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Lost Among Us~

Mentalillness
Mental Illness
Picture credit: Chitrapa

 

Once again, splashed repeatedly all over every News Channel, is a story about a person with a mental illness, who has attacked innocent strangers in a public place and then lost their own life.

This latest tragedy was done by a homeless person who has been in and out of places where he should have been kept, safe.

Safe for him, safe for the rest of us.

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and should never have been released into an unsuspecting community, who could neither help, nor understand his pain and anguish, nor his propensity for uncontrollable or violent outbursts.

The last two places that I have lived, California and Connecticut, have for all intents and purposes, shut down and/or closed nearly all of their outpatient, or public mental facilities.

Access to good Psychiatric treatment has been greatly reduced around the Country, but for the indigent, it basically no longer exists.

Persons who are unable to cope, or deal with the everyday challenges of life outside of a safe facility, are now being put out onto the streets, where they have no clue as to what to do.

These mentally ill people are admitted, kept for a short time and then because of budget cuts across the United States, released back out onto the streets to fend for themselves.

This is difficult enough to do with normal brain function, but for one that is nearly incapacitated, or badly impaired, as well as homeless, they are left to just wander around among us, lost and not understanding what is happening to them, or why.

We have endless money to send a huge military force all over this planet and spend billions on War, and all that is connected to it, but when it comes to those who are poor or afflicted, we often show little compassion or concern.

We must take care of our sick and desperate people, or there will continue to be tragedies in Theatres and Schools and the Workplace.

These wretched souls quite often cannot ask for help, as many of them do not understand that they are ill.

What they need is care, medications, kindness and a safe place to live in.

At any given moment, ” There but for the Grace of God, go you or I.”

Any one of us could be just one devastating accident, illness or mugging away from an impaired mental state, or permanently diminished capacity.

We should know better and do better, for them, for us.

No one should be alone and lost among us.

 

Places to learn more:

 
Schizophrenia

Police: Assailant in latest movie theater attack was homeless, had psychological issues

Police Kill Suspect in Theater Attack in Nashville

Antioch Movie Theater Shooting in Nashville a ‘Suicide by Police’?

911 call describes Tennessee theater attack: ‘He pulled out a gun and we all ran’

 

 

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Can You See My Pain?

schizophrenia
How the world feels like with schizophrenia
Picture credit: Craig Finn

 

Watching the horrific story unfolding yesterday at FSU brought back memories, that I was sure had long ago been sent to an unretrievable place in my mind.

The young man who opened fire at the College Library had recently done some, according to neighbors, out of character, or extremely odd things, giving those near to him an insight, a clue as to what was coming.

But that only would have helped them help him, if they had been aware of the signs, or signals, that predict, or point to violent behavior.

If you have been here for a while, you know that many years ago, I was treatment Nurse in a California Rehab Center for four years.

It was the most rewarding, most fulfilling time of my life.

During those four years, some  of the 125 patients at the facility became close to me.

One in particular was especially dear and we had many memorable conversations.

This young man was a college student who had attempted to take his own life,  by jumping off of  the roof of a building at  the same school that my three children and I were attending at the time.

Although his effort to end his life failed, he was ultimately hospitalized and became one of my patients.

Over time, this sweet, soft-spoken boy/man learned to trust me and opened his heart and thoughts to me.

Some of the things that he said, were never really confirmed, Google and computers would be years away.

So, I had no real way to prove, or disprove, the explanations he gave for his past behavior that he shared with me.

On several occasions, he told me that the greatest time of risk for mental breakdowns, at least he believed for males, was during late puberty, around the ages of 18-20, which is when it happened to him.

He also said that those with higher IQ’s, who were under great pressure in College or other, with  little or no strong family support to absorb some of it,  were usually the most at risk.

The powerful surge of hormones, during this period of time, he explained could cause those with a propensity for mental, or emotional trouble,  to  ” go over the edge,” as he did.

I listened to him every day, telling his stories and sharing his thoughts, with no clue as to what was to come.

He seemed fairly well-adjusted to the facility at the time and seemed to function well and interact with others.

I had no way of knowing that what I saw was an act.

He was not truly adjusting to the environment and was apparently still extremely unhappy.

This sweet young man finally succeeded at ending his life.

I came in to work one morning and the reaction of the other staff, was the giveaway that something terrible had happened.

The Charge Nurse came to me and consoled me about what he had done.

Overnight, he, like Robin Williams had recently apparently done, hung himself with his belt.

I was completely overcome with grief because I felt guilty.

I had been close to him and failed to see what was going on.

To this day, I have never forgotten him or what he did..

Seeing the young man yesterday and what happened to him brought it all rushing back.

This young man who went on a shooting Rampage at FSU yesterday,  like my patient so long ago, apparently had much of the same conditions in his life as well.

Many of these shootings, or what appear to be random killings, are not being done by hardened, career, or violent criminals in  recent years.

Consider the Sandy Hook shootings.

They are being committed by troubled souls many of whom come from what seems to be good families without any financial troubles.

