Every time there is a tragedy like the Germanwings crash in which the murderer is suspected of (or is documented with) mental problems, my job as a health advocate who tries to educate the public about the complexity of mood disorders gets much, much harder. Why? Because the connection of depression and/or suicidal thoughts is once again made with violence. So all the progress that we, as a society, have made in trying to understand an invisible illness is lost. Once again, the ten percent of Americans who take antidepressants become dangerous.
The wall gets higher.
Between those who can handle their emotions.
And the “cray-crays” who may go postal at any moment.
Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot responsible for the Germanwings crash who had received treatments for suicidal tendencies before getting his pilot license, is merely the most recent poster boy for depression and all disorders that fall under the umbrella of the term “mental illness.” Two years ago 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before turning the gun on himself. Media reports linked the massacre to his autism. Remember the blog “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” by Liza Long, the mother of an autistic child, trying to clarify what autism isn’t?
And then there was 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, and then committed suicide. The records only showed two telephone conversations and one in-person visit between Cho and mental health professionals at the Cook Counseling Center, the university’s student mental health services provider. But Cho had been admitted overnight to the hospital after his roommate became concerned when Cho threatened to take his own life.
I remember that one so well because I had just been hospitalized myself for severe, suicidal depression.
It seemed like when I needed support the most, people were scared to get near me, let alone help me get better.
Did they think I was like Cho?
The news headlines show only one kind of depressive… the dangerous lunatic.