Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mass Shootings Tell Nothing About Great People with Mental Illness

For years I've written Guest Columns for the Doylestown-PA based Intelligencer. My new contact for the Intell told me it's okay to write a 600-word story in response to the Parkland School shootings. My article below was never published. Here it is.


We continue to be throttled by reports of school killings. They are not new. Massacres were perpetrated in Colonial America. Effective gun control, mandated by Congress, may not happen in our lifetime. The NRA (National Rifle Association) gives generous donations to many members of Congress. President Trump, with a flourish of his pen, could lead the effort, but it’s not on his agenda.   

We, at New Directions, the support group I founded for folks with depression, bipolar disorder and their loved ones, commend the brave high school students  who speak out on behalf of our government who turn deaf ears to this unending problem.  

And rallies are planned all over the country to advocate for gun control. “Never again” is their motto. 

Remember Gabby Giffords? This Arizona Congresswoman was holding a Q and A session in a parking lot near Tucson in 2011. A man in his mid-twenties attempted to kill her and began shooting into the crowd with a 9mm pistol with a 33-round magazine. He killed six and injured 13. He is currently serving a life sentence. 

Giffords, now 47, has had years of rehab. This is what an assassin’s bullet does to a vibrant, intelligent woman: she’s had a tracheotomy, a surgeon repaired a damaged eye socket, she had cranioplasty surgery to replace part of her skull that had been removed to permit her brain to swell after the gunshot to her head. 

She is a fighter and will continue to fight for gun control. View her website at, “The Courage to Fight Gun Violence.”    

It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to live with a mental illness. We, at New Directions, founded in 1986, advocate for medication and talk therapy. Still, we often feel like “guinea pigs,” as we don’t know which meds will work or not. 

Talk therapy changes neurons in the brain quicker than medication. 

Our talented people move forward.

They’ve performed onstage in a theater in Center City, led meetings at AA groups, won prestigious awards for photography and short stories. Some folks do their work even if they’re on kidney dialysis. The drug lithium may destroy the kidneys and careful monitoring is required. 

I am one of those people whose kidneys failed due to taking lithium. I found a match in my daughter Sarah Lynn, seven years ago. You only need one working kidney to survive. We joke that my kidney misses her. 

These are our brave heroes. 

Famous poets, such as Robert Lowell, often have mental illness. Our poets may not be famous but they sure are good!  Linda wins poetry awards from Montgomery County Community College. Donna writes heart-wrenching poetry that has been widely published.

Sadly, we do lose people to suicide, such is the terrible anguish of depression. As Donna wrote in one of her poems, “Climbed into your brain / chemical imbalance like mine / I feel your torture / I feel your panic / medications aren’t always the answer.”

If someone is suicidal, he or she must talk about it. Get the thoughts out. We set up a call team, phoning or visiting the person until the “suicidal urge” is gone.

Helen, as compassionate a person as you’ll find, runs our Daytime Meetings. 

“She’s better than any therapist,” her group says. She’s been through the illness many a time and always comes out with a smile.  

We fight mental illness every single day of the year. We’re ordinary people. 

Prejudice against us is so strong we dare not tell others lest we be harshly judged.  

Cheer us on! We’re just like you. Ordinary, but extraordinary. 

Ruth Z. Deming, MGPGP

Be sure to read the comments below, or post your own. 


  1. Your blog was so informative concerning the stigma that still exists in society.

    You need to be commended to the fullest, for all the work that you’ve done to help the mentally ill! That includes me, of course. The media portrays people who suffer with these maladies, as dangerous individuals and menaces to society. They infrequently mention the talents that they have displayed, in all facets, in our society. One can only wish that there were more people like you that take a stand in all these issues. Love, Donna

    Sparkles writes:

    Hi Ruth --

    I think your article needed more. More about how people who have mental illnesses and are being treated for them are normal, productive, members of society; while those who are untreated, can be dangerous. I think it needed more about background checks, etc. I am friends with a proponent of guns. He owns a gun shop and is a retired police officer. He always carries his weapon.

    He claims that I would not be allowed to get a gun because of a diagnosed mental illness. Is that fair, if it's under control? He said I could appeal the decision with psychiatric documentation.

    It is not about whether people with mental illness are great people or not, but more about the unpredictability of their behavior. Your article in my mind, was all over the place! Medicine, kidney transplants, support groups, suicide, etc. In my opinion it needed to be focused on gun control and mental illness.

    Not all mentally ill people who own guns go on shooting rampages! As a mother of a high school student, I do not believe that banning guns is the answer.

    How do you stop a bad person with a gun? Have a good person with a gun to shoot him!

    If guns like AKA 47s are banned, who's to say that they can't be gotten on the black market by nefarious people? And innocents, having no protection, will be slaughtered, left defenseless. I think we need armed guards in schools - the way we have them in banks protecting our money! And we must use metal detectors, in schools immediately!

    It is a complicated issue. Trust me, I'm all about giving peace a chance and all that Hippy love, unfortunately, I just no longer think it can realistically work in today's society. And that it is naive to think so.


  2. I totally agree with Sparkles. It is not a gun problem, it is a heart problem. Students need to stop walking out of class and instead befriend those that are being bullied. Show love and compassion to those that are different instead of ridiculing them. Hate breeds more hate. It takes love to heal the wounded souls. They have the power to change the hearts of those around them. Guns have nothing to do with this. People find all sorts of things to kill. If not guns, it could be bombs or knives, or fire. They need to address the bullying to stop the violence. Abuse often leads to mental illness. This is why so many of those bullied have mental health issues. Kindness and compassion are what can prevent future tragedies.

  3. Read your blog, great. Yes, guns ought to be eradicated. I think you also might want to introduce kids in public schools to ethics, and make that a standard subject.

    I've noticed that these massacres typically involve public schools, as opposed to Catholic, Christian, or Hebrew schools.

    I was greatly oppressed in high school and I considered violence, but quickly got it out of my head because at the
    time I believed in some sort of God and knew that violence would be wrong.-- Son House

  4. Our Nurse writes: Excellent story. Their loss not to publish it. Were they afraid of too much controversy? A newspaper?

  5. Fran Hazam, advocate extraordinaire writes:

    Excellent article These guns in the city are killing so many young persons, very sad. I marched wearing my pink pussycat hat knitted last winter for the Jan 21st rally by my coworker (at MHSASP, subsequently renamed).

    We managed to march from Indepndence Hall over to the riverfront and rallied around South St area.

    Lots of kids and also lots of teachers and grandparents!!! These kids are determined I hope as they go off to college they spread the action there and all VOTE in Nov.

    There were persons marching signing up voters with registration forms !! Why has it taken so much pain to move people off their butts???

    Cease Fire Pa is sponsoring a rally for gun control this Wed in Hburg at 10 AM.

    I hope to get there on the train instead of their bus since we meet wed nights and buses can get back late with traffic.

    Anyone interested can check out Cease Fire PA Rally on google. My email is not great lately

    Computer was running out of memory.

    Just tried to do my taxes and found out we moved the old file to neverland.

    My son may be able to resurrect but I gave up looking and just restarted from scratch

    Had my own format that I just copied and filled in this year's #s

    Of course next year will be completely different since they eliminated deductions for taxes and other items I used to take off.

    Not convinced the new standard will benefit me.

    Happy spring at last Expect to hit 70 by end of this week.

    Just made plans to go to NY Botanical Gardens Orchid Show next Sun with my daughter who lives now in Jersey City.