As of late, some troubling, disturbing, sad, tragic, and altogether unexplainable events have occurred in and around the Burgh. The reaction to these things has leaned more towards the vengeful side; there is a dearth of empathy, if hundreds of Facebook comments are any indication. And I, like so many others, want answers.
But I just don't think there are any easy ones.
Last week a seemingly "normal" mother drowned two of her kids. This mother lived on the same street as two families I know (one very well). A street I have been on numerous times. A street that has block parties and goes Christmas caroling. Although I did not know this woman, according to my friends, she seemed to be a typical, loving parent, who appeared to be that very way while they were waiting for the school bus the morning it happened. It can be really hard to reconcile what you know with what really is. And for someone like me, who is very non-judgmental and who hopes never to be on a jury, I struggle mightily with something like this. Yet unlike a lot of people, I don't believe in an eye for an eye. Yes, what she did is so wrong, but obviously something is so wrong with her.
Then you have the 16-year-old kid, who could easily pass for 14, who stabbed over 20 people. Whether or not he was bullied does not excuse his actions, but if he was, a lot of people, children and adults, should really do some soul-searching. Yet I also don't feel he should be stabbed by each of those people, as some have suggested. (Note that as a parent, I do NOT fault any parents of the stabbing victims who feel this way. As non-violent and anti-revenge as I am, I am guessing that my forgiving nature would disappear.)
I think our mental health system is sorely lacking. But there are so many factors at play. There is the stigma. The cost. Access. Time. Pride. Lack of professionals. Fear of someone finding out. The unknowns about medication. People's unwillingness to open up. The complexity of the human brain. It is so easy to say that these people should have gotten get help, but did you read what I just wrote?!
People say that mental illness is an excuse, that the lawyers will use it to help their clients avoid jail time. But clearly something was not right in both of the above cases. What makes one mother with postpartum depression somehow cope, but another snap? What makes one kid who was bullied or ostracized live with it for years and eventually "move on" and another go on a rampage? If the extremely educated, well-studied people don't know, why does John Q. Public think he does?!
A friend's father has to be on medication for the rest of his life in order to stay "normal." Years ago the dad threatened to kill himself and his family; it was a nightmarish scene, though I don't know or remember all the details. I do know if you knew this guy, you would never believe that could happen. But I can guarantee that we all know someone who is on medication. But what works for one person does not work for another. And, well, see my above point about all the reasons why people don't just see a psychiatrist. Plus, just a hunch here, but I am pretty sure you don't just walk in one morning and then walk out sunshine and lollipops an hour later.
Just today at another local school, parents found a hit list in their kid's room, and they notified the school. Reaction to that was varied as well. Some praised the parents, whereas others thought it was no big deal. Me? I think parenting (or lack thereof) is a big factor in violence in younger people, so I applaud their taking it seriously. Yet how many times do people take it too far the other way? A six-year-old points his pencil at another student and says, "Bang," so we better suspend him. Sigh. Did that mother accidentally run over her kids a few years ago, or was that the first sign of a problem? I DON'T KNOW. And neither do you.
Clearly I am meandering in this post. But one thing I do know for sure: We can all stand to be a little kinder, more inclusive and sympathetic and a little less judgmental. Don't you think?