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 and 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.

 

Mental Health First Aid

By Michelle Wagner

Most people are familiar with CPR, the lifesaving technique that is taught throughout the world and learned by medical professionals as well as lay people. Working as a nurse for nearly two decades, I have recertified in CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, time and time again. While I have always been grateful that we pay such close attention to helping in this emergency situation, it was only after my two older sons were diagnosed with bipolar disorder that I recognized how crucial it is to be able to support individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. I have realized how unfair and damaging it is that have we overlooked this equally critical aspect of health.

In this picture, I am standing at a busy intersection in Concord, New Hampshire. It is the same intersection where my oldest son was in 2010 when he was having a manic crisis. Just before ending up in that street, he had emptied my medicine cabinet of over the counter medication and supplements, downing as many of the pills as he could take. He was in crisis, as real and critical as someone having a heart attack. He knew he needed help, but because of symptoms, he was unable to effectively let people know that. Instead, he went to Main Street and started throwing CDs at cars and yelling. Most motorists swerved around him, and some yelled back. He could have been hit. An accident might have occurred. There was only one woman who stopped and offered help. She sat and talked with him until the police arrived. She was exactly what my son needed that day. He was in crisis, and he needed someone who cared and knew what to do. What I learned from that incident is we need more people like that good woman, those who are willing and able to offer help. There is a way to get people trained to provide assistance in just such a situation, and it is available through Mental Health First Aid.

Similar to CPR, Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training people can attend to learn how to assist those who are experiencing mental health and substance use crises. Through a campaign I posted on our Unitarian Universality crowdfunding website, Faithify, I was able to raise the $3000 I needed to attend a Mental Health First Aid instructor training in Savannah last month. The reason I wanted to become an instructor is so I can teach the 8-hour class in our churches and community groups. Statistics show that ministers are often sought out first when someone is experiencing a mental health issue, yet the training ministers have received is sometimes inadequate. Our churches are the perfect place to start shifting the view of psychological health. By welcoming conversation about mental health and intentionally including the topic throughout our church platforms, we can help make a real difference in dissipating stigma.

It is easy to talk about a person’s physical health. Sympathies run high when someone divulges that they have any one of a myriad of diseases: a heart attack, stroke, insulin dependent diabetes, cancer. These are respectable illnesses, talked about in polite company and even with strangers. There is no stigma attached to these diseases. The same is not true of mental health conditions. I found this out sharply and soundly eight years ago when my oldest son developed symptoms of psychosis. Nobody showed up at my door with a casserole. And there were only a few brave souls who would cross the threshold of the locked unit he was in. Hospitality, like that shown when my father developed cancer, did not abound, and I learned that I would be met with judgment and awkwardness if I brought up the topic with any but a few safe and trusted friends.

This is not ok. Judgment, skepticism, and criticism have no place when a person is experiencing any type of illness, and that includes mental health conditions. We need to bring mental health out of the shadows and into the light, recognizing that illnesses “below the neck” are no different, no less important, than illnesses that affect our brain chemistry. Through supporting Mental Health First Aid either by taking a class or becoming a trainer, we can help increase education and ensure that those who need our care receive it. Nobody should be ignored when they are suffering, and that includes psychologically. When Mental Health First Aid becomes a nationwide standard, just like CPR, we will know we are well on our way to overcoming stigma by finally supporting those who have been marginalized for far too long.

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.

HERO

Post written by Harry

I had some trauma in my childhood which came back to haunt me in my adulthood. I have been having on-and-off depression, especially during the night time when it’s dark and I was so afraid. I have been searching for the hero who can help me to get out of the mental dark hole I have been in. But nobody, not even my parents and wife, can understand the true feelings and grieve I have gone through. I often felt like I am all alone in this world fighting against everything which I lost so many times.

In the Spring of 1993, I was in the last few months of my college years, once again felt completely lost when I couldn’t find a job, couldn’t get the girl I so admired for, and started smoking. One day, I heard this song called “Hero” by Mariah Carey on the radio. At first, I thought it’s about being a hero to his/her lover. I really liked the tune of the song and almost perfect voice and Mariah Carey. So I kept listening. Then as I listened more closely on the lyrics, I realized it’s about the Hero in one’s Soul. Immediately at that moment, “Hero” became my favorite song and Mariah Carey became my favorite idol and stayed as my favorite song and idol until this day and will most likely for the rest of my life.

