“What this country needs is a reform of our mental health system.” said just about everybody after the last mass shooting.
So? Where is it? Anybody?
In the meantime, America has watched a very public struggle of Amanda Bynes with what is potentially a very serious mental illness. I think this is a perfect example of how America really isn’t ready to start dealing with mental illness and instead just we continue to sit by and watch our mentally ill as some sort of crazy side-show.
Bynes, a popular movie actress, caught my attention when she starred as the side kick, Penny, in Hairspray. Since then, she has suffered a series of car accidents, arrests and outbursts that clearly showed she is spiraling out of control.
Our mentally ill no longer just roam the street mumbling to themselves, they can literally fall apart in front of millions of people. It is right there in front of all of us and STILL we all just watch it as some sort of Lifetime made-for-TV movie.
Did I ever follow Bynes on Twitter? NO.
Did I discuss her latest antics with friends – YES. Do I feel guilty about that? YES.
I know I am FAR from alone. Her twitter followers exploded from approximately 54,000 in April 2011 to over 3 MILLION as of today.
Are we all following her on Twitter, because everyone is concerned? No. You and I both know 3 million people are following her on Twitter to be entertained.
Her psychiatric hold and the latest revelation that she may be suffering from schizophrenia drives home the fact that this country is a LONG way from really understanding mental illness. If Bynes was walking around with any other untreated illness, we would be collectively outraged and get her help. However, when it comes to people hearing voices, acting out or acting odd – we just “follow” them on Twitter to see what crazy thing they may say or do next.
So experts? What now? How do we deal with our mentally ill when they become a spectacle for everyone to see? In a time when we all live in a social media fishbowl, how do we get help for our society’s most desperate?
Some thoughts for our mental health task force:
1. Maybe instead of a follow button on Twitter or a Friend option on Facebook, these social media platforms offer an “alert” button that people can send a message to a mental health professional when someone really looks in trouble?
2. After 3 arrests, all people get a mental health evaluation.
3. Make psychiatric drugs available and affordable for all Americans. Having a psychiatric illness is not like any other illness. Cancer kills only the person with the illness, mental illness can impact a person’s decision making and make them a threat for society.
I would love it if we could take this collective curiosity and do some good instead of selling some gossip magazines. (yes, I still read them – I am well aware of my own hypocrisy.)
I guess, like the rest of America, I’ll just have to wait to see what this new mental health legislation looks like.