Unlearning our anger

English: Angry woman.
English: Angry woman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe.  I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
(from William Blake, “A Poison Tree”)

 I have known people who rise each morning to nourish their anger in resolve never to forget or forgive wrongs done to themselves.

Anger makes them feel alive, that they have significance and sovereignty over their lives.  The truth is that their anger masquerades their inability to set things right again.

The sources of anger are sometimes surprising.  Often we take up arms against family members, friends, and former loves.  As such, anger is many times symptomatic of love’s betrayal in the hands of those we’ve esteemed most through hurtful words, favoritism, or simply their not taking us seriously.

Anger may lead to sabotaging ourselves in acquiring a doomed dependency on others in the very likeness of ghosts that wronged us long ago, often in a childhood deficient in love.

The chronically angry are easily spotted in the sheer volume of their impassioned complaints against lovers and friends, the workplace, and government, surrogates for targets embedded in the past.

Hate stokes the past, unlike love which invests in the future.  Oddly, time may dull our memory of just what the hurt was or who did it, and yet we know we still feel the heat of rage.

To heal ourselves we may seek out love, only to reject it when it appears, fearful of its possibility for new hurt, or our becoming dependent on it, or its ultimate loss.

Anger can assume many shapes, among them a masochism of self-loathing; or a censuring of others; or a passive aggressiveness that denies one’s anger.

Anger has a way of becoming habit, or addiction to bookkeeping life’s liabilities; a kind of cowardice in a reluctance to confront one’s grievances, attempt their solution and, if unsuccessful, assume loss and invest one’s assets in the future.  As such, it’s self-defeating.  The late Merle Shain put it eloquently in her Hearts That We Broke Long Ago:

As long as you blame someone it makes the problem not yours but theirs, and allows you to keep it without taking responsibility for anything but pointing the finger.  Which means you give them responsibility for your life and paralyze yourself in a place you don’t want to be.

The positive side of anger is that it can help us assert ourselves against injustice; but when it entices us into a snare from which we cannot free ourselves, when we live our lives in the narrow confines of resentment, then it makes a wrong turn.  Quagmired in the past, we are unable to step into the future with its promise of new beginning


Meditation Goes Mainstream: Western Medicine says Yes


It’s just me in the sunroom before breakfast, sprawled out on my yoga mat, doing meditation for 15 or 20 minutes.  A series of deep breaths and letting my limbs go slack, a visualizing of a good moment.  The hard part is getting the habit, but having a time and place helps a lot..

The best motivator, however, is how relaxed it makes me feel, and coming from, me, I don’t say that lightly.  As a child raised in an alcohol ravaged home, security wasn’t a given and each day meant finding my place under the sun.  I used to think I was simply a chronic worrier and worried even about that.  Children of alcoholics often try to control their environment to maintain stability.  They find it difficult to tolerate loss or uncertainty.  They like their parameters tightly drawn.

You can take benzies like Valium or Xanax for anxiety and while they’ll work in the short run, they treat symptoms only and, worse, are often addictive.  As for anti-depressants, they may work for some, but then how intact do they leave the user?  I prefer taking a different route, sovereign over my psyche rather than pharmaceutically lobotomized.  I suspect they’re overly prescribed anyway.  And then there are the side-effects that sometimes make matters worse.

Anxiety is triggered by our perceiving danger.  This needn’t be limited to a threat to our safety, but losing our financial way through job loss, investments turned bad, the sudden onset of illness.  Sometimes it’s the loss of a friend or loved one that pulls the trigger.  The common denominator, no matter the source, rests within the mind, or the way we think about things.  Nothing can threaten us unless we give it permission.  We are what we think about.  Anxiety is future saturated, or our thinking fearfully about what may happen to us; depression is present tense.  We think the worst has already happened.

Meditation quiets our panic, producing a mindfulness that can sort out, clarify and more cogently respond to what troubles us.  When we’re stressed fear takes ascendancy, preempting alternative, positive ways of responding to crisis.

Meditation has now increasingly become a part of the medicinal arsenal that had traditionally been limited to pharmaceuticals and surgery in Western medicine.  We know that meditation has restorative benefits for the body when we incorporate the mind into our notion of the corporeal.   In fact, we can measure its physiological results in lowered metabolism, heart and breathing rates and replicate those results.  For a fascinating exploration and summary of the empirical data, pick-up The Relaxation Response by renowned Harvard cardiologist, Herbert Benson.

