Every person on this planet is affected in some way by mental health issues, either directly or indirectly. If someone does not have a personal history with mental health struggles, he/she is still affected by his/her community’s history with mental health.
One of my peers from Wesleyan University has recently written an article for The Atlantic about the unique and tragic history our university’s hometown has had with mental health. The incredibly well-written article by Lindsay Abrams is entitled Violence and Mental Illness in Middletown, Connecticut. It describes several tragedies that occurred both before and during our time in Middletown, and how the city has been affected since. It describes the city’s established relationship between mental health and violence, and how a community learned to relate mental illness and homelessness to danger and fear. It is especially interesting to me personally because both vignettes involve Connecticut Valley Hospital, the state’s largest inpatient psychiatric treatment facility, the institution I volunteered at for three years of my undergraduate career. Being on the other side of the equation, I associated the hospital with learning and treatment and growth, rather than an institution that represented hatred and fear for so many others for years.
I encourage everyone to read Lindsay’s article, and then challenge you to do a little research and explore your own community’s history with mental health. I am sure many of us would be surprised to find out how our lives and communities today are affected by the events and policies concerning mental health issues of the past. Let’s keep learning, and by understanding, moving forward.