As an individual with mental illness, I see people in the news, on TV, and in high profile court cases who have the same diagnosis as me. What I see is disturbing, violent, and quite frankly, outrageous in a democratic society. A society that glorifies violence in the media, video games, and on television is far from democratic. What happened to the principle that government was the only body to have a monopoly on the use of force? Clearly something is not right here when I, as an individual with mental illness, cannot see any role models in society for myself but those who are violent, criminals, and to use the outdated term: truly ‘insane’.
Since my diagnosis in 2017 I have set the goal for myself to be the most high functioning, normal, and lucid individual with schizophrenia. I don’t want to be ‘crazy’. I have gone through a number of recovery programs, been in and out of the hospital on inpatient units, and am currently in a long term rehabilitation program. All this so that I can continue my education virtually, and pray that I can find a job flexible enough to be able to accommodate my needs.
Yet this is not the case for most people with schizophrenia. Since the 1970s when modern antipsychotics became widely available the outlook has brightened for most people with serious mental illness. Yet, we still have a long ways to go. If I tell anyone outside of my immediate family about my illness, I am immediately cast under suspicion: what might I do? Beyond the embarrassment of sending a poorly thought out email; a transgression which I think we all have been party to, Schizophrenics have a much more dangerous side to them which is often poorly interpreted.
This is the reason for this article. When I see people like Kyle Rittenhouse, who does not have schizophrenia, vindicated in the media, and others who have done violence on the news and in the media, I question my path. I say, if this is what others with mental illness are capable of, what hope is there for me, or anyone with my illness to be normal. This is the reason why the US needs stricter gun laws. For schizophrenics, we are highly susceptible to the tide of current events and the stresses of the world stage. Seemingly innocuous news can make a big impact on our delicate psyches and damage any relationships and security we have built around ourselves.
We need role models. We need a country that will take care of us, not make us murderers. The inhospitable environment that the US presents today for individuals with mental illness has been around since Deleuze and Guattari wrote Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The hectic, fast paced, global competition for more money, stuff, and achievement, pushes people with mental illness to the extremes. It hurts us when all we need is to be loved. It makes us feared, hated, and criminalized. When one group of individuals cannot find a safe space in the republic, something has gone wrong.
The return of violence to the public sphere does not bode well for people like me. It hurts our chances of living a normal life. It hurts our reputation, and it hurts our ability to find new treatments and maybe even a cure. Schizophrenia kills. Just like other mental illnesses. Once we wake up and realize just how crazy our American society has become, we might stop, think, and take proper care of those individuals who are capable of both great but terrible things, who just want to have a home.