I happen to be a subscriber to Mind, Mood & Memory, a newsletter put out by one of the world’s internationally acclaimed medical facilities, Massachusetts General Hospital.  In its most recent issue (September 2013), Ann Webster, PhD., Director of MGH’s Program for Successful Aging at Benson-Henry Institute, informs us that “among these strategies for successful aging, perhaps the most effective is engaging in practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or repetitive prayer that help elicit the relaxation response.  Regular experience of the RR helps counteract stress and other factors linked with higher risk for illness and aging, and causes enormously positive physical, emotional, and cognitive changes.”

This doesn’t mean a trained counselor becomes superfluous.  A good psychologist can target needs and offer ameliorative insights to enhance reduction of stress and promote physical and mental health.  The best medicine is always integrative.

And what do I feel like when I open my eyes and put my mat away?  Hard to put into words, but something similar to the snowflake calm that descends when I play Enya and  find my bullying ghosts have fled..


Mindfulness and the recovery of compassion, empathy and joy

Nearly always I come upon new reads, not through lists but, unexpectedly, in the marketplace of life.  I like it this way–the surprise of it, the joy of discovery, the smack of fate rather than coincidence, like the chance finding of a new friend or bumping into wise counsel, unanticipated, in a corner; its aftermath of empowering, the mystery and the beauty of it.

It happened for me this way yesterday when I came upon Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s Mindfulness:  An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.  Intuiting a must read, I immediately downloaded the kindle version, which also features several sound tracks for the exercises.

I’ve been suffering lately from a good deal of anxiety, largely because of health issues.  I’m not used to things being this way and my need to control makes matters worse.  The trick in life is learning how to cope with issues you can’t always resolve.  While I know the script in my head, it’s quite another thing to carry out.

I like this new way of finding yourself and the freedom it brings, not in resolving, but in coping.  Mindfulness actually isn’t new, but a bedrock of Buddhism.  What changes the scorecard for me, however, is the empirical yield of sophisticated brain-scanning methodologies affirming its effectiveness.  What’s more, it can alter brain patterns long term for the better.  Studies show it substantially reduces depression and its frequent return,  improves blood pressure, lessens chronic pain, and boosts the immune system.  In daily life, it promotes empathy, compassion and joy.

I’ve always had great respect for the potential of meditation to promote both physical and emotional wellness.  My mind, however, works like a metropolitan airport, the runways always full.  Mindfulness meditation may thus work better for me, as instead of eliminating your thoughts, you passively observe them in conjunction with focusing on breathing.  You learn that you are not your thoughts and that thoughts can come and go like black clouds in the sky.  This gives you power to catch wrong thinking or patterns before they impact, and it lends space to help you heal.

Mindfulness is all about bringing us to our senses, and by this, I mean the sensory repertoire of touch, taste, sight, smell and sound.  We take ourselves too seriously and in doing so lose direct contact with the cornucopia of life’s potential blessedness all around us when we subjugate the sensory to the taunt reins of the cerebral.

As Williams and Penman point out, we spend our lives “on automatic pilot,” creatures of habit, oblivious to the priorities that really matter.  Mindfulness takes us out of ourselves, giving us power to discern and thus choose.

I began the eight week course yesterday with the “raisin” exercise, a simple endeavor lasting several minutes that helps rekindle the sensory, noting things like weight, texture, taste, smell and tongue movement.  Once again, I rediscovered Flaubert’s maxim that  “anything looked at long enough becomes interesting.”

I hope this exercise is a harbinger of future benefits as it delivered me from my self-concern, channeling my focus on the here and now.  I thought of other raisins to be savored:  a hooting owl in dawn’s pink-fingered rays, a mountain brook bubbling its way, a child’s innocent giggle, the sweet smell of morning cinnamon toast, the spring rose’s first blush.

I thought of Helen Keller’s eloquent wisdom:

“I who am blind can give one hint to those who see: Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind.  Hear the music of voices, the song of a bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow. Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail. Smell the perfume of flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again. make the most of every sense.”

Selah!  I am at peace.


