Sunday, April 11, 2021

Comments by Katie

Showing 2 of 2 comments.

  • This is a such an important article, and I look forward to reading Pt. 2! Having had thoughts of suicide for many years of my life, I am more comfortable than most people sitting with the pain and discomfort of someone who is talking about wanting to kill themselves, but I do wonder if there ever does come a time when I should seek outside assistance.

    I completely agree with you on the circular reasoning / tautology at play in “Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness.” I think our society falls into a similar tautological trap when we label perpetrators of mass shootings as “mentally ill.” (Of course, this label tends to apply only when the shooters are white, since we have other rough and ready labels for Black males (thug), Muslims (terrorist), etc.) Adapting words from your article: In other words, what does it really mean to say one commits a mass shooting because they’re ‘mentally ill’, if the proof of such mental illness is largely that they committed a mass shooting in the first place?

    To me, the mental illness / mass shooter tautology is no more meaningful and informative than the following tautology: “All mass shooters are violent.” Most people would not grant this statement much explanatory power. Yet many people seem content with mental illness as an explanation for mass shootings, and it is used as an “out” in much the same way as the suicide / mental illness tautology is. Again, to adapt your words: It’s an easy answer that absolves us all of blame. If someone has a ‘sickness in the brain,’ then it doesn’t have to be our fault or even necessarily our concern. We can ignore homelessness, racism, transphobia, poverty, homophobia, misogyny, joblessness, lack of good healthcare, the impact of war and violence, and so many other societal ills with impunity because the reason that person killed [a bunch of people] is because they were ‘mentally ill.’ (As an added bonus, we then have a clear solution to the problem: Keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.)

    I am also interested in the 90% statistic. The fact that it is not 100% indicates that some reasons for killing oneself are deemed legitimate or acceptable or rational by our society (or at least by the researchers). I suspect that killing oneself prior to dying naturally of a terminal illness is one of the acceptable reasons lumped into the 10%. Personally, I am grateful that it is becoming socially acceptable for a person to make choices that might allow her to avoid pain, suffering, and indignation at the end of her life. But, as you say Sera, there is much strangeness and cruelty in our world if we continue to label people “mentally ill” for wanting a way out of the pain, suffering, and indignation of poverty, homelessness, racism, sexual violence, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

  • I recently started a job as a Peer Specialist at a non-profit mental health agency. I am grateful to all those who have written articles such as this to help me clarify my values and beliefs about peer support. I am constantly on guard against my impulse to be a fixer, and I hope that in time I will learn to find comfort in discomfort and uncertainty. For now, I focus on trying to tolerate the discomfort! I suppose that is a step in the right direction.

    I am inspired and energized by those who have come before me, thoughtfully paving a new way toward hope and healing.