When I felt down or sad about anything, I often listen to this song “Hero” many hours till I got tired. I cried as I listened to the song every time. Then I started to search for the Hero that’s inside my heart, my Soul. I never got tired of this song. Yes, there is a Hero in my heart, in everyone’s heart. If we care to look deep down inside our heart, our Soul, we can find the love, the hero we have been searching for. Try it, you will be amazed at the magic power of the Hero in your heart. Here, I thought I write the lyrics of the song, hope it can be inspirational to you. Hope everyone can find love and peace from this song, from your heart, from your Soul.

There’s a hero if you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid of what you are
There’s an answer if you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know will melt away

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

It’s a long road when you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand for you to hold
You can find love if you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt will disappear

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone tear them away
Hold on, there will be tomorrow
In time, you’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you

A Bipolar Story

The following post was written by Bill LaPorte-Bryan.

My name is Bill LaPorte-Bryan.  Because I’m bipolar I’ve had to deal with wide mood swings for much of my life but I’m lucky and they seem to be gone now as I enter my eighties.  But I love to tell my story and often share it in public and in private at my church, the Unitarian Society of Hartford.  Here’s what I said during a recent disabilities service.

“I think it was 10 years ago, in 2008, that I told my story in public, for the first time, from the pulpit in that year’s disabilities service.  A few of you might have been there and some of you might even remember what I said, but with my apologies, I’ve decided to tell you my story again, but today in the context of AIM.  The words still ring true.  This morning at the end of my story, I’m going to try to answer the questions in the Enews blurb describing this morning’s service … What does it mean to have a disability?  How can our church help or hurt?  What can we all do to support our families, friends or fellow church members with disabilities?

“So here’s my story.  In this place and with your support, I feel safe sharing it with you today…

“Until my wife and I got married about 11 years ago and decided to take on the same last name, I was Bill Bryan all of my life except for three days during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 1969 when I was Jesus Christ.  That might take a bit of explaining so let me go back to the beginning.

“I was born on Ground Hog’s Day in 1937 with two significant genetic abnormalities that I inherited from my father.  One defect made me deaf in my left ear and gave me poor hearing in my right ear.  As usual, my hearing got progressively worse as I got older but I use a hearing aid in my good ear and the technology got progressively better so I’ve lived a full and fulfilling life in spite of my disability, capped off when you elected me President of our church a few years ago.  (I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.)  But now that we’ve installed a hearing loop in this Sanctuary and I got a new aid with what’s called a T-switch, I can hear everything that’s said in a service without having to struggle to understand all of the words.  I won’t have to sit up front any more so I can see the minister’s lips to help me figure out what she’s saying.  And then there’s the ultimate … adding real-time captions on a big screen, also only a matter of time and money, so if I doze off for a few seconds, I can catch up.

“The other genetic aberration gave me a propensity for a mental illness which at that time was called manic depression.  Today the condition is more commonly known as bipolar disorder and it’s characterized by extreme mood swings.  The symptoms include alternating periods of exceptionally high mood called mania when you’re up and feeling really good, you’re exhilarated and everything is wonderful.  They’re followed by periods of depression when you go down and become gloomy and lethargic.

“So I was born mentally ill and the chemistry in my brain wasn’t normal but for 32 years nobody knew it.  I led a normal life, my moods were normal and I had no idea that anything was wrong.  But, in a sense, I was a ticking time bomb.

“In 1969, I was well into my career with IBM and living in New York with my first wife and two children, who were 9 and 3 at the time.  During a Christmas visit to my parents in St. Louis something happened that changed the next 30 years of my life.  I was playing football with a group of neighborhood teenagers and dislocated my shoulder.   It hurt like hell.  I needed surgery to repair the damage.

“During that experience of extreme pain something had happened to me.  My family was worried about me.  They knew something wasn’t right.  Even the dog noticed it.

“In the car on the way to the airport to head home, I had a mental breakdown.  I lost consciousness as I was looking at what I thought was an enormous brilliant cross on top of a church.  At that point, they tell me, I blacked out and started screaming at the top of my lungs.  I was told I screamed for hours.

“When I came to the next day, I was in the psychiatric ward of Barnes Hospital but I had no idea where I was.  But I did know I was Jesus Christ.  Mind you, I didn’t wonder or think or believe I was Jesus Christ.  I was Jesus Christ.  There was no Bill Bryan.  There was only Jesus Christ and that was me.

