In Response

These days, when people ask me how I am, what I would really like to respond is, "Tired."

I am tired. Not necessarily physically, although sleep is definitely my one true love in life.

I am mentally tired. Emotionally drained. Whatever you want to call it.

As many of you know, my older brother passed away in May. My brother was very mentally ill and in the last few years of his life, was very misunderstood by many people who failed to grasp the severity of his mental illness.

What causes me to feel this emotional exhaustion is the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the fact that not many people are doing anything about it.

And I have come to the realization that if I don't do or say anything about it, then who will?

Mental illness is real. No, you cannot see the way mental illness affects someone. It's not as apparent as something like cancer. It's a mystery, hidden from view and only apparent to those who really have eyes to see the pain behind the eyes of the mentally ill.

Related to mental illness, something very shocking happened in the Notre Dame community this week.

Tuesday night, a recent graduate from the University posted very concerning messages on his personal Facebook page. The following was one such message from this recent graduate:

"Evildoers: be prepared to suffer the wrath of the Almighty God, the combination of Old Testament and New Testament Being of eternal Darkness and Light, for as long as you are out of favor with the Lord you will remain in His Shadow. This is NOT a WARNING, for your happiness matters not to the God of Judgement.

THIS IS A THREAT.

I am [First Name] Christ, the one who tricked the medical professionals and law enforcement and so-called family members and friends to bend to His will and allow a many times "professionally" diagnosed "mental illness" patient to roam free and return to His home with Notre Dame du Lac.


Prepare yourselves to do my bidding or suffer the immediate consequences of my eternal unconditional Anger."


Source: http://www.wndu.com/home/headlines/Notre-Dame-investigates-concerning-Facebook-posts-323872691.html

Of course, this kind of message would scare any Notre Dame student or faculty member. We received an email from the Notre Dame police department at 3am the following morning (Wednesday morning), alerting us that the recent graduate had been contacted, as well as his close family members, so that proper action can be taken to ensure the safety of the students of Notre Dame. I walked to class Wednesday morning actually concerned that there would be a mass shooting on campus during classes.

Yet what has mentally exhausted me is not necessarily my fear of a mass shooting on campus. Instead, it is the fact that this recent graduate is CLEARLY suffering from a mental illness, but so many people have overlooked this.

I guarantee you that the majority of mass shootings that have occurred in this country throughout the past few years are a direct result of mental illness. It doesn't matter if it's a mass shooting on a college campus or a shooting of one person through suicide. In many cases, though not ALL cases, these shootings are a result of mental illness.

I am mentally drained because in the past few days many students (not all, but many) I have spoken with about these threatening Facebook posts from this recent graduate have failed to understand that this is directly linked to mental illness. Instead, I've heard a few people share jokes about this recent graduate in the halls on my way to class, jokes like, "Man, someone wacked out after graduation," or "Someone didn't have a good college experience," or other phrases here and there that don't do the situation justice at all.

The Observer, the official newspaper of the ND student population, tweeted some time yesterday afternoon that the recent graduate "who posted threatening messages [Tuesday] night has voluntarily surrendered for psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital."

And that, right there, is my point exactly. This is a case of mental illness. This person is so clearly mentally ill.

Once The Observer tweeted this message, an anonymous student posted on the social media site Yik-Yak, "Great. Now I don't have to sprint home tonight from the library hoping I won't get shot!" In all honesty, yes, it is a sign of relief that this recent graduate is somewhere where he cannot hurt the student body at Notre Dame. Yet what I want to leave you with is how another anonymous student responded to this original anonymous student's message:

"Although you may find your joke funny about not having to run home in fear of getting shot, please take time to think about this recent graduate's family and friends. We do not see this situation as a joke. This is not a laughing matter. If you find this situation hilarious, we do not. Do you know how we feel, having to watch our family member/best friend being targeted as an evil/crazy person? How do you think we feel right now? We are not laughing."

We are not laughing.

I am not laughing.

When my big brother's mental illness was so misunderstood by so many, I was not laughing. When I spent countless hours freshman year writing letters of encouragement to my brother and calling him all hours of the night when he told me he wanted to kill himself, I was not laughing. When I came home during breaks sophomore year to visit my brother in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, and he balled his eyes out in my arms as we sat in a mental institution, I was not laughing.

And when I got a call on May 12th saying my brother was dead, I was not laughing.

IT IS TIME to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is time to get these people the help they so desperately need.

I am on my knees begging you. When people lash out and post crazy things online as this recent graduation had posted on his Facebook Tuesday evening, most of the time, these messages are not the thoughts of evil people out to seek revenge. MOST of the time - not all of the time but MOST of the time - these are thoughts of people in pain. These are the thoughts of the mentally ill. These were the thoughts of my own big brother the past three years before he ended his own life just a few months ago.

As long as I am still living and breathing on this planet, my hope is that by sharing my brother's story, I can encourage others to get the help they so desperately need and do everything they possibly can to get healthy again. If we work together, we can prevent other brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. from ending their own lives or the lives of others. I don't want you - whoever you are out there - to get the same phone call I got back in May. I'll do anything it takes to make sure that never happens to you too.

My prayers go out to the family and friends of the recent Notre Dame graduate who is now going through psych treatment. I am thankful that The Observer has released this information about the graduate's psych treatment to the student body because the more honest we all are about the reality of mental illness, the more we can work together to fight the stigma surrounding this horrible, awful, life-threatening, heart-breaking disease.

Thank you for reading,
Haley

May we never tire of protecting this place, the home we all know and love, with gratitude and compassion towards every student, graduate, and faculty member of this incredible University.

Comments

  1. Thank you Haley. You are an angel...❤️

    ReplyDelete

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