Outlook: cleaning out the closet

by kerrigan j. merz

We talk about mental health in this country as it relates to guns. We don’t talk about how mental illness disproportionately affects the oppressed.

The further we get away from the Stonewall riots, the further we move toward this hypothetical homogeneous future where we have all the rights everybody else does, in some new gay Great Society.

Gay Liberation has become Pride, and with new sociopolitical progress, we seek further normalcy in the hopes of straight acceptance. We address our mental health, the real skeleton in our closets, only when we have to. We seem content to forget that years of abuse, of prejudice and discrimination, have harmed many of our souls, and are content to not talk about it. This is a call to my community and the culture at large: we have to talk about mental health and we have to talk about who it actually affects.

I cannot pretend this is not personal. I suffer from mental illness, as do most of the people I love. In the wake of another mass shooting – and because no laws have changed, I recognize there will likely be another in the few weeks between the writing and printing of this piece – mass media and public opinion turn against the mentally ill, and I continue to be horrified and insulted. Even the Parkland survivors, brave and poised as they are, have fallen back on the ease of stigma, and urge lawmakers to expand privacy laws to ensure that the mentally ill can have their confidence betrayed to the police, who are trained to shoot and kill “dangerous” people.

We are not dangerous, we are in danger. The odds of suffering violence are multiplied for those who are mentally ill – and multiplied again by each additional minority status. However, the odds of violent crime are next to zero with a cause directly attributable to mental health, yet we talk about mass shooters – near-universally straight white men – as if their problem is some vaguely defined brain sickness and not entitlement, whiteness, misogyny, or unhindered male rage.

Do you want to solve the problem that is mental health? Universalize healthcare. Treat mental illness with the same gravitas and kindness that any physical illness is granted, and not just depression, the most easily understood of these conditions. Stop being afraid of us and befriend us. No one should have to be ashamed or afraid to admit they are suffering from an illness.

To all of you: let’s clean out our closets, shall we?

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.