“I can also tell you that I remember vividly how I felt when I was Jesus Christ and it was scary.  They were trying to kill me and I knew they’d succeed.  The medicine was poison.  The food was poison and the only reason I decided to take and eat it was because my life was in God’s hands.  I didn’t want to die and I didn’t know whether He wanted me to die or not but, if He did, that was that.  I was really scared but what are you going to do?

“It took the better part of a month for me to know for sure that I was Bill Bryan.  After another month I was released from the hospital and flew back to re-join my family.

“I started seeing a psychiatrist right away but it wasn’t until the following spring that he told me that I was manic depressive and I began to have some idea of what had happened to me in St. Louis.  Only then did I become aware of my mood swings which, in my case lasted for several months; two months feeling good and two months feeling really depressed.  With the help of a newly approved “miracle drug”, lithium, in spite of missing some work when I was down, my career went on.  I must say IBM was wonderfully supportive.  I couldn’t have worked for a better company.

“For the next 30 years I enjoyed a successful and fulfilling career with IBM until I retired in 2000.  But even the best jobs bring stress with them and during those years, even with lithium, I continued to have manageable but annoying mood swings.

“And then when I retired an amazing thing happened.  My stress level went down and the mood swings which I had been told would be with me as long as I lived started to become less extreme.  In three years, my doctors had gradually weaned me off of lithium and my moods were normal.  So for the last 15 years I haven’t taken any medication and, while I still have the genetic defect and I still think of myself as bipolar, I have no symptoms of mental illness.  They’ve disappeared.

“I’m very lucky and very grateful.  I’m told that the symptoms of bipolar disorder usually don’t go away.  But mine did and in all likelihood they’ll never come back, although you never know for sure.  I just take it one day at a time and I’m grateful for every one of them.

“So that’s my story.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it with you.

“Now let me turn to the questions I mentioned in the beginning.  What does it mean to have a disability?  That’s a great question to start with.  The answer is, it depends.  Usually we mean that someone has a physical disability, a mental illness, a brain malfunction, a learning or intellectual disability or an extreme sensitivity to something.  The condition can be visible or not, it depends on the disability and the person making the observation.  Some people who have a disability consider themselves disabled, but some do not.  There are so many personal judgments here that, in many cases, the label “disabled” can be arbitrary and can carry baggage … so be careful what you say and how you say it, particularly if you’re talking with someone you don’t know very well.

“How can our church help or hurt?  All of us can help by creating a safe place where people with disabilities feel welcomed, supported and treated like the whole person they are.  It’s important for us to realize that we are all some combination of “abled” and “disabled”, all wrapped up in one human being.  With that in mind, let’s just live our UU principles.  Living with a disability is a spiritual practice, as is supporting a family member, a friend, a member of our church or, for that matter, anyone else with a disability.  If you practice healthy relations with everybody, you’re on the right track.  Oh, and by the way, you can help by participating in and supporting AIM.  There will be lots of opportunities over the next few years for you to ask questions, share your thoughts and learn more.

“And finally, what can we do to support our families, friends or fellow church members with disabilities?  Listen to us, realize that each one of us is different … each a unique human being with different needs, different support requirements, different sensitivities, different fears, different passions, different joys and different capabilities.  It’s that simple.  Simple, but often not that easy.

“Amen and so may it be.”

Mental Health and Fire Arms Deaths

by Tim from LA, and Rev. Barbara F. Meyers
 
Again there is a school shooting, and again there are cries from many voices from both parties that the mentally ill are responsible for gun violence in our country.  It seems like this cycle of violence and blaming it on mental illness is never ending, as are ineffectual efforts to address it.  For example, Florida Governor Rick Scott weighed in:
 
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Thursday that he would discuss with the Legislature next week increasing funding for mental-health services and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.  Scott said, “If somebody is mentally ill, they can’t have access to a gun.”
 
The problem is, this is unconstitutional and denying someone a firearm is a violation of the Second Amendment…and they know that. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,
 
“It is important to note that the vast majority of Americans with mental health conditions are not violent and that those with mental illness are in fact more likely to be victims than perpetrators.  An individual who seeks help for mental health problems or receives mental health treatment is not automatically legally prohibited from having a firearm; nothing in this final rule changes that.  HHS continues to support efforts by the Administration to dispel negative attitudes and misconceptions relating to mental illness and to encourage individuals to seek voluntary mental health treatment.”
 
