Alonzo Weston

Tomorrow, Oct. 10, is World Mental Health Day. It was first observed in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members in many countries, with the goal of bringing about more mental health education and awareness.

Knowing what to say or not say to someone suffering from a mental illness is a beginning. Understanding mental illness is important. Whenever someone shoots up a place or kills a bunch of people, the knee-jerk response is that mental illness was to blame. Mental illness also is sometimes blamed for President Trump’s gaffes and irrationality.

Both beliefs are insulting to people who do suffer true mental illness. Sometimes evil is just evil, and gross vanity and delusion are just what they are.

From covering mental health and social services for many years, I’ve found most mentally ill people are usually victims and are beaten down by a society who deems them dangerous and useless.

I saw the “Joker” movie this past weekend. It spoke of mental illness and the failures of the system to address it. The Joker’s evil acts were blamed on mental illness, the cruelties of society and the failures of the mental health and social services systems.

Various studies have shown there are approximately 4 million individuals with severe psychotic disorders in the United States, and approximately 2 million of them are not being treated.

The sad truth is that in many parts of the country there is no mental health system. You can’t put people on the streets with a handful of pills who need long-term care and treatment. Drugs don’t work if people don’t take them. And the biggest reason many don’t take their medication is because they don’t believe they are sick. They have limited or no awareness of their illness.

Individuals with severe psychotic disorders are vulnerable to exploitation and victimization, as well.

Substance abuse also plays a role, according to one study. Substance-abusing patients with schizophrenia were 13 times more likely than non-substance-abusing patients to be noncompliant with anti-psychotic medication.

We need to know that none of us is far removed from mental illness. Loss of a job or a loved one can throw us into a clinical depression that needs treatment.

Everyone knows someone who suffers from depression or mental illness. Everyone knows someone who has committed suicide as a result of their mental health.

In “Joker” the protagonist deals with ridicule and abuse real or perceived with violence. He is an outlier. Most mentally ill people suffer ridicule and abuse in silence. People avoid them.

I hope tomorrow everyone takes a look at understanding mental illness and those who suffer from it. They’re trying to make sense of a world gone crazy like everyone else.

Alonzo Weston can be reached


Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.