Offering a moment of thanks for mental health workers

Offering a moment of thanks for mental health workers

Thank you, mental health workers. If it weren’t for you, we might be living with even more unimaginable tragedies.

For reasons most of us, fortunately, can only imagine at a distance, people are tormented by destructive urges. When these moments arise, hopefully, a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or someone in a position to recognize the signs can step in and offer support, while redirecting that person toward a course of action that’s safer for them and for society.

Much of the time, we don’t see the people who soothe the minds. When they do their job well, the sun rises in the morning, we send our children to school, we clap at the end of their concerts and we feed them their meals before sending them to bed for the night.

When I was in junior high school, I read books such as “Lord of the Flies” and “The Crucible,” which my teacher Mrs. Wickle suggested were an important way to look at the “dark side” of the heart.

At the time, I found the subjects depressing and unnecessary. Why, I thought, did I have to read about such violence or mass hysteria.

In the modern world, we are in the crosshairs of everything from overseas terrorists to storms and earthquakes and, yes, to people without an apparent ideology whose final act before they take their own lives is to commit mass murder.

We look at the faces of the victims and feel the loss of those we never met. They look like our friends and neighbors, and we know their smiles, once filled with potential, will never again light up a room.

At the same time, hundreds of people lined up for hours to do what they could — give blood — to help save those in immediate need.

Clearly, a few people in our midst have headed toward the dark side of their hearts and minds, allowing the demons that plague their lives to release the unthinkable and unimaginable.

Maybe, in addition to the discussion about gun control, we ought to appreciate the legion of mental health professionals who dedicate themselves to helping those battling against destructive urges, whose thoughts wander into the wilderness of despair.

The toll their work often takes on some of these mental health helpers is enormous, as other people’s nightmares leap from the minds of their patients into their own subconscious. The flow of information travels both ways, putting psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers at risk.

These mental health workers often talk to others in their field to help them get through the difficulties of their jobs.

They listen, they encourage, they become involved and, ultimately, they can and so often do set people on better courses in their lives, helping them feel better and live better.

By the time you read this, perhaps we’ll have an idea of what triggered the madness from this latest gunman, and maybe it will have less to do with off-the-rails thinking than with an ideology that encourages mass violence.

If it wasn’t lone-wolf insanity, but, rather, someone following instructions, we ought to find the ones who encouraged these senseless and brutal murders.

Either way, we ought to dedicate more resources to battling with the burden of a broken brain. If, somehow, a mental health professional can redirect someone who might otherwise commit incomprehensible violence, that person not only has saved a life but may have turned a would-be murderer into another conscientious citizen lining up for hours to give blood instead of planning to spill it.

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