By JUSTIN SOBELMAN
The term “mental health” has been a big buzzword in the last few weeks. Mainly it has been used in reference to the ongoing discussion of gun control as a major talking point for a population that shouldn’t have access to guns. At the same time, some of the rhetoric coming from people in power is scary.
President Trump has floated the idea of reopening mental health institutions and being able to place potential risks in them involuntarily. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has completed a rapid arc from sympathetic figure to total buffoon, stated in a CNN town hall two weeks ago that he believes that police should have the power to pluck people that they deem a mental health concern and put them somewhere to protect the rest of society.
Yes, their ideas and the similar thoughts that other prominent figures have issued, are noble in their intention, but the reality that changes like this would create is downright terrifying.
What makes a person a risk? Is it depression? Bipolar disorder? Panic disorder? What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that diagnosis isn’t as simple as: “You are depressed.” Every single diagnosis (and there are dozens) has many different symptoms, and a person can have experience some of them that are potentially dangerous. Do you need to be diagnosed to be a threat to others’ safety?
So, do we take people away from their lives without their consent? Do we want to be a country that abducts people off the street and puts them in an institution, which by the way are generally ineffective in treating mental health disorders? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, and I certainly don’t have the answers to most of them, but these are things that must be discussed when people like our own president are suggesting plans this extreme.
In our culture and in many other cultures, it’s an unspoken rule not to talk about our problems, especially if you’re a man. However, in recent years, many celebrities have opened up about mental health disorders from which they have suffered. In the past week, two NBA All-Stars, DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, have written their own stories and participated in interviews in which they have discussed their battles with depression and dealing with a panic attack, respectively (https://www.thestar.com/sports/raptors/2018/02/25/raptors-derozan-hopes-honest-talk-on-depression-helps-others.html).
Both had the same core idea: they spent years not talking about their problems but decided to publicize them now because they know that almost everybody has gone through something. Maybe looking at someone who is rich, talented and successful and still deals with a form of mental illness could inspire a person who looks up to them to seek help of their own, and give them a person to point to and say, “I’m not alone.”
I love that they did this and I believe that the more people like DeRozan and Love who talk about mental health aid the fight against the negative stigma associated with it.
DeRozan’s story is especially powerful in my opinion. DeRozan is from Compton, Calif., an area notorious for being the epicenter of rap and gang violence in the 1980s and 1990s. For a black NBA star who hails from an area that would lead many to assume he is tough-as-nails and hardened to reveal that he is battling depression must be eye-opening for people, especially young black kids.
You just don’t see people like DeRozan talk about depression and I hope his bravery and inspire others to do the same. Opening the conversation will only help people get the help they need, and maybe we can treat people before they resort to violence.