Wed04162014

Opinion

Aaron Alexis was someone’s son

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In 1963, President Kennedy submitted a "Special Message to the Congress on Mental Illness and Mental Retardation" with a plan to call to action private foundations, individual citizens and government agencies on all levels to act responsibly in addressing the needs of this population...50 years later where are we.

Those suffering from mental illness may not be "prisoners" in the mental institutions or insane asylums, but they are prisoners in their own worlds...the stigma, lack of resources and difficulty navigating a complex health care system perpetuate the problems of yesterday.

When will we address the way we are raising our young black men? When will we take time to talk to our friends and neighbors? When will we stop being scared and get involved? When will we become the village it takes to raise a child? Can we stop saying when and start saying now.

Can we stop spending hours on Facebook and Twitter and start talking with our children, our neighbors and strangers who are "friends" we just haven't met yet? Can we stop burying ourselves in our work and start talking with our spouses and our coworkers? Can we start getting to know the people around us?

We challenge you to get involved. Get to know someone...really know someone. Many times we are complacent with the people we know...we may politely ask if they are OK, but we really don't want to know the answer, and subconsciously give off the vibe that we really don't want to hear it.

If you really want to do something, stand up and be present. Don't let this life pass you by — be present in your life and in the life of someone else who you care about. Show them you care by asking — really asking. Get involved.

You may need to just take a break and disconnect from this new technologically advanced social media thing that is leaving people emotionally disconnected from others and get involved. If you really care, you will take the time and effort to truly get know someone. People know if you really care or if you are just being polite.

Who knows? If someone would have really taken the time to get to know Aaron Alexis or countless others, who knows what lives might have been spared.

Today is the day that we must make a difference. We must raise our collective voices—if you see something, say something – do something. Edmund Burke tells us, "All that is required for the triumph of evil (or pain) is that good men remain silent and do nothing." Every single day, most of us walk past one another without a nod, a word, or a smile that says "you matter." There are way too many who don't even know how to smile or genuinely return one — because society has made them feel, in every way, they do not matter.

If you don't know where to start, be inspired by one promising moment a few months ago. Antoinette Tuff, an Atlanta school staff member, with love, humanity and God in her spirit, calmed and talked to a young man whom she described as a "hurting soul" who was planning to "shoot up" the school. She took the time and made the difference, and in this instance, countless lives were saved.

"We must do the very thing we think we cannot do."

Dare to make a difference!

(Terrie Williams is author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We are Not Hurting and Dawn M. Porter is a MD Board Certified Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist)

Source: The Grio

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