We can be proactive or reactive. We have that choice. To be proactive though, we need to overhaul both the system, and the stigma surrounding mental illness. This is a tall order, which may contribute to much of the resistance. We must remember that these changes begin with individuals, and spread to the larger populace. At the heart of this issue is the perception of mental illness, because the system was founded upon these often negative and derogatory beliefs. If we expect to change the way in which we address our mentally ill constituents, then we must first change out thinking.
It is easy to think of mental illness as someone else’s problem, that is until it touches down in your life. Morgan Geyser‘s mother knows this best: Two years ago I was getting ready for bed as the laughter of three preteen girls echoed through our home. In the morning we would all have breakfast – Krispy Kreme donuts and strawberries – and then the girls would head off to the park. That was the last time our lives were normal and happy. Hug your children if you can. My daughter has been in a jail cell for two years. It is so common that the National Alliance on Mental Health now says that over 10 million adults are afflicted with a serious mental illness, nationwide. They also say that 1 in 5 adults in America will experience mental illness; that is 20% of the population!
Unfortunately the system is not prepared to deal with mental illness of this magnitude. The alternative to hospitals are prisons (although a poor one), and even our prisons cannot handle the influx. In Wisconsin, where Morgan Geyser is currently in a cell, there is an extensive waiting list for treatment. Stevens Point Journal explains, “With the surge in referrals, both facilities filled quickly, causing delays for anyone who still needs a bed. The only alternative for many in the state waiting to get in…is spending weeks in a jail cell” (Full article: Mentally ill inmates left waiting in jail). We must remember that this waiting list is for alleged criminals awaiting trial, many of whom must first prove to a judge that they are in fact mentally ill. During the interim they are left undiagnosed and untreated. Many of these individuals are awaiting trial for a crime, or crimes, committed as a result of being undiagnosed and untreated to begin with.
According to The Intercept, “The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to life in prison without parole, and, according to estimates from nonprofits and advocacy groups, there are between 2,300 and 2,500 people serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were minors” (Full Article: The U.S. is the only Country That…). Morgan Geyser (12 years old at the time) is currently facing a charge of 1st Degree Attempted Homicide, and is being tried as an adult, which comes with a sentence of 60+ years in prison. In Morgan’s case, she was suffering from undiagnosed and untreated, early onset childhood schizophrenia when the crime occurred, so she falls into both categories: a child and mentally ill.
We at slenderchance.com are looking for people to get involved! Engage by commenting on blog posts. Share this page on your social media sites. Tell the people you know, and ask them to tell the people they know. Donate with the button on the Support page – funds which cover legal fees for Morgan Geyser – and receive a complementary sticker to help promote Morgan’s cause. In an increasingly chaotic world with dwindling resources, where overcrowding is the rule not the exception, we can expect to see more and more mental illness. It is easy to dismiss until it touches down in your life, but the devastation it can create is terrifying. As a society we need to take responsibility for our own!