Casting a light on mental illness

It isn’t often an editorial addresses an article of clothing but there is always a first time for everything., one of the most popular online shopping sites, has been called to task by a Greer woman for one of its offerings: a T-shirt based on the popular social media trend of “Keep calm and …” fill in the blank meme.

Most are humorous but the one at this center of this discussion is far from it. The shirts prominently display the following: “Keep calm and kill yourself.”

Following a petition on, this Upstate woman contacted Amazon directly and the company vowed to immediately remove the shirts from their product lines.

As of Monday, they were still available, but considering the air of big business in America, it’s really not that surprising.

This is not about controlling free speech, but more to a social responsibility and lack of understanding concerning mental health in this country, a topic far too taboo to be discussed openly.

With a race for ratings on the part of mainstream television media, there is no place for a discussion of such a banal topic as mental health — at least, not when you have guns, celebrities and partisan politics that are far more titillating.

On the other hand, the underfunding of mental health affects everyone, and that is a fact.

It would be safe to say anyone reading this has at least one family member who suffers from some sort of mental health issue whether it is depression or more to the extreme end of the diagnostic spectrum.

Consider the facts as presented by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill:

— 1 in 5 people age 13 to 18 have or will have a serious mental illness

— Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those age 10 to 24

— 43.8 million adults experienced serious mental illness in the previous year

— 90 percent of suicides have an underlying mental illness

— $193 billion in earnings is lost on a yearly basis due to mental illness in America

— 60 percent of adults with a serious mental illness received no treatment in the previous year

— 50 percent of those age 8 to 15 with a serious mental illness received no treatment in the last year

It is would seem a logical conclusion that an overhaul of health insurance in the United State should have surely addressed it.

But, no. Instead, people sit in emergency rooms across the country for days, sometimes weeks, waiting for a bed in a mental health facility for treatment.

Or, to bring the issue closer to home, they could be like a Pickens County man who was housed in the Pickens County Detention Center for nearly a year while while serving his sentence with the S.C. Department of Corrections. He was waiting for a psychological evaluation but had to be held locally because there was nowhere for him to go.

And yet, there is no dialog on the issue. That is disturbing when you view this statistic from NAMI: 18 to 22 veterans commit suicide everyday.

Wait. Aren’t these the same people our government calls patriots and heroes? And there isn’t even treatment available for them following overseas deployment in a combat zone? It’s actually par for the course. The services just aren’t available for anyone.

Suicide isn’t funny, especially for anyone who has fought a long battle to keep a loved one around, only to lose in the end because there was nowhere to turn.

While it is within anyone’s freedom of speech to produce products with unpopular or socially unconscious slogans, it becomes a matter of responsibility. But is Amazon the problem? Of course not. But we — the Collective We — are because we don’t hold those who spend our tax dollars accountable for how they spend them.

As far as this particular piece of clothing is concerned, maybe poor taste will actually make a difference.

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