Does Social Media Have Responsibilities?

The shooting in Santa Clarita, California, rocked the town after a 16-year-old shot five students, including himself, killing two students and the shooter succumbing to his injuries. Many are asking why, was he mentally ill? According to a press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Padilla, he presumed the student was mentally ill, though no evidence proved this. Once again, a murderer is assumed to be mentally ill.
 
Why?
 
There are assumptions made when a person commits a mass shooting that they are mentally ill, but, according to the Secret Service,
 
[A]round half of mass attacks in 2017 and 2018 appeared to be motivated by grievances, or perceived wrongs, related to home, work or another personal sphere. Grievances were more commonly cited than any other motive, including mental illness — which the agency said was a motivating factor in 14% of incidents in 2017 and 19% in 2018. Other motivating factors included ideology, such as white supremacy and anti-Semitism, and an attempt to achieve fame.
 
So when someone shoots up a place of worship, school, a park, or even a gathering, more times than not, the culprit is more likely motivated by hate than being ill when the media shows people running out of a theater or off-campus or yes, a post office. Also, after the attack on 9/11, the 19 hijackers were terrorists and not depressed. One has to ask when a person flies a plane into a building, is that terrorism or is the person crazy? If a white male were to shoot up a Black congregation, is that person a terrorist or mentally ill?
 

Our President said that it’s the ill who kill and not the gun. If that’s the case, why the cut in social services? Why does Congress, who ask for thought and prayers after a massacre, refuse to raise taxes to pay for mental health services? Why must we, who do suffer, be grouped with those who are either religious extremists or a proponent of hate? Because mental health isn’t imperative.

If I were to write on Facebook that I will (blank) the President, the secret service, and every law enforcement agency would be knocking on my door. No one would have to report me as the social media software will find the keywords and point to the I.P. address where I am, and the authorities will visit me. Even if I were to write a threat on a blog that no one has access to, that too could be discovered.
 
But, consider the situation where someone is considering suicide and writes about it online. The expectation is for the writer to seek help, or if the person is on Facebook, Twitter, etc., then a friend could contact the person, or even 911 to prevent someone from harming themselves. The technology is there; these same social media groups have written software to detect certain words associated with terrorism so that they can be red-flagged.  If this were done for suicide, then social media organizations would step in, create an algorithm to find keywords associated with suicide, and report their findings to the proper law enforcement agencies.  The appropriate agency can visit the writer and possibly stop a bad situation from getting worse, and maybe save a person’s life.
 
When someone is depressed and is willing to harm themselves, a therapist, or even a family member can call for help. Still, if their pain is silent, then there could be a social media safety feature that could prevent a suicide.  Social media software,  with technology which can read words at the speed of light, might be the only entity to prevent a suicide.
 
Your thoughts?

Even U.U.s need learning.

by Tim Fromla

I read a post on Facebook and am glad that a member of our group pointed this out

I’m at GA. I just attended UUA GA 2019 Workshop “Combatting Destructive Behavior and White Supremacy Culture”. When a speaker segued from the behaviors to discussion on “destructive behavior policy development”, she inferred some ‘behaviors’ as “… people not taking their meds”.

That did not sit well with me.

During Q/A (just minutes later) I called them on the ableism. The speaker apologized. Another thanked me (that she learned something) and another said MH is a sticky subject for POC.

I get all of that.

I fear, however, that by limiting discussion to racism, ableism is now alive and well.

I do experience mental health issues, am on medication, and a PoC myself. My mental health is the opposite of those mentioned by the speaker. I am, by many, appear to be an introvert and my illness has hindered many opportunities in my life. Most of my work was hard labor, as my anxiety failed me to get that proverbial cushy job. I was in all intent and purpose, a victim of ableism. Even with an MBA, I could not go past the interview phase of any job. Being a PoC did not help much either. So I remained to do the construction job and nearly destroyed my body.

I then decided to return to school and start a new career. I am now majoring in Marriage and Family Therapy. Besides a better paying career, the hiring process is a lot easier as those who do the hiring tend to be more empathetic to those with disabilities.

