Tag Archives: segregation

Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

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Police Brutality and Fear

Howard University students protesting police brutality in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
A conversation is taking place at Dungeon Prompts regarding whether, and how, race colors our perceptions of police brutality.

My perception of police brutality is colored by my personal experiences, which are colored by my racial status.

The Context

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Brown — an unarmed black young man — was shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Witnesses say that Mike’s hands were in the air when he was shot.

My Personal Experiences

As a white woman, I was raised to present myself effectively in a non-threatening way, and people perceived me as respectable and trustworthy. They didn’t read my mind. I was fantasizing about using my advantage to become a professional criminal when I grew up. (My desire to continue to be trusted, and to feel free from the haunting paranoia that I stifled after each incident, deterred me from following such a plan when I was still a teenager.)

As I was deciding to be a criminal, someone very close and dear to me married a man who became a police officer. As he took on the responsibilities of being a rookie, he had to walk the beat in the most dangerous areas of New York City during the most dangerous times. Their relationship became explosive. One day, while he felt enraged during an argument, he took out his gun and pointed it at her. Eventually, she discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and she filed for divorce.

Years later, I was in a similar situation in which I no longer felt safe with my husband. Eventually, I, too, discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and escaped to safety, with the help of supportive friends.

Around the same time, someone very dear to me found police waiting for him at his home. They strategically persuaded him that he met the description of someone who had committed a violent crime. The long and aggressive interrogation ended with, “We know that you did this. We’re going to get you.”

Conclusion

In these three cases, each aggressive man — who was a highly valued member of his community — felt fear, and misdirected it toward someone whom he identified as a threat, like in Ferguson, Missouri. How can such behavior ever be considered acceptable?

I want to feel safe. Even though my race and socioeconomic status assure me that I am not a likely target, events of police brutality hinder my trust, and feed any paranoia that has a chance to dwell in me.

Lincoln to King: the next Great Emancipator

A river of emotion swells in me as a little-girl version of my voice overflows, singing with the marchers who are on their way to the Lincoln Memorial for a celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, and “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome some day
Deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome some day

I long to believe, deep in my heart, that we will overcome so we can all have freedom.


via Martin Luther King ‘I Have a Dream’ speech: Re-live his famous speech – World Story.
Transcript

As I watched this video today, I hung on to every word, recognizing that my understanding and attachment to this speech are deeper than ever.

Sure, “Whites Only” paper signs are gone from water fountains, buses and schools. Sure, 50 years ago, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize. Sure, 50 years ago, the U.S. Civil Rights Act outlawed many forms of discrimination. Sure, Blacks can vote. Sure, the US now has a Black president. But how crippled is he, like many other people, by “the manacles of segregation” and “chains of discrimination” that persist? How much does he represent the end of “the long night of captivity” that people have endured? Where do invisible “Whites Only” signs still exist? What does “freedom” mean today for people who are African American, Native American, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, women, gay, sick, disabled, homeless, hungry, orphaned, aged, jailed…?

As President Obama confirmed, economic disparity is a real issue, not just an illusion.


via President Obama Marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington | The White House.
Transcript.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., by Betsy Graves Reyneau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What is, or would be, the fate today for a Great Emancipator like Dr. King, and a march for freedom like the one in 1963? Dr. King came 100 years after President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. 100 years later, will someone else hold their title? Who will move our world forward to provide more fair shots for the many, instead of more privileges for the few?

President Abraham Lincoln, 1865
Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, 1865 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When President Lincoln promoted the Emancipation Proclamation, he reminded people that the U.S. Declaration of Independence “gave hope [for liberty] to the world for all time…that in due time the weights should be lifted from all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

Let’s remember President Lincoln’s message, as we listen to or read Dr. King’s speech again, and reach for a deeper understanding and appreciation of emancipators. Then, let’s renew our personal commitment to freedom for all.