Violence and Mental Illness

Featured

As many of you know, we have mental illness in our family lineage. The details don’t matter in this case, I think. But it is important for people who know nothing about it to know that mental illness can be in any family and violence is not directly correlated with it. Despair and lack of hope, maybe. Many things come together, mental health being just one of them, to create a situation where a person does a violent act.

My brother in law was a mostly gentle person in my experience. Of course I wasn’t married to him and my sister is gone, but from our lived experiences I believe she would agree. Verbal abuse is something that did occur which was painful to be a child in their household. But my sister struggled with verbal anger too, a legacy from my father.

We were verbally abused most of our lives into adulthood up until his death.

When we asked Holly if she was comfortable with Paul having a gun in their home, she said she was because he kept it in a safe. I am sure she was thinking a child wouldn’t stumble on it, don’t we all think that about guns at home? Keep them away from the kids. She was offered a restraining order during the divorce which she declined. She did not believe he was violent in that way.

But he murdered her. He took his gun, did some target practice (we didn’t know this until afterward from the police), tricked his way into Holly’s home, laid in wait upstairs and then killed her.

I have many sleepless nights thinking about that. Of course, we could have said something. We just listened, when more than a year before her murder when she told us about the gun. Paul was not a violent person. It was shocking to us that he thought he needed a gun in a suburban neighborhood of Seattle. But we just listened. At that point I didn’t know my brother in law very well. He was depressed for many years through out their seventeen years of marriage. A few times I tried to help.

“There’s no shame in seeking help. Antidepressants do change you. They don’t feel good. I am struggling with that myself, for much of my adult life. I don’t like how they make me unable to feel much. But they also help me out of the passive suicidality of major depression.”

Our situation is unique. But aren’t they all and I suppose that’s my point. The people that are out there killing, who have mental illness of some sort in their history, are unique humans. Their upbringing, their financial situation, their lack of healthy relationships, their solitude, their access to mental health support, joblessness, access to medicine, therapy, doctors all create a moment of time where anything is possible. And being poor, to get help almost impossible to resolve.

It is more difficult to get mental health support in this country than to buy a gun.

Psychology Today

Mental health support needs to be continuous, it is very dependant on the person’s access to help as well as all the things I listed above.

For many years we fought the system to get our daughter help and when we in our most despondent, when all we could think of was to take her to the ER, we were told she has to be a direct threat to herself (actively suicidal) or to others. Do you know how hard that is to prove? Much less wanting to declare that about your loved one.

Mental health and violence to yourself or others is an impenetrable labyrinth.

Strongest in the Broken Places: A Tale of Domestic Abuse

Watching this video I was a child again.

It validated experiences I had growing up.  It made me sad.  I grieve watching it for beyond my own experiences, as I know three women who are living right now in this sort of marriage.

  • One is married to an elder in my church.  (Actually, he was an elder at the time that she talked to me.  We were in a Bible study together.)  He had anger and control issues, perpetrated in the name of “biblical submission.”
  • Another friend stays in an habitually abusive marriage out of love and commitment to her husband saying “Would you leave your husband if he had cancer?  Then how could you leave if he has a mental illness?”  I’m not saying that she should leave her marriage, but I grieve that she is so alone!   And I am ill equipped to help, though I listen.
  • Another friend asks for prayer for friends whose marriage that is in trouble saying he “may be abusive” but likely she “may be making it all up.”

You never know when someone is a perpetrator of rage and control.  I can tell you with assurance that is the most unlikely person.

I grew up in a home where my father was in ministry and was a generous, gracious loving God-fearing man.  To this day when I write openly about my experiences growing up (here and here and here  and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and I only stop because the list is endless.  He’s one of the reasons I started my blog.)

Here is the best example of what it felt like growing up.

To this day I have people who say to me “I knew your father…” implying that somehow perhaps I didn’t, though I lived in his home for nearly two decades and worked for him for many years.   They imply by their statement that my experience and my mother’s and my sister’s didn’t happen.  The man in this video could have been my father — except Dad had a lot more personality!

The video below is one of the best that I have ever seen that talked about raging in a home as a domestic violence.  It made me feel “less alone” when it comes to domestic violence which is not always physical!  It was not physical in my home, except one time when my parents were first married my father put my mother’s head through a wall.  This was before I was born, but he put it in his book and that is how I heard about it.  Even though he wrote about his anger he was unable to change.  And it became the Achilles heal for him over and over again, hurting people around him.  It was a significant factor in my spiritual life and my perceptions of God.

It is real and destructive and is painful for me to this day.  I so wish that my father could have found this kind of help and felt it was safe to “come out” the way the brave heroes in this video have.  I so wish the church was better equipped to help women who do suffer in this way and could create a context where it is safe to speak out.  And I wish the church helped men who know they have a problem but don’t know how to get help.

“Statistics show that victims of domestic violence most often go to churches for help. Unfortunately, churches are often ill-equipped and not helpful. This clip tells the story of one couple’s search for help and also offers some advice for creating an environment conducive for recovery.”

Please watch.  If the video doesn’t work you will have to follow the link prior.

This is a hard post for me to write.  By even talking about this others could be at risk and yet that is the great irony.