For me, one thing that they all seem to have in common, is that they needed to get to someone and they frequently do attempt to reach out, but in most cases,  too late.

If there is any lesson in these tragic stories that just keep repeating, it is that if we, that is you and me, don’t get involved when a little alarm or bell goes off in our heads, we must bear at least some part of the blame for what they ultimately do to themselves and others, for not speaking up,  or acting on it.

When my particular young man was sharing and baring his soul to me, I was quite new to the environment of a Mental Health Facility.

I spent the entire time in a room and they were brought to me for their treatments.

I was not expected to be involved in any other part of their care.

Had I had years of training, hopefully I would have picked up better on any clues that he may have been sharing with me and possibly have intervened or stopped him.

I will never really never  know if I could have or not.

But, what I do know,  is that he is always right here in my heart and I wish I could have done more.

Like the young man yesterday at FSU, I wish that someone could have reached him somehow and helped him.

Today, as you go through your normal daily routine, will you think of these young men and all of the others like them?

Every day, someone, somewhere, is asking for help and no one hears them.

They could be a neighbor,  a co-worker, a relative, a friend, or just an ordinary person that we see everyday and if you look into their eyes, perhaps you may see a clue.

I truly believe that they want us to know that they need help, but don’t always know how to say it, or ask for it.

We must all try to be better listeners.

They are speaking to us and asking:

Can you see my pain?

 

Places to learn more:

Reports on FSU Shooter Describe Sudden Mental Deterioration, No History of Violence

Gunman at Florida State Spoke of Being Watched 

Police: Gunman killed after shooting at FS

Officials reveal details about FSU gunman

Shooter was FSU grad, ex-prosecutor ‘in crisis’

Schizophrenia – Wikipedia

 

 

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Father Damien, the Apostle of the Lepers

FatherDamien1873
Father Damien in 1873 arriving in Oahu.
Picture credit: Wikipedia

 

If you ever have the chance to see the film about this man, it is an astonishing work:

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien.

So many biographies tend to be dull, or appear to be grasping for drama.

This man’s life did not need any more drama, it was filled to the brim with it as soon as he arrived in Molokai

I am not sure how many of us ever could, or would, have had the courage to do what he did.

I was a treatment Nurse in a Rehab Center for four years and was surrounded daily by those that society and the state of California considered to be wretched souls.

Many there were merely being housed in a state facility,  that kept them medicated just enough to be safe for the staff to work with, or somewhat controllable.

Some times however, they were not.

I ended up in the local ER three times,  as proof of this.

The third time was the end for my husband,  who said, ” you’re all done there, and you’re not going back.”

I wanted to stay,  knowing how much needed to be done there, but sadly, finally agreed to leave, knowing that he was right.

But back to the facts about Father Damien, who was said to be the inspiration for Gandhi in his struggle to make India and her people independent from England.

Jozef De Veuster was born on January 3, 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium.

He arrived in Hawaii on March 19, 1864 and began a journey of such love and courage,  that the world and its opinion of the disease he eventually succumbed to,  would be changed forever.

Disease was inflicted on the innocent people of the Hawaiian Islands,  by those who came to do business with them, mostly, sailors and traders.

By 1865,  health conditions on the Islands had reached such a crisis level,  that a law was passed to isolate those with what was considered to be the worst and fatal, Leprosy,  to Molokai in a Leper Colony and kept under strict quarantine.

When Father Damien began his work on Molokai, May 10, 1873,  it was assumed to be a death sentence.

Hawaii’s Bishop called for volunteers for this mission and Father Damien was the first to step up.

It was planned that three others would follow him.

The Island of Molokai was for those sad souls who ended up there,  a place of misery and death.

But, Father Damien came and brought with him the changes that would give those afflicted, hope.

Hawaiian people are normally quite happy, loving and affectionate.

Those who ended up on Molokai, were nothing at all like their relatives on the other Islands.

The dedication, devotion, love and passion of Father Damien made those on Molokai  believe that they could do something for themselves, and because of him, many of them for the first time,  found peace.

But their peace came at a high price for Damien, who after 16 years of selfless service to these terribly sick people, finally contracted the disease that would end his life.

Father Damien continued while he was sick,  fighting with all of those on Oahu,  to do what was humane, decent and right for the afflicted people of Molokai.

Before his death on April 15, 1889 at the young age of 49, he had fought against the tyrannical Catholic dioceses and those who controlled Hawaii, who did little to help him or them and forced them to change.

His body at the request of King Leopold III, was returned to Belgium to his place of birth, in January of 1936.

In 1995, his right  hand was given back to the Hawaiian people to be buried in his grave on Molokai.

Long after his death,  Father Damien was finally made a Saint in 2009.

Never has there been one who was more deserving of this,  than Father Damien, the Apostle of the Lepers.

 

Places to learn more:

Father Damien (Joseph de Veuster)

NPS Hawaii – Father Damien

Father Damien  –  Wikipedia

Father Damien

Father Damien

 

 

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