Hello, love.

I went and saw ‘The Northman’ Saturday night. God, I adored it.

That review of it in the New Yorker was snotty and wrongheaded- the guy was complaining about a director doing his job…too well? He was basically wishing the film was more palatable for mainstream tastes, a fucked up opinion for a New Yorker film critic to have…in my opinion. I wonder if the writer who did Eggers’ profile piece a few weeks ago is giving that critic dirty looks in the hallways of the New Yorker building. That was a great piece, btw.

I want to see it again!!

Also concerning the New Yorker: did you happen to read the Andrew Solomon article from the April 11 issue called “The Mystifying Rise of Child Suicide”? Interestingly, I was already thinking of writing about that article to post here, then you spoke about the new direction for that nonprofit that cut child labor in India by 72% (wasn’t it 72%?). I was thrilled to read about the course of action you are considering; anything concerning mental health, first, and on top of that, studying/researching/addressing the effects that social media and modern computer technology have on the mental health of our most vulnerable people? Yes, please.

Thank you and hugs for what you wrote. As you could guess, elements of the cause you’re considering resonate with me. Kisses as well.

About the New Yorker article content….I’ve been dying to see more and better reportage like that, about where American mental healthcare is right now (garbage levels) and what needs to change where. I’ve been frustrated for years with how uninformed about it- and in need of it- so many Americans are. We are so behind most of the rest of the world, so backward concerning mental health. And it shows. The stigma shouldn’t still be such an issue, for one thing. There’s a lot of ignorance out there to battle, and worse still, a lot of willful ignorance. Because of sooooooo muuuuuuch shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit that I am not getting into right now. We absolutely need more going on in the media to properly reflect and represent how serious the mental healthcare crisis in the United States is, and to educate people about the issue at hand, especially since we are currently failing the nation’s children,

the most vulnerable.

Before reading that article, I looked at the accompanying photos of the boy that most of the article was about. There was one particular photo that leaped out at me: the smiling head & shoulders shot of him on the left side of the assemblage. The child in that picture doesn’t look like he’s okay to me. The best case scenario is that his smile in that photo is merely the typical false smile so many children obligingly give their parents as they indulge them in their ongoing quest to preserve any and every ready-to-share moment of the child’s life. But, to me, a look of dead hopelessness is lurking deep inside his eyes- eyes which don’t match the smile below them in the least. I kept looking at that gone-away face, feeling my heart trying to tell him “I’m so sorry, baby.”

And in the photo of him a little below that one- the one of him smiling in the back seat of an SUV- his shadowed eyes have a similar hopelessness, far down at the bottom. He could have just been very tired, of course, after an action packed day. But too soon after that picture was taken, that poor dear boy couldn’t make it anymore and had to yield to an intense, overwhelming pain, killing himself. In the sixth grade. I feel so horrible for that child- he was trying so hard, doing the best he could, carrying on day after day, then it got him. It’s so cruel.

The pain that child was suffocating from is the exact same pain adults carry- the same weight on the spirit, the same pressure that can get so intense and squeezes you so hard. Mental illness doesn’t pull its punches for them because they’re children- it’s merciless and doesn’t care. So, to me, it’s remarkable that any child struggling with that comes out the other side successfully. Feeling so hopeless, so alone, with no end in sight to feeling like that every single day, and you have no idea why you’re doing the things you do sometimes now is torturous enough as an adult, even worse and more mystifying for kids. More and more and more kids, all the time, attempting to hurt or kill themselves. More and more succeeding, younger and younger.

All of this can be happening in plain view of multiple loved ones who, too often, cannot recognize a problem and see only misbehavior and/or ordinary ‘growing pains’. Choose from any number of convenient explanations out there that a parent will reach for rather than admit what’s happening- and they may not even ‘believe in’ mental illness, unfortunately. Years ago my then supervisor, a strict perfectionist with high standards who also gave little support or positive feedback, confided one day to our office at large that one of her children may have developed an eating disorder, seeming mystified. I’m sorry to say that my first thought was an angry ‘that makes perfect sense’, before feeling bad for her and her family. I was angry that my boss treated her children the way she bossed her employees, and that one of them was currently starving themselves to perfection. And I had remembered my own mother’s reaction back in the 80s when I carefully asked her what she knew about bulimia, which I was secretly struggling with, unbeknownst to her. She only spoke with disgust about the rotten, ugly teeth of girls with ‘that problem’. I had been toying with telling her what was happening, but not after that, and I was ashamed that I was like one of those girls she had such contempt for, and I never told anyone for years and years. Some adults are so unaware of a problem, and/or vastly underestimate its importance and/or are unable to see how they might have contributed. Regardless of the cause/s of their illness, the perspective of a young child suffering through something like this- it’s a special level of hopelessness and helplessness. Even if they can somehow recognize and verbalize what’s happening to them to the right person, whether they have access to proper treatment from the right provider is another precarious bridge to cross. Plus, the right provider may or may not accurately diagnose an illness or select the right course of treatment. On top of that, it can take a lot of time (which nobody has) and trial and error to get things moving in the right direction.

It’s a huge tangle to tackle before even considering how the behemoth of social media and the buffet of modern communication devices and screen-entertainment delivery systems are affecting the matter. And they are, of course, they’re a compounding factor. For example, I could go on far too long about how much social corrosion smartphones have wrought so quickly.

A boatload of serious shit needed to be done years ago to address this shameful situation. But since the U. S. has been and still is so disgracefully behind most of the rest of the world in seeing that its citizens get the mental health care they (increasingly) need, it’s still getting worse.

So many people have no concept of being in that situation, how hard it is, the effort it takes, how much energy it drains to keep slugging it out on a daily basis to be functional, or at least seem so. In my experience, in the run-up to a crisis I had last year, every day there were more moments where suicidal impulses flared up suddenly. Driving to work, multiple times, my eyes would land on a concrete pylon and the thought knifes into my consciousness and dread knots up in my chest and abdomen, thinking ‘that one, Now- do it- or….That one-…that’s all you would need, no other cars in the way right now-…..Now.’ The control I had left, the ability to not obey those insistent impulses, wore down further and further. Out for a walk, using the sidewalk of a long, straight arterial surface road, walking partly to combat the illness (exercise can help)- the same thing. Walking next to the cars that whipped by, inches from my right arm, and hearing and feeling my mind and my body urging me to step out into the street at the right moment…’Now, right now-….Now-…. just step out, realquick, realfast in front of…That One. Now, do it….All over, finally over, no more’. The author of that article covered how much more difficult it is for a child who’s experiencing that shit to recognize and not obey this sudden needy drive to make it stop, please make it stop. I was just so relieved to see that article cover all this stuff, because these poor dear kids are on their own too often, even when surrounded with caring family, even when it looks like everything is fine. Like everything is perfect.

So much insanely broken shit is competing for public attention, I know. But Jesus Christ, when Child Suicide surges with statistics like that, come on, why isn’t this a bigger fucking headline everywhere, at least?

Also, how can I help out any possible future nonprofit endeavors of yours?

Surely you’ll let me help with something so near and dear to my heart, if there’s anything I can do. Thanks. : ) I love you

What a Gorgeous, Ass Kicking Badass.

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Amy Walker

Amy Walker

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