Not every person who has a mental health issue is an extrovert. There are people who think I’m an introvert when I am a chatty extrovert. When my world collapse around me, I don’t want anyone to know. In class, I can keep my mouth shut and not participate. If I do, I would have an anxiety attack and shut down.

The good thing was, the person I’m quoting brought up the faux pas and the speaker apologized. It’s great to know that our G.A. recognizes mental health issues, but I would hope that our regional and local churches recognize this organization.

I also found out that we have new members too.  The messaging, I hope, will change when someone who is schizophrenic or experience depression would be treated like someone who has the flu or cold and not typecasted like a gun-toting maniac.

It’s great to meet new members and I hope this group expands too.

 

 

Privileged Kids Fake Disability

By Tim Fromla

As a person who suffers from mental health issues, I am glad I live in California so that when I take a test, I can have extra time or even after I graduate, jobs are required to provide reasonable accommodations for my disability. In school, for example, there is extra time as well as breaks to allay my anxiety. When I do presentations, I can’t get dinged for stuttering or stammering.

Sadly, there are those who take advantage of the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) so that they can excel in school. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Everybody’s Doing It”: Cheating Scandal Shows How Privileged Kids Fake Disability” is disturbing.

Going back to college, I had to request reasonable accommodation like longer test time or a day extra to turn my assignments in. Also, I had to seek approval to take breaks so that I do not become anxious, and not get dinged for stuttering or stammering while making a presentation. I had to get a note from my psychiatrist, submit it to the disability advocate, and waited for a letter so I can show my professors that I needed help. My anxiety and OCD were going haywire because I thought they would have denied me the accommodation, but I received it, and all is going well.

Today though, after the testing scandal from coast to coast, there are those who fake disabilities to get an upper-hand, thus creating a more massive stigma for those who need assistance. Many of us who do have mental health issues, tend not to want to share their plight with anyone but have resigned to the fact that we do need help.

More than 40 years I kept my illness to myself. I failed because I felt that I did not deserve the help. The failure resulted in me not doing so well in college in the past and going back today; I can make it up by going back to school. Yes, I do need help, and I promise to contribute to society, but at the same time, when those who don’t feel the humiliation as those who have various issues, it takes away the importance of accommodation so that I nor anyone else would rely on others for support.

I prefer not to get on disability and do well like any other student, but because I need the extra help, it can seem kind of embarrassing, but achieving the level playing field is all we ask. When wealthy folks who are lazy take advantage of the system, this can adversely affect our chance in succeeding in life. So what can we do? Go after those who take advantage of the system. I had to go through therapy for six months before seeing a psychiatrist. From there, the psychotherapist had to diagnose me, record my progress and keep a record of everything we did. I did not use my primary physician to write a note asking for an excuse; I had to open myself up to a stranger and explain why I am the way I am.

My therapy session can be prying, and my anxiety and OCD, as well as depression, made me struggle, but because of this, I can say without a doubt that I do need help so that I can be a contributing member to society. I don’t want help, but I realize that I need the support so that I can function in life. Taking advantage of the system though is a detriment to those who need the assistance. 

Stricter regulation must happen so that those who are wealthy enough to bypass the stringent requirements, don’t.   With stricter regulation, I suspect that folks like me will be under the microscope because of the acts of the few, thus creating more anxiety for us.

 

Mental Health and Public Accommodation

By Tim Fromla

The Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA is a good friend for people who need accommodation in everyday life. A person in a wheelchair would need doors that open easily or a visually impaired person may need a dog to guide them. These accommodations are requirements by the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) to make a disabled person part of everyday life. What about the person who is not blind or in a wheelchair but needs accommodations? They too are afforded the same rights. Sometimes, they don’t get it though.

I was at the gym, and I experienced this. Nine months after New Years, I decided to join a gym. I needed to do so to lose weight and for my mental health. The workout and sore muscles are making my mental health issue vanish. Combining my medication, therapy, and sweat is giving me the happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. I enjoy the feeling and would recommend people to try and workout. I guess for me; exercise allays my anxiety. Today though, I felt my anxiety perk up.

