appear to be a mental health crisis?
Who knows . . . ?
I don’t even know where to begin.
I do know that regardless of what happens, that kid isn’t walking and talking anymore. He didn’t get to meet all the friends he has out there, all the other kids with diagnoses of severe and persistent mental illness.
I wonder if that kid had any friends?
I hope that he did.
He probably had friends. Most kids do. Even if they don’t talk about them or even to them. Sometimes they’re old people.
I feel bad for that kid’s friends.
If they need support, I hope they’ll reach out.
Wow. My heart is breaking over this . . . those people over there, that mother…she lost her son.
. . . and they wonder why people lose their minds.
I’m so sorry for kids, that things like this happen.
It must be terrifying to be a young person today.
I’m so sorry for old people/elders, that things like this happen.
It must be so wrenchingly sad, all of it.
I don’t know if that young man had grandparents, but if he did, I don’t know what to do other than say a prayer for their hearts.
Sometimes there are deaths, usually senseless, that pull into my heart all the everyday grief that I cannot afford to bear much mind to and for a second I just feel sad for everybody.
What does one do with this feeling?
If anyone knows of any unified response to this, either in Brunswick Co., NC, or nationally, please let me know about it by posting to the comments or sending an email to faithrhyneATgmailDOTcom.
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Of further interest:
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.