May is Mental Illness Awareness month! I am glad that mental illness is being more openly talked about because to get help and eradicate stigma we have to be more open and be more in the spotlight to further awareness of all that we go through.
And while we are talking about ways to be more aware of things like mental illness, I wanted to touch on a topic today that isn't directly about mental illness but often times has a negative affect on those of us that suffer. I read comments on news stories often. I play video games occasionally. I am on the internet almost everyday and I have noticed a trend that highly disturbs me.
Apathy is rampant. In this country and in this world, there is a great amount of apathy and that bothers me. It has gotten so bad that I felt the need to sit my twelve year old son down and have a discussion about apathy, not because he is insensitive but because in a world where so many people are I want him to be able to see it for what it is. I want him to be able to pick it out so that he never becomes apathetic to someone else's suffering. Because pain is pain and no one is immune to hardships. Something that I think is paramount to keeping all of us connected and to remind us all that we are all human.
I can not tell you how many times I have read comments about how mentally ill people should all be rounded up and put somewhere like an asylum. I have read comments calling for the sterilization of all mentally ill people. I have read indifferent posts about how mental illness affects it's sufferers but also their loved ones. And my son needs to understand that when people negatively talk about mentally ill people they are talking about me and my mother and my grandmother.
I can not count how many times I have read stories about drug addicts overdosing and read comments that say it is a good thing or that the person deserves it. I have even read a few where people have said they don't feel anything about it at all. And that bothers me because all loss of human life due to drugs and or violence is a tragedy.
It is a shame to me that I have to have this conversation with my child so that he doesn't do what many children have done and just slowly accepted the apathy of the world towards other people and their plights. Not because they mean to or are inherently bad people but because they simply know no better. Whether it be because of race, religion, age, social status, mental stability, life ideals, sexual orientation, or upbringing we are all subject to comments and opinions by those suffering from a bad case of apathy. There is a lack of responsibility for what people say because those that are apathetic hide behind the excuse that it is only the internet and the internet is where such things are acceptable. And that is a bullshit excuse in my opinion.
We live in a world where just stating an opinion or playing a video game can get you bullied or threatened. And often times, it is ignored by those that hear or read it because they feel vindicated that it only being on the internet makes it okay to do so and to not stand up for that person being victimized. In a world full of keyboard warriors, people have become apathetic to the things that are said and that is wrong.
So, as I sat there talking to my child about apathy and bullying I had to find a way to explain that bullying on the internet and those that turn a blind eye to it, are just as guilty as people who would bully you at school or at work. It is the same pain felt as it would be being attacked in person. Because words are words there is absolutely no difference between hearing them and reading them. They have the same affect to the person they are wielded at and we as humans need to recognize that.
I find that people are more prone to being rude and mean online because they sit behind a computer screen and do not have to face the person they are hurting. So, it feels acceptable to them to do harm to others and live behind an excuse that is really no excuse at all.
And to make my point clear that apathetic people often times do not even realize that what they are doing is wrong at first, I used an example.
The horrors of the Nazis did not start over night. If it had, people would have never accepted what was happening to their neighbors and their friends. It started with ostracizing and little yellow stars sewn into innocent people's jackets. Making them stick out and become something to be seen as different. Then it was the removing of their personal property and destruction of said property and propaganda claiming such things were acceptable. And then it was moving them to the ghettos where many saw them starve and die and yet many felt nothing because they were led to believe such atrocities were not only acceptable but the way things should be. And then it became the mass murder of those innocent people whose only crime was that they had been judged to be different....and yet still many were indifferent to their plight.
All of this was allowed due to apathy. Because indifference causes excuses and lack of responsibility. Apathy propagates misinformation and ignorance. And when no one takes responsibility and no one refuses to be indifferent to other people's pain, it is the same as condoning those actions and that is wrong. Apathy is deadly and it must be seen for what it is and never accepted as the social norm. Even on the internet. Because apathy is apathy and it makes no difference what device spreads it or what source it is written on.
And in truth, we will never truly eradicate ignorance and stigma of any issue as long as apathy is accepted.
It makes me sad to have to have this discussion with my child because in a perfect world he would see these things as being bad and hurtful and yet in this world he sees it everyday. So much so, that people become oblivious of it and blind to it. And I do not want him to ever be blind to someone else's suffering. Because one person's suffering should affect us all and should make us all strive to be better people.
"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity" - George Bernard Shaw
To be human is to feel. To be inhuman is to turn away and do nothing. The real question is which one are you willing to be?