How We Can Use Our Experiences with Depression to Help Families of Newton, CT
As I write this entry, my heart still breaks for the victims of last week’s massacre at Sandyhook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. What happened last Friday, December 14, 2012, is a national tragedy. Much has been written on the issues of gun control and mental health since then. As for any stereotypes about mentally ill people, I refer to the article I wrote in July after another mass shooting, “In Wake of Colorado Massacre, Please Don’t Confuse Me with James Holmes.” Today’s article, however, is different. It’s about how we as people who have mental illnesses (like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or ADHD) can use our experiences to offer comfort to the families affected in Newton, Connecticut. Friends, if you can spare a moment out of your busy day, please write a card to one or two of the families. No act of compassion, no matter how small it seems, is insignificant.
WHERE TO SEND YOUR CARDS
I encourage you to use the video and/or profiles below and write to the family of a victim whose profile moved you in some way. It doesn’t have to be a fancy card—even if it’s just a note—that would be great.
Message of Condolence,
PO Box 3700,
Newtown, CT 06470.
REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS MORE THAN THE GUNMAN
Many people have rightly complained in the past that the media tends to give notoriety to the gunman and that long after these tragedies have passed (we have had 31 mass shootings at schools since Columbine in 1999), we forget the names and faces of the victims. This year, however, CNN has led the way in changing that trend. The network has done an excellent job of memorializing the victims—the 20 children and six adults. Anderson Cooper, for instance, put together this moving tribute to the 20 children who lost their lives last week. CNN also put together a profile page of all the victims who lost their lives. People with mental illnesses are equipped with a wide emotional range—we can feel other people’s pain deeply. While this tragedy has moved all Americans, it moves me on two levels. First, as an aunt, the thought of something that terrible happening to my nieces and nephews is downright terrifying. One father on television, Neil Heslin, spoke of his six-year old son, Jesse Lewis, saying Jesse was looking forward to making gingerbread houses that fateful Friday. On Christmas Eve, I will be making gingerbread houses with my nephews, who just turned five and eight. I have been looking forward to this for weeks. When I see the grieving parents or spouses on television, their pain transcends the screen.
MOOD DISORDERS SHED PERSPECTIVE ON OTHER PEOPLE'S LOSS
Second, as someone with a mood disorder, many years ago, I used to have days where it was hard to get out of bed. Sometimes it was just the mood disorder but other times it was the disorder exacerbated by traumatic losses like losing a friend suddenly—in one case, to suicide. I can’t begin to imagine the kind of pain these parents and siblings and spouses will feel through the holidays and beyond. But, I want to use my experiences, to help these people in any way I can. I don’t have money but I know loss. I know sadness. And I have known a depression so deep that it’s hard to concentrate on everyday things. Many of you know this kind of emotional paralysis. I urge you to reach out to these families. You know how to comfort others because you have been comforted. You know from your experience what to say and what not to say to someone who’s going through an emotional upheaval. When people ask us if anything good can come from mental illness, let us do more than tell them about empathy--let's show them empathy.