"We're always looking for the logical explanation, the smoking gun, the inscrutably sagacious detective who will reveal all in the final chapter -- but some things are too complex to suffer reduction to a simple equation of why/because"
Skin Game - Caroline Kettlewell
|Your friend tries
skydiving, You call them crazy. Your boyfriend tries to take
you on a roller coaster with fifteen loops and nothing under your
feet. "You gotta be crazy if you think I'm going on that!"
you shout. We throw the word crazy around as if it were as basic to
our language as hello. We look at murderers and declare them
insane. Or "psycho". I use these expressions myself,
and you would think that as a psychology student, I would know
better. But culture embeds deeply, as does our socialization.
And along the way, crazy has become a word without definitive meaning, an
insult. Another way in which the mentally ill are kept down,
It is a known statistic that the rate of suicide, particularly among teens, is higher in North America than elsewhere. Given this, many suicides happen every year. Many people, in pain, find themselves feeling as though there is no way to escape their misery save death. We usually don't hear about these deaths. These sad people, angry people, hurt people. Unless of course they hurt someone else in the process. You're also sure to hear about it if a mentally ill person attacks someone else.
Case in point..... While riding the subway recently, a woman committed suicide by jumping in front of the train I was on. I was stunned, and saddened that she had reached such a desperate moment in her life that she felt death was her only answer. Most people felt the same. But a large proportion took a very ignorant stance. Some were angry at her for disrupting their commute, complaining about "some crazy bitch fucking up my ride home". Some, upon hearing the news, rolled their eyes and groaned, "Again?" One family of African Americans insisted that only "some stupid white woman" would do something like this, and tried to prove their theory by seeking out witnesses to see if she was white.
There wasn't even a sentence about this event in the news. She was removed from the track, it was hosed, and all was forgotten.
Had she, like a few people recently, pushed someone into the tracks out of the same mental illness, the coverage would have roared until inquisitions were made, and accusations had been laid against the mental health system, all the while referring to the woman as crazy, disturbed and sick. She would be held up as another example of the dangerousness of the mentally ill, as though she were a perfect representative of the "crazies" in Toronto. But she wouldn't be. There are so many illnesses that you cannot define an entire population by a select few. Millions walk about daily, never hurting anyone except perhaps themselves. But mentally ill has come to be equated with criminal. Because unless you commit a crime, this world doesn't give a shit about you or your needs. It is only when it is too late, when someone has died at the hands of a paranoid schizophrenic or delusional person, that their needs as a patient are examined and, as usual, deemed as not being met.
The word crazy, if you refer it back to psycho, short for psychotic, implies one has lost touch with reality, and does not realize that their thoughts beliefs and actions are abnormal in any way. By labeling every mentally ill person crazy, we are dismissing them as incapable of thought, unaware of their disorder, and a threat to society. Over the course of their lives, 20%+ of people will be depressed. That is a mental illness. Ask anyone who is depressed if they are not aware that their moods aren't right, that they know they take things too hard. Ask a self-injurer if they realize that cutting and burning is not fixing their problems and isn't normal. Ask a phobic if they realize their fear of spiders is excessive. Most do. Most see the same reality we all see. The word crazy is an injustice. It dismisses the mentally ill as hopeless, lost, gone. When in most cases, nothing could be farther from the truth. And it is the knowledge of knowing what is wrong, yet not knowing how to change, that drives these people to their breaking points.
I wonder if the woman at the subway that day was considering her life, and could only see one solution to her pain. Nobody wants to be in emotional pain. Not a single person truly wishes to live their life that way. Can we blame her for finally finding herself in a tunnel-like mindset, with only one escape apparent? Can we dismiss her as crazy, when we all have the potential to act drastically when cornered in our lives? And why is her story not worth a line of text? Even in death, no one is there for her. Because she proves the theories wrong. She is a glaring example of a system that is failing those who are innocent, whose only crime is being ill. We do not condemn cancer patients. We do not condemn people with Parkinson's or diabetes. But we condemn those ill in mind. Is the mind not to be fallible? Can it not wear down and malfunction like our joints, our hearts, our eyes? Sight and perception are intrinsically linked. Lose your eyes and you cannot perceive. Lose your ability to perceive the world accurately, as a mentally ill person might, and you might as well be without eyes. We feel compassion for one and fear of the other. Yet both are blind.
No life should be more valuable than another. Murderers should be punished, absolutely. But before assuming every murderer or rapist to be crazy, we must sit back and truly determine that. We must face our fear that someone capable of atrocity is just as sane as we are. That we are the same, of the same mind. Because to label someone a monster, or crazy, without that being true, is to provide an excuse for the behaviour, excuse them as not being human. Because that's easier to stomach.
Just like it's easier to ride the subway again
and dismiss the latest suicide as a "crazy person". For to
admit she could be you or me is a threat to our sense of mortality and
security. And we mustn't worry about these things....