After my workout, I needed to use the restroom. The restroom I use is gender neutral, and it’s one person per use. This form of privacy is what I wish. As I approached the front desk, I asked the person if I could use the restroom. The person apologized and said it was for employees and disabled people. I asked what about people who are mentally disabled or have mental health issues? He said no and apologized.

Instead of getting mad, I texted my trainer, and he said that he would speak to his manager. After looking up the definition, the gender-neutral bathroom in a private gym does not have to accommodate the public, unlike like a theater, mall, doctors’ office, but since I am a member, and the restroom is for transgender folks and physically disabled members, mental health folks need accommodation too. So what is my disability? Anxiety. I panic in public restrooms. If there is accommodation, I would use it, unless there isn’t, so I would wait until I got home.

The issue is, many can’t tell I am disabled and I am required by law to say I have mental health issues. Without mentioning this, they need not accommodate me. I spoke to the person, but that person, unbeknownst to him did not realize that mental health issue is part of the ADA.

When I get back to the gym on Monday, I’m going to find out if I could use the private restroom. If I could, then there would be no issue. The manager knows about my mental health. If they refuse my request, I would have no choice but to file a complaint. The purpose is not to sue for money but to educate the corporation about rights as a disabled person.

Mental Health Issues Or An Excuse?

By Tim Fromla

Mental illness is often the reason behind any violent act.  Here are some recent examples:

A Vietnam Veteran who visited Uganda as a missionary was taken into custody by law enforcement for assault after attacking a hotel employee. The man blamed mental illness for his outburst according to the U.K.s Daily Mail. According to the Daily Mail, the man was drunk.

Yes, racism played a role, and if it were me, as an atheist, I would probably have been a victim. If I lied and said I am a Christian, I would probably have been left alone. Mental issues and not alcohol is the excuse the missionary used for his action. Kampala Metropolitan Police reported in a Friday post on Facebook that it has arrested the U.S. citizen, Jimmy L. Taylor, after security cameras showed him punching and cursing at an employee at Grand Imperial Hotel.

Back in Florida, according to the Independent, a U.K. News organization, “The suspected gunman behind America’s latest mass shooting had a history of mental illness and was prescribed anti-psychotic medicine, court records revealed.” Once again, a mentally ill person was responsible for the massacre and not a firearm. The shooter, David Katz legally bought the guns legally according to the ABC affiliate in Chicago.  It was his poor mental health and not the availability of pistols nor the stress of a painful divorce of his parents that was cited by ABC as the cause that led to this tragedy.

But, are all, or even many violent incidents due to mental health problems?  What do mental health experts say?  According to the New York Times,

“Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness‘ published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016.”

Or in 2017, with 345 cases of the mass shooting  (three or more victims) nationwide, about 3 of these cases were committed by mentally ill folks. Now, if anyone went through treatment or if there was a ban on purchasing firearms, then 342 people will still be killed because 99 percent of all shooters are not ill.

As a person with mental health issues, the last thing any of us want is to be a part of any stigma. More than 99 percent of us are not violent nor do we wish to hurt anyone. As a person with a disability, it sickens me when the media, our elected officials or even the public blame the illness on a massacre, but even more disheartening is the stigma that maybe leaving people like us alone is the better path to take than addressing our issues head-on.

My Therapeutic Journey

Hello, my name is Tim, and I have mental health issues. I would never have written something like this because of the stigma associated with mental health. Today, I am writing what I want to say, as verbally speaking my truth and experience is still hard. Many believe that issues with the mind are just that, mental and by picking yourself up from the bootstrap and being responsible would be the panacea needed to quell my anxiety. It isn’t. It’s like me telling someone to buck up and get off your rear end, even though you have stage four cancer and in hospice.

Makes no sense, does it?

The same makes no sense when a person returns from war and is suffering from PTSD, or when a victim of a sex crime survives their ordeal, or even a child separated from their parents because the government says they are illegal to buck up.  An illness is an illness and must have treatment to get better.