What if: Reducing chronic worry

We worry about a great many things:  How will my interview go? What will people think of me?  Will I pass the test?  How will I pay this bill?  Will I get the loan?  Do I have cancer?  When worry becomes chronic, it can be debilitating, souring our relationships, triggering illness, and fostering pessimism.

Worrying is always an exercise in control.  It prospers because it temporally gives us a fix, falsely giving us a sense we’re in charge, only to reach an inevitably higher threshold to keep our anxieties in check.

One lasting memory I have of my father was his spending long hours in his favorite chair looking out the window, deep in thought, most of it worry.  In doing so he lost a great deal of life’s joy.  It’s what worry does in overdrive. If he had been paid for every worry he’d have been very rich.

Worry is a bully you need to standup to, not indulge, to make it go away.

It’s also a habit and in this case, needs undoing, and like all bad habits, can be unlearned.

The good news is that its remedy may be less difficult than you may have expected, or a matter of getting a handle on it by changing the way you think about life’s inevitable stresses.

The vast majority of our worries fall into three categories, each with its own remedy:

1.    The unimportant:  So much of what we worry about turns out to be trivial if you apply the test of time.  You’re having trouble with a neighbor. That can be unpleasant. Or what about the deadline for getting that assignment done at work?  Or that you may not get that job or promotion you had your heart set on?  Or that Nancy or Bill may not return your affection?  For perspective, ask yourself what would something like this matter a hundred years from now?  

 2.   The unsolvable:   Common sense should tell us the futility of worrying about fixed verities like death and taxes that can’t be changed no matter how we try.  I know such things can be scary, but we lessen our anxiety when we accept life’s randomness and adopt coping strategies to keep ourselves reasonably safe, and pile-up while we can, the nows of life around us as in fostering good relationships, doing what we enjoy, and thinking positively.

3.   The uncertain:  This category may include what we worry about most.  Will I still have a job?  How can I pay my bills?  Is it cancer?  If we could predict the future, we’d invest wisely and profit immensely in the best stocks, bonds and real estate. But even here, the experts at this sort of thing often predict wrongly and fail miserably. The consolation is that most of the uncertainties we worry about never happen or that we”ve simply squeezed out alternative possibilities with one scenario conclusions, making ourselves miserable.  As Montaigne in his inveterate wisdom once put it, “My life has been full of miserable misfortunes, most of which never happened.”  The trick is to accept uncertainty by not reaching conclusions you’ve no way of knowing are inevitable. It’s always a good thing to question your assumptions and consider alternative outcomes.

Summary:  Worry has a positive role when it alerts us to take action as a preventative. It’s why we save for retirement, buy life and health insurance, limit our indebtedness, change our diet, etc.  It becomes a weight when we wake to it, carry it throughout the day, and take it to bed with us at night.  It can harm relationships and affect our physical and mental health.  Remembering the three primary worry types and putting their coping strategies into daily practice can help you retrieve the happiness you mislaid.

Be well,


The folly of being in control

Often life can unexpectedly catch us in a high wave and we lose our balance and may even go down.  Not liking this, we try to lasso life’s randomness through structure or control and spare ourselves surprise.  Though this may help some, it doesn’t always work and, oddly, may even work against us when control assumes our identity.

Some of us are more prone to controlling than others, having been forced out of our nest early to look after ourselves.  I think of children of alcoholics, for example, who must not only escape, but prevent betrayal reoccurring.

Control is a ritual to relieve mistrust and smooth out the winkles.  All of us resort to defense modes from time to time to cope with an often aggressive landscape of human ignominy and nature’s caprice. There exists, too, an existential dread in us, or sense of our impotency against life’s vagaries, resonating vulnerability and whispering our mortality.

But to live this way daily filters life’s joy and shrinks life to a prison cell.  While we need to be wary, we should drop the reins when control becomes its own end and we become its prisoner and it hurts more than it helps.  Control, at its extreme, masks a latent masochism or inverted narcissism that feeds upon its wounds.

We cannot know what each day brings, nor always preempt its events, but changing our thoughts can help ransom our freedom in a world where the surety remains that flowers do bloom and there are people worth loving who will love us.  Experience affirms that we find love only when we extend  our hand to grasp the extended warm fingers of those around us.

I can’t say just how we find the switch that turns on life, nor assure its recompense when we do; but I know that abundant living begins with a giving of ourselves, and not withdrawing and yields release from the confines of our fears.