Anyone who is not adjudicated by a judge deemed mentally incapable can legally purchase a firearm. So if you place yourself in a mental institution for mental health issues, come out, you can legally buy a pistol, rifle, or a shotgun. It’s your Constitutional right. To say that they will ban mentally ill folks from purchasing a firearm will not stand up in court and again, they know that. So the law they craft will get thrown out.
 
This political act is merely a way for politicians to appear to be concerned about the victims, but at the same time, kowtow to the NRA and other gun-lobbying groups. At the same time, create a stigma for those who are mentally ill.
 
You see, I, Tim, have mental health issues and am going through therapy. I also bought a rifle too. My background checks out, and I shoot at targets.  I am neither a threat to myself nor others, and the rifle was secured in a safe. In a gun store. I sold the firearm, and I can legally purchase another if I choose to do so, which I will not do, because, I hate cleaning after shooting. But then, even with my mental health, I have no problem determining what is right or wrong, as do many who suffer. Less than five percent of folks who do suffer, commit a crime. The two most famous are John Hinckley Jr. and Mark David Chapman. Both are found not guilty because of insanity.  Many who do kill and convicted try an insanity plea but are found lucid enough to stand trial.
 
Most of folks who are mentally ill end up as victims not perpetrators, but our elected officials tend to blame us than find a way to prevent future violence, as it is easier to put off responsibility to the people yet receive the political contributions from the lobbying group. Florida is proof of that. They never expanded Medicaid. Doing so would allow folks to receive the treatment they sorely need, as Governor Scott said that the shooter in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, is mentally disturbed, and should not have been able to purchase a firearm.
 
Just because we seek treatment does not mean we are inherently violent. There is enough stigma, cultural and otherwise compounding our desire to find that cure, but when our leadership does nothing to treat patients or even do anything to prevent gun deaths like having sensible gun laws, then expect more death and more stigma next time around. It’s tough living in Los Angeles and seeking treatment, but suffice it to say that it’s worse in states that have more concern for gun rights than human rights.
 
But there is a larger issue that is unaddressed by the focus on mass shootings.  Putting deaths by guns in context, mass killings are only a tiny portion of such deaths.  Far and away the largest group of people dying by gun fire are suicides.  Some estimates are up to 60% are suicides.  That is HUGE, given the massive number of gun deaths in the United States.  So, if we are going to make a real difference, we need something that works for deterring suicides as well as mass killings.  
 
We see some hopeful signs.  On a recent broadcast of The News Hour on NPR Professor Jeff Swanson of Duke University, a psychiatrist specializing in violence and mental illness, was interviewed.  He correctly stated that the vast majority of people who have diagnosable mental illnesses aren’t violent and never will be.  He stated that five states have laws where family members can ask law enforcement to remove weapons from the home of someone they believe might become violent.  These laws are sometimes called “red-flag” laws. This isn’t just in case of mental illness, but is also when someone is having anger issues, or is engaged in domestic violence, or is suicidal.  Professor Swanson was very positive about this kind of “red-flag” law being enacted and enforced in more states.  California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington all have some version of a red-flag law.  More than a dozen others, including Hawaii, New Jersey and Missouri, are considering them. In California, the weapons can be removed for up to a year, and there is pending legislation to allow school officials and counselors to request a “red-flag” for a student.  Swanson pointed out that there is due process which is important when you are talking about constitutional rights.  The NRA is against it, of course.
 
Earlier this month, ABC reported:
In a study published last year, researchers at Duke, Yale, Connecticut and Virginia estimated that dozens of suicides have been prevented by the Connecticut red-flag law, roughly one for every 10 gun seizures carried out. They said such laws “could significantly mitigate the risk” posed by the small number of legal gun owners who might suddenly pose a significant danger.
 
This gives us hope that some real change may actually happen.
 
We don’t think red-flag laws have yet been seriously contested in court.  We’re hopeful that if they are, the due process used and the successes will prove that it is not undue restriction of constitutional laws.  
 
We are happy to see something like red-flag laws being studied and positive results reported on a national broadcast.  And, we’re especially glad to hear how it might help with suicides, which is the biggest component of gun deaths.  But we can’t be complacent.  We know that there will be more killings and more blaming the mentally ill, and we need to be steadfast in pointing out the facts.

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.