Friday, May 6, 2005

Coming to Terms with Mental Health Issues

I was disgusted with the obsession of the media over Jennifer Wilbanks' disappearance. The MSM covered it to death, as they do pretty much with every non-story. The case of Jennifer Wilbanks deserved no more than a passing reference or mention. However, here it is from a different perspective that is relevant.

Ms. Wilbanks has been ridiculed for having "cold feet." She has been the recipient of hostility and anger for having the audacity to not be dead.

Many decent and caring people took the time and energy to devote themselves to helping in the search for Ms. Wilbanks when it was believed she was kidnapped or dead. Anyone who did so deserves commendation.

However, weren't we taught that you commit an act of generosity because you believe in the action; not so as to illicit a certain response or to have a particular event take place in such and such a way? People who took the time to help in the search for Ms. Wilbanks should look proudly in the mirror at themselves for doing good deeds. They should not be angry for being "deceived."

More importantly, though, the story of Jennifer Wilbanks plays to a character flaw in American society. She has a mental health issue to deal with. There is no denying this fact, and even she admits as much in this statement.

We talk a good game in this country when it comes to mental illness. We say it deserves equality of consideration to physical conditions, yet do we mean it? We do not, if we have anger, abuse or derision to give Ms. Wilbanks. She has a illness, needs treatment and is now getting it.

The time has come to honestly engage mental health issues. People who take medication for depression or anxiety should not have to feel shame for doing so. Seeing a therapist should not come with a scarlet letter stitched onto our chest. Someone running away on the eve of their wedding does not deserve attacks when undoubtedly suffering from a mental illness of some sort.

The story of Jennifer Wilbanks never merited the national attention that it received. That is done, and a topic for a whole different time. Since it is out there, though, I hope we can re-evaluate how we view mental health issues. It's time to evolve as a society and give this the care and understanding it deserve.

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