Mental Health America (MHA) joins America and the world in mourning the lives which were killed in the horrific and tragic plane crash of flight 9525. The thoughts and prayers of MHA, along with president and CEO, Paul Gionfriddo, are with the families of the victims. It is clear at this point the plane was brought down intentionally by the co-pilot. To many people, that is incomprehensible.
There have been reports that Andreas Rubitz may have been dealing with some mental health issues including depression. It is important that during the discussion and debate around how to prevent a tragedy of this type from occurring again, everyone keeps in mind that violent behavior is not a product of mental illness. Violence is a product of anger. Gionfriddo said:
We want to understand why this man turned to suicide and violence against others. But we must remember that the large majority of those with a mental illness are not nor will they ever be violent.
In fact, research shows that those with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence. These facts of course do not comfort the families of this tragedy, but they are the facts. The question at hand is what should be done in the face of such tragedies? First, mourn; second, make no excuses for them and release old myths about their causes, and seek real and complete answers – as difficult as those may be to find. Third, take action on information realized.
Sadly, it appears as well that the stigma surrounding mental illness may have played a role here. It has been reported that Mr. Rubitz may have been afraid to tell his employer about what he was dealing with. So many people are in similar situations when they first start noticing warning signs, and are fearful of retribution or being labeled “unstable.”
And now they may be even less willing to come forward because of Mr. Rubitz’s actions and the response to them. There is a powerful stigma surrounding mental illness in society and in the workplace. Many facing mental health challenges—from postpartum depression to major depressive disorders and bipolar disorder or schizophrenia—are often discriminated against in the workplace. What results can be individuals ignoring symptoms, not getting help, and ultimately getting worse. Gionfriddo added:
In my mind there is no question that if we search, we will find the answers, in a way that will help to break the chain of shame and stigma that frequently accompanies mental illnesses – a chain of neglect that often binds us from acting until mental illnesses reach Stage 4.
It is now time to invest in the overall mental and physical well-being of all people. Like other diseases, symptoms need to be addressed early in order to plan an appropriate course of action on a path towards overall health. It is past time for people of this great nation to take action before crises occur, to prevent them and the distress, dismay and horrible sadness they invariably leave in their wake.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Top Image Courtesy of Aero Icarus – Creativecommons Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Aero Icarus – Creativecommons Flickr License