In sum, we become our choices and when we commit we find life gives back.  William James, one of America’s foremost early psychologists, said it very well:  “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

How do we do that?  It begins with realizing the futility of our attempts to impose order on life, for life has a way of happening.  What matters is living in the Now, one day at a time, one step at a time, finding joy in each other, delight in the canopy of the stars, and the promise of every new day.


Anxiety is not a mental illness: reflections on psychiatry’s abuse

300px-Cover_of_Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_DisordersWell, that’s finally settled!  After months of vociferous debate the American Psychiatric Association has given its blessing to a revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5th edition), often called the Bible of psychiatric diagnosis.   A vital tool, it facilitates psychiatrists being on the same page.

Unfortunately, the DSM has often been fraught with opinion-based labeling, at times approaching the trendy and political, rather than drawing from established empirical data.  Casting a wide net, it can conceivably draw in most of us.  The inherent danger of psychiatry has always been its penchant for finding motive and making faulty inferences.  It loves labeling.

I’m reminded of a humorous rendition of this syndrome.  Two psychiatrists are talking to each other when a third party passes through the room and says, “Good morning!”  One of the psychiatrists then looks at the other and exclaims, “I wonder what he meant by that.”

Among some of the controversial changes in the revised DSM are the relegating of Asperger’s Syndrome to the expansive canopy of “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD). (No more Asperger Syndrome label.)

It also includes grief as a  clinical disorder, or variant of depression.   Many of us will find this a tough sell.

Better not be into loading-up on newspaper clippings, old photos (baseball cards?).  Hoarding, whatever that is, can get you into the psychiatric liturgy.

Ironically, sexual addiction gets left out.  Go figure!

Labeling is dangerous for its dead-end, stigmatizing write-offs.  An educator, I’m aware of the short-circuiting of a student’s potential when an impatient, frustrated teacher simply writes him or her off as essentially unable to learn.

Psychiatry needs to get at causes, not symptoms, often social (e.g., poverty, prejudice, abuse, etc.), and rely less on medication to address supposedly faulty neurotransmitters.  Increasingly, research has shown that much of the reported success of SSRIs and the like is mere placebo effect.

Lowering the threshold for DSM inclusion becomes reminiscent of the Pharisees with their penchant for jot and tittle inclusion or the sometimes purist application of Sharia law.

Next time you worry about something be careful not to share it with anyone, at least with a psychologist or psychiatrist.  Though anxiety per se is a fact of daily life and hardly rates as mental illness, count on it to land you a high rung in the DSM.


Finding joy

gigglingWhile joy is fundamental to our living life well, many of us can’t fully enter into it, given the stress of daily living.  It’s just plain hard to have joy when you’re out of work, ill, or facing problems in a relationship.  Each of us has his own stresses.  Often, however, perspective is everything, especially when you consider what others around you suffer.  I was reminded the other day of this while watching a 60 Minutes segment featuring a paraplegic woman completely dependent on loved ones for her care.  She was grateful to be part of an experiment in being fitted with a mechanical arm embedded in her skull.  Clearly, she was a woman who had joy despite her circumstances.

It’s important for all of us to look up, not down; to be grateful for what we have and each new day; in short, to think good thoughts, or as Buddha put it long ago, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Below I’ve listed several ways of finding joy, and I know you can add your own:

Friends:  You don’t need a lot of them and consider yourself blessed if you have that one good person in your life who listens, counsels wisely, and finds time for you.  Friendship is a two-way street, but when it’s on, wow, what a difference to find you’re not alone.

Family:  Throughout the years I’ve been close to my siblings, keeping in-touch despite the miles through letters, phone calls and occasional visits.  Families can be sources of stress, too, but when they function well, they’re our refuge in a turbulent world.  My greatest joy is my wife and daughter, my allies day in, day out.

Simplicity:  Joy is independent of money.  What matters is abundant living, or investing in those aspects that enhance being rather than possession. It’s giving priority to your needs, not your wants.  A 1500 square foot house may be less than what others opt for, but if it suffices, then go for it.  Addiction often keeps company with materialism, fed by a need to be validated, and so what we have is never quite enough.

