We have a serious problem in America.
Well, we have a lot of serious problems–the fact that our government becomes more and more dysfunctional every day, an enormous wealth disparity that does not appear to be sustainable, a climate in crisis … all monumental challenges we come face-to-face with on a normal basis.
No challenge, however, are we more directly impacted by than the staggeringly dangerous apathy the American public and American institutions seem to have in regards to mental health in our society.
Nearly every day, another tragedy hits the airwaves–a shooting here, an immolation there. It’s disgusting.
Furthermore, no matter how hard we pretend, our apparent apathy toward the mental ill cannot be blamed on any perceived distance from the problem, particularly because it’s hard to spin a circle in an urban center and not be confronted with several instances of apparent mental illness.
I ride the Seattle public bus several times a week. Rarely can I utilize the bus for a week without riding with at least one person who appears to be in severe need of the attention of a mental health professional. The most disturbing thing, however, is observing the effort which my fellow passengers expend in doing whatever they can to pretend as though this person does not exist and is not displaying enormous warning signs.
Rarely can you walk down the street and see a young professional even bother to turn his or her head to acknowledge a clearly mentally ill person as being a human being.
Louis C.K.–a comedian whose become quite famous as of late–has a great bit in which he relays the story of an experience he had with a New York City friend of his and his friend’s rural-residing relative who had come to visit the big city for the first time. The trio walked past a homeless man who was clearly in need of some care and while Louis and his friend kept walking by without so much as glancing at him, the “country cousin” immediately ran to the man and starts asking him what had happened to him, and if he needed help.
Louis comes in with his punchline: “What happened? America happened. […] He needs you desperately, that’s not the point. We just don’t do that here.”
America cannot sustain the weight of the enormous dichotomy we’ve created within our society–a disturbing world where the “haves” are conditioned to erase from their field of vision those in need of aid.
We are supposed to be the great champions of freedom and hope. We went so far as to put a sign on our front door calling for the world’s ‘tired, and poor.’
I beg of you, please open your eyes and look around at this hell that we’ve built and do something–anything–to show that there is still some small spark of compassion within our hardened hearts.