So I’ve been going through therapy for more than a year, and it’s a learning process. I am getting treated by a psychiatrist, but I am also going through cognitive behavior therapy too. I am learning to unlearn what was a norm or cultural experience in my life. What I have done to myself was based on years of cultural norms, but my environment, being born and raised in the U.S. can counter each other.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I am an atheist, a recovering Christian; jokes aside, my family and culture cling to religion as a norm. And deviation would cause shame in the family but discovering that the faith is racist, I could not be a part of this culture. My church or conference was not racist, my denomination was. Becoming an atheist in the Japanese Christian culture is disgraceful. I could not find peace though, so I sought therapy.

My current therapist told me that after speaking to me, he says that I have an analytical mind. I keep asking why and would not be satisfied with,”Because God said so.” Add racism, and one becomes a nonbeliever. I continued to search and became a U.U. PoC. To me, the Bible, Torah, Quran, and so on to me is merely text. Some call it Holy book, while others call it fiction. Regardless of the documents, it’s something important to someone.

Regardless, asking questions is an integral part of mental health, and my therapy consists of searching. In all honesty, I may not find all the answers, but the searching never ends. When I was  young, I was always a curious person, and as a child, I was fascinated by a spider making a web. Why are a spider’s web sticky, and what is its substance?

Spider Silk
The protein in dragline silk is fibroin (Mr 200,000-300,000) which is a combination of the proteins spidroin 1 and spidroin 2. The exact composition of these proteins depends on factors including species and diet. Fibroin consists of approximately 42% glycine and 25% alanine as the major amino acids.

I was not satisfied with God did it, but the above answer should suffice. It doesn’t. As society compounds us to believe in one thing, that is where the problem lies. My therapist explained that there is nothing wrong with being curious about any subject but to seek answers and sharing it is a lot harder than one thinks. I can’t change my family’s especially the adult’s mind, so I have to explore this journey by myself.

Therefore.

My and many other’s mental health issues are what it is, a health issue and all, in all, ask is to have a little understanding, not sympathy as some of us cannot change a culture that has been in our genetic code for several thousand years. I guess the next step is to express what I am blogging by word of mouth. I can’t right now and…

That’s why I am going to therapy.

Immigration and Mental Health

By Tim Fromla

As more than 2500 children are separated from their parents, and as far as several thousands of miles, the toll brought upon the children can leave a lasting scar. Because of the zero-tolerance policy by the Trump Administration, folks seeking asylum.

The effects upon these children are mind-numbing as you hear a cacophony of fear and anger as the children are screaming for their mothers and fathers, while in custody. Click. Even the APA (American Psychological Association) is imploring the Trump Administration to return the kids to their parents, as long-lasting damage is done to those who cannot comprehend why they were separated.

Even children as young as one year old will experience PTSD. Imagine being a one-year-old in front of a judge during a federal hearing? As an adult, it can be never-wracking. Now imagine being a five-year-old alone in a court with no rights to an attorney?

There is a report of adoption after the parents are deported, according to the Intercept. Many times the family came here seeking asylum from violence, but because, Attorney General Jeff Session said that victims of gang violence or domestic violence are no longer qualifiers for those seeking shelter, the children will no longer see their birth parents and live with some stranger with whom they do not know.

It’s sad to see this happening. Many are saying that these people came here illegally, and the President said that the people are rapists and murderers, but the immigrants seeking refugee did not break the law and are doing everything legally. While those in D.C. are violating the Constitution, it is the children who are suffering.

According to DSM-5 diagnostic code 309.21, the definition of separation anxiety is:

Separation and anxiety disorder is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed.) diagnosis assigned to individuals who have an unusually strong fear or anxiety to separating from people they feel a strong attachment to. The diagnosis is given only when the distress associated with the separation is unusual for an individuals developmental level, is prolonged and severe. The need to stay in close proximity to caretakers can make it difficult for children with this disorder to go to school, stay at friends houses or be in a room by themselves. In adults it can make normal developmental activities like moving away from home, getting married or being an independent person very difficult.

Symptoms of Separation and Anxiety Disorder

  • Unusual distress at the discussion or experience of being parted from their attachment figure.

  • Excessive fears that harm will befall their attachment person.

  • Persistent worry of an unexpected event that could lead to separation from the attachment figure.

  • Refusal to leave the attachment figure.

  • Excessive fear of being alone.