Volunteering:  Helping others puts you on the fast track to finding joy.  And there is so much need.  The ethicist philosopher Peter Singer contends that if all of us gave just 5 % of our income to helping the poor or wiping out disease and the like we’d create a much better world.  If we matched our donations with just 3 or 4 hours of our weekly time, we’d move the goal posts still nearer and more quickly.

Awareness:  The French writer, Gustave Flaubert, made a comment I’ve never forgotten:  “Anything observed closely enough becomes interesting.”  Now you can have fun with this idea. Take out a sheet of paper, for example, and brainstorm all the delights you can come up with in association with little children. In addition to their innocent honesty, inquisitiveness, and trust, I think with fondness of their giggling, say when watching a puppet show.   Cultivate awareness.  Keep a journal.  Record your joy at seeing a pink tapestry sunset, first daffodils in bloom, the symphony of an early summer morning chorus of cardinals.  Look closely and in every nook.  Joy can be found in surprising ways, if were ready for it.

Focusing on the present:  Some folks find it difficult to free themselves from their past.  This, of course, helps psychologists feed their families.  We need to bury our dead–our resentments and regrets, follies and failures.  Some reach for the future to relieve themselves from the weight of the present. The truth is that the present writes our future.  We should live each day as though it were our last, thinking positively and doing well.  A day well spent is a day that gives joy.  Each day is an act of grace, an opportunity to begin again.

Reality thinking:  You’re unlikely to see this item among sources for joy, but I include it here as fundamental to all human happiness as joy can prove to be a double-edged sword.  Life is replete with loss, whether of our children moving far away, the loss of our mate, or of friends across the years. The price of joy is that it derives from what we ultimately forfeit, for sorrow slumbers in the same bed.  Knowing this should heighten our joy in what tomorrow may take away.


Spare me your heart: the plight of the mentally ill

300px-Cover_of_Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_DisordersIn the aftermath of the Newtown shootings, a shocked nation seems finally to be taking a hard look at mental illness, although for the wrong reasons.  Gun control, with 250 to 300 million guns out there, owned by 60 million across the United States, would be a hard nut to crack even if legislation, unlikely, were to become law and remains the salient issue.  Unfortunately, indicting the mentally distressed is subterfuge for not dealing with the primary source of our national mayhem.

While I agree with those voices calling for attention to our mental illness epidemic,  I think it’s kindled by media sensationalism that would indict millions who suffer grievously as it is.  I must point out that only 4% of our annual murders are committed by someone mentally ill (Richard Friedman, NYT, December 17, 2012).  These vociferous voices simply add to the stigmatizing  of the mentally ill.  On the other hand, guns are very much the public health issue, if we define health as well-being.   In the wrong hands, they foster tragedy, and most of these guns are found in American homes as happened with the Lanzas.

I want to outline here, however, just how serious mental illness is as a pervasive and growing presence and the compassion it should elicit from us rather than lynch mob condemnation.   At the conclusion, I’ll offer some final commentary.

What is mental illness?  When we talk of someone being mentally ill we’re not necessarily dealing with hard core psychotics such as schizophrenics.  Mental illness affects  how one feels, thinks, and ultimately behaves.   While all of us occasionally experience ups and downs,  those suffering from a “mental disorder” are simply overwhelmed and unable to cope.  They may suffer, for example, from acute depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts,  and addictions that simply won’t go away.  This frequently results in problems at work and at home and needs prompt, professional intervention.

What are its causes? Possible causes may include

Heredity: Genetics may be suspected when mental illness affects several family members within or across generations.  Certain stress situations may trigger it.

Trauma: an experience such as a death of  a loved one or break-up in a relationship, being a crime victim,  group rejection, war violence, declining health, a financial loss and a problematic childhood leading to low self-esteem and distorted thinking can be tipping points.

Chemical imbalance: Changes in brain chemistry affecting neurotransmitters and/or hormonal abnormalities may affect mood.

How common is it?  Mental illness is pervasive world-wide.  The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an incidence rate of  33% . In the United States, the figure approaches 46%.  It affects all social-economic sectors.

Key symptoms:                                                                                                                            

Inability to focus
Constant sadness
Excessive worrying
Difficulty managing anger and hostility
Detachment from reality: hallucination, delusional thinking, Paranoia
Obsessive-Compulsive rituals
Sudden mood fluctuations
Excessive anxiety
Suicide thoughts
Feelings of abandonment
Eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, etc.
Substance abuse (frequently addiction is associated with mental illness).

