People often express extreme anger when I engage with breaking mental health news and use it as an opportunity to talk about broader mental health issues, like stigma, like the fact that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, like cuts to mental health services, like abuse of mentally ill people in the medical system and within institutions. They think I’m not showing respect to the dead, or I’m hijacking tragedies to advance my own agenda; they tell me I should sit quietly and not make this terrible news all about me.
I’m forced, though, to take these opportunities to talk about mental health because the rest of the time, no one listens. It’s a constant struggle to get people to pay attention to any of these things when something terrible hasn’t just happened, when no one mentally ill has done something remarkably horrific in the last week. No one wants to hear about it when mentally ill people do and accomplish great things, and no one wants to hear about the struggles and challenges society creates for the mentally community. Having a mental health condition is only a subject of interest when you’re a naked man on a statue, an armed figure opening fire on an innocent crowd, someone jumping off a bridge at rush hour.