Mental Illness – It’s Nothing Personal

In the last two weeks there have been numerous reports out of China about people running amok and killing innocent children and adults with knives and hammers, usually in schools or kindegartens. Tragic and very sad for all involved. The problem seems to stem from the growing number of people suffering mental health disorders, possibly as a result of the increased pace of life in China today and the removal of many of the support systems that were in place under strict Communist rule.

A free market economy can mean prosperity for many, but it also means there are those who fall through the cracks, those who don’t get to make it into the ‘middle classes’ and of course a shift to a more ‘user-pays’ society. In the old days you didn’t lose your job, you had a job for life even if the Party told you what it would be. Becoming unemployed can be devastating and it is the same for Chinese people as it is for anyone else.

There are currently hundreds of millions of people in China who are unemployed and an estimated 173 million mental health disorder sufferers in the world’s most populous nation. The sheer scale of this is staggering, but so too the number of tragic incidents in just a few days that have claimed so many lives.  Read this article for more information.

What can we learn from this? First of all we need to be aware of the prevalence of mental health disorders in our own communities. Many of the anti-social acts are caused by people suffering mental illnesses. Some might be undiagnosed and many will be currently untreated. The trend today is to self medication and that is fine when the person self medicates. But how can you trust someone suffering a mental illness to remember to medicate as required? If they forget (and we all forget to take our medicine now and then) they start to think and behave less rationally and sooner or later they are no longer their real selves but suffering the effects of their illness and the spiral continues.

We need to protect ourselves from the actions of the mentally ill but we also need to understand it is not personal, they are suffering an illness and we need to be compassionate and tolerant while at the same time making sure they and us are safe. Not an easy task.

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