How is it treated? Treatment includes counseling, often accompanied with medication; brain stimulation such as electroconvulsive therapy for those not responding to traditional methods; treatment in a residential community (hospital).

Prognosis:  Outcomes can be positive for milder forms of mental illness, provided the individual adheres to treatment protocol, has a network of support, and makes lifestyle changes such as reducing stress,  exercising,  making friends, finding interests, and developing a positive outlook.  There are many others, however, who can only be managed, not cured.

Cost impact: The costs of mental illness are staggering, both direct and indirect costs.  Direct costs include therapy, hospitalization and medication.  Presently, these outlays consume nearly 20% of medical expenditures annually.  Indirect costs, more difficult to measure, outweigh direct costs by a hefty margin in lost income (an estimated $192 billion in 2008), educational attainment, disability payments, homelessness (one third of our homeless population is deemed mentally ill), social violence, litigation and incarceration (22% of prison inmates have been diagnosed as mentally ill).  (Thomas Insel, “Assessing the Economic Costs of Mental Illness,” Journal of American Psychiatry, June 2008).

And then there are the suicides, those thousands who have simply surrendered to their depression.  (Suicide numbers, by the way, have been increasing, not helped by the economic recession, and currently are the 10th leading cause of death annually.

Final Reflections:  The mentally ill, unfortunately, are frequently stigmatized as “maniacs,” “loonies,” “crazies,” “weirdoes,” “zombies,” etc.  I think we know the litany.  It’s so bad that a large number of the mentally distressed are afraid to get help.  Psychiatry itself hasn’t helped the situation.  Many psychiatrists in private practice turn down Medicare patients in favor of more lucrative insurance payouts, or cater to a more affluent clientele.  They eschew paper trails and generally require  cash payment in full for each session, though they may allow you the convenience of your credit card, but don’t bet on it.  Like all professionals, they differ in quality or competence.

Psychiatry itself, since the 90s, has primarily surrendered therapy to the psychologists and social workers, opting for chemical treatment instead and, for this, a client can expect a usual allotment of 15 minutes to periodically check on the SSRI effectiveness at $100 plus.  The truth is that much of this medication may be dubious, as new research continues to confirm that those given a placebo do virtually as well.

Health insurance, meanwhile, more often than not, discriminates against those with a “history,” that may simply be a prescription for anxiety or depression.  Formularies have a way of being akin to finger prints in tracking down the mentally distressed, even if now recovered, under the guise of pre-existent illness.  While the Health Reform Act when fully implemented in 2014 prohibits using pre-existent illness as a pretext for rejecting an applicant, it does not prohibit insurance companies from setting higher rates, which is like trusting the fox to take care of the chickens.

The one tool that has helped a good many to cope is cognitive therapy, sometimes called Rational Emotive Therapy) in which patients are taught how to think past painful emotions by substituting positive thought alternatives. We need more of it—a whole lot more.

One of the dismaying aspects of the mental illness syndrome is how neglected it has been, from the homeless right down to the incarcerated.  While you can find a plethora of resources for the mentally challenged, not so for those suffering mental distress and we, as well as they, suffer the consequences.

All of this should not be!  Consider that every year nearly 60 million Americans wrestle with mental illness.  It knows no social/economic boundary.  It could be your neighbor, your fellow worker, your spouse, your child.  It could someday be you.

Returning to Richard Friedman in his NYT article, he hits the nail on the head in summarizing the wolves howling to get at the mentally ill when he writes, “All the focus on the small number of people with mental illness who are violent serves to make us feel safer by displacing and limiting the threat of violence to a small, defined group.  But the sad and frightening truth is that the vast majority of homicides are carried out by outwardly normal people in the grip of all too ordinary human aggression to whom we provide nearly unfettered access to deadly force.”

In the 1930s there was a landmark song that defined those tough times:  “Brother, can you spare a dime?”  There’s a new song in town:  Brother, sister, can you spare your heart?”


POSTSCRIPT: I came upon this just published article on the paucity of mental health resources since publishing this post two weeks ago. it reinforces what I’ve written in my post:
Families Face Mental Illness Barriers

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