  • Nightmares about separation.

  • Anxiety about sleeping and being separated from the attachment figure.

  • Physical complaints when separation is immanent.

There are also accusations of children given antidepressants to calm them down. It took me six months to get my prescription after six months of cognitive behavior therapy, and as an adult, I feel much better because of this. The anxiety these children are facing is separation, but to calm them down, they are forced to take meds without the possibility of therapy? Meds that were not designed or tested to be used for children?  The source of their problem is separation and prescribing powerful antidepressants would not be necessary if they were never separated.

Psychologists and psychiatrists warn that even if the children are back together with their parents, it would take years of therapy to treat these kids and who knows what will happen if they are released.

 

Change: Buddy, You Got a Spare?

By Tim Fromla

Change for people who have mental health issues is tough. When I became an atheist, I had a hard time not believing in Jesus. For more than 20 years,  my belief was Jesus is God, He came to earth, died, and rose on the third day to sit on the right-hand side of God, only to return, rapture people like me, and the battle between God and Satan would take place. I was too scared not to believe, so I grew accustomed to this belief and felt safe.

All this changed after I became an atheist. I became an atheist because of the racism within the Christian faith. The racism where I had to convert all the poor Africans, Asians, Latinos around the world so that they would go to Heaven. The funny thing was, there were no real missions to Europe. The racist statements and actions made by the white folks in my former denomination turned me into a bitter atheist.

With the anger and loneliness brought upon me, my mental world collapsed. The change was hard, and my anxiety turned into depression and other issues. After a few years, I became used to the change and was quite happy. Five years ago, I became a member of a U.U. church and that was not easy either, but eventually, I learned to adapt, and now I am writing this blog, coauthored a book, and seeking treatment.

Then recently, my therapist said that she would have to drop me as a client because of new responsibility, and my former psychiatrist left. People with issues have a hard time with change, but it takes time to adapt. Once the change is accepted, and there is a pattern, things go smoothly or as smooth as possible.

But change takes time.

I’ve noticed of late that people who don’t have these challenges tend to get irritated. Of course, it’s understandable, but sometimes it can be irritating. I have heard people calling folks with these challenges “retards” or “slow,” even psychotic. These adjectives are not only wrong but harmful too. I am not demanding anyone of anything, but to understand how people with mental health issues think and even feel. We don’t want your sympathy or condescending acts, but to treat us like you would treat anyone else.

With the new administration destroying our country, there will be more people seeking help. After watching the news, there were stories of people getting killed by the law enforcement, and this is of concern for many of us. When the answer to a person suffering from a breakdown is a bullet, this makes those who are ill more worried.

We are not defective, but we do need science to keep us balanced. For many of us, prayer does not work. Praying the “demons” away only work on T.V. or the movies, not in real life, and can be insulting that a man with a horn and tail sent his angels to take over our soul. Sure the green pea and head spinning are cool, but when someone has a seizure and babbles what sounds like Latin, isn’t some fallen angel taking over our body, but someone who needs treatment.

Change is tough. Have patience with those who experience change and treat those with the same respect you have for others. Unless we are a threat to others or ourselves, don’t ignore us or don’t be overbearing.

Mental Health and Japanese American

Hi, my name is Tim, I am Japanese American, and I have mental health issues. I am currently seeking treatment and am on medication. For nearly 50 years, I struggled with anxiety, which caused a host of other challenges in my life, which includes OCD, agoraphobia, and depression. So why the delay in seeking treatment? Culture as well as a lack of understanding how far science and technology have come. The fear of a frontal lobotomy is no longer an issue.

So when did my issues begin? Possibly at three. As an infant, I never spoke. Most of my language was grunts and awkward sounds. I may have had autism, but there was no real understanding of mental health. According to DSM-1 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the bible for mental health employees, LGBTQs were considered a sociopathic personality disturbance. It was in 1974 when the American Psychiatric Association removed LGBTQ as a mental health issue.

