Trigger warning: past domestic abuse, child abuse, disturbing mental health issues, mass shootings. Also, long ass post.
Like many people with mental illnesses, I am upset by the rhetoric surrounding mass shootings. So many politicians and pundits place blame on the mentally ill rather than easy access to firearms or (the big issue as far as I’m concerned) radicalization of young white men. Those with mental illnesses are far more likely to harm themselves rather than others. I know that if my bipolar disorder were untreated I would not turn to violence but to self-harm.
But I’m faced with a problem, a stumbling block in my core values, because I have a severely mentally ill family member who is violent. My step brother recently cut a line to my step mother’s engine and her car overheated so much that the mechanics had to wait overnight for it to cool off enough to diagnose the problem. He could easily have killed her - screwing around with a car is a big deal. And she has no proof, nothing actionable, even though it was clearly him.
He has attacked her in the past. Bro was sexually abused consistently as a child and step mom had no idea until she walked in on the abuse and called the police, but bro blames her. Another difficulty is that step mom was physically and emotionally abused by her first husband, and bro witnessed a lot of it. He now uses his father’s tactics against her.
Bro has become obsessed, despite being Jewish himself, with “blood purity.” He plans on adopting a German name. His grandmother was smuggled out of Germany in a suitcase and yet he identifies with the Nazis. He has absolutely been radicalized by stuff online, but I don’t know if that would have happened if he were not severely mentally ill to begin with.
There is next to no mental healthcare where they live. He’d have to go two hours north to even be put on a 72 hour hold, and then they would release him. There are no group homes, halfway houses - even if step mom kicked him out of the house, he’d have no place to go, and he now as an adult has tenants rights. It’s an impossible situation, and step mom has almost resigned herself to being killed.
So what do we do? How do violence and mental illness intersect, and how do I consider these two truths - that most mentally ill people are not a danger to others, and that some people absolutely need to be watched? I don’t think anybody needs guns at all, but I acknowledge the current reality, and that people like bro should be kept far, far away from them. The safety of my family is paramount - but I don’t want to accept the rhetoric that mental illness is to blame for violence.
Aside from the ethical debate - I am terrified. Step mom takes care of my grandmother, and I worry that bro will go after her, too. Grandmother is 91 years old with a bad hip and low mobility; she would be helpless. And if step mom were gone, my grandmother would be nine hours south of where I live, and I would want to move south to care for her in a time of horrible tragedy. I think that step mom’s death would be the end of my grandmother’s life - she’s lost her husband and son, and her daughter in law’s murder would kill her.
This situation is impossible. So many things went wrong - child abuse, domestic abuse, the painful illness and death of my father, bro’s unwillingness to pursue treatment, no access to care, online abject evil. There are no laws to deal with these situations; there is no help. And I remain strong in my conviction that the mentally ill must not be held up as monsters. And I believe that something has to be done about these sick, cruel, twisted young men.
If you’ve gotten this far and have any advice, I’d be tremendously happy to hear it. I am at the end of my rope. Even if you just have a prayer or a kind thought I would appreciate it. I spend every day worrying about the people I love. Thanks for letting me share, GT.