Then growing up, and not being treated, I had challenges in life. I did poorly in school, I was a victim of bullying, and most of my childhood life was a daydream. According to my school cume, I used to daydream (it’s now called ADHD), I could not concentrate, and in the classroom, I was an outcast. I was unreliable. For lack of a better term, I was scattered-brain.  As time went on, I barely graduated high school and had to go to Summer School to graduate.

I then went to work as no college wanted me. I later attended a community college and had a 1.7 GPA, but I couldn’t care less about my grades. Then my Asian American/Japanese language professor said to the students, “You know, I don’t care if you do well or not…I’m still getting paid regardless.

“This is not high school where I would try to coax you to do well. You are all adults, and you are responsible for your education.” Then something snapped, and I studied and did well. I eventually graduated, got my bachelor and am going for my MBA. Even with my success, I still felt at odds with life.

As my life continued, my life changed. I stopped going to church; I was involved in different civil rights activities. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. As my anxiety grew more and more, I broke away from life and remained in the shadows. I eventually became a Unitarian Universalist member, but nothing seemed to make me happy.

I remained a loner and stayed away from family and friends. I found peace being alone, away from family and friends. My doctor sent me to see a therapist, and eventually, I began therapy and a prescription routine. My life is now a lot better thanks to science as well as counseling. It took me many years to seek treatment as the stigma of mental illness is considered taboo. As a PoC (Person of Color), if one’s brain is ill, then there is a genetic defect making the family’s lineage also defective.

Though harsh, this is the philosophy many PoC endure, especially in the Asian culture, a belief that has been around for several thousand years. Though the newer generation is accepting of treatment, the elders tend to frown upon the fact that there is something wrong. There is also a conflict when religion and ethnicity collide. I grew up in a Japanese American evangelical church and the two mix poorly. The Bible verse:

1 Corinthians 12:26
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

 The above verse is representative of the belief that if someone is mentally ill, then something they did was a punishment from God. Silence is golden in this case as preventing shame dictates the guidance of the familial hierarchy. Also, death before dishonor, a samurai trait, would be in order too. In Japan and the Japanese culture, even amongst Christians, suicide is a common trait. But committing suicide because one is selfish or have mental issues, brings shame to the family.

My treatment is known to only one family member, and I am encouraged to keep going. I have realized that if I want to get better, there are some secrets that I need to have so that family pressure would not discourage me from getting better. Is it the fault of my culture? Maybe so, but trying to change more than 10,000 years of history and eliminate a caste system mentality is hard.

For me, it is better to remain in the shadow than to admit my illness, as culture dictates the family genetics and not logic. Mental illness is comparable to having the flu, and medicine is used to help one to get better. It is not a defect nor is it blemish on the family name. Unfortunately, there are outside forces that play on the stereotypes like T.V. shows.

This blog is why I came out of the mental illness closet and am trying to open more doors so that people can be accepted and the stigma attached can just fade away and we could live a healthy life. Normality began when I was at the G.A. in New Orleans. I electronically met Pastor Barbara Meyers online after searching for mental health at the UUA website. I then took a chance and sent her an email. She responded quickly, and we were scheduled to meet on the first day.

We met and spoke briefly about our lives and our health, and it went well. Unfortunately, the next day, my anxiety kicked in hard and I was avoiding everyone. Eventually, after therapy, my therapist recommended medication. There are a few people in my church who knows I am taking a prescription, but I was amazed at the warmth and nonjudgmental attitude.

U.U.s are caring and loving, but at the same time, not prying, which helps me as I strive to get better. Even DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministry) members understand as they put aside the cultural bias and accept me for who I am. Unfortunately, there are those who are not U.U. or DRUUMM, and because of culture or lack of knowledge, people who have challenges in life are deemed as either drug addicts, retarded, or just too lazy to be responsible. Forget the fact that environment, genetics, or a host of other factors create what we are today. There is also the crowd who say that ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was the result of vaccination when folks before the vaccination programs had autism.

Stigma and fear go counter to what is helpful and yes, promote fake news about those who need support. Support needs to go beyond our churches and the UUA, but into our neighborhoods and country, where folks are not thrown out on the streets or living under a bridge, and being a victim of crime.

Our churches can be the foundation, but it is up to all of us to be the voices who cannot speak or are too anxious to do so.