This morning I read a powerful piece in the NYT Magazine about Jay Caspian Kang's conversation with One L. Goh, who killed 6 people and wounded 3 others in Oakland on 4/2/12 before surrendering to the police. It's a very telling and scary story, not just because of the recounting I the gruesome events, but because of Goh's background.
While the story focuses on being Korean in America, it raises a deeper issue, an issue that has unfortunately become more trivial during this whole gun debate: what it means to be "mentally ill."
There is no question that there are many mentally unstable men, women, and children who need to be helped and are in need of support. But what is more worrisome is how both the NRA's Wayne LaPierre and the media are treating these unfortunate souls as a category. It goes deeper than that because there are countless people like Goh who are relatively mentally healthy people who are dealing with so many issues and are quietly crying out for help.
The worst part is, these men and women are unable to find the necessary support systems, whether it's because they don't know where to turn or they are scared that turning to help is a symbol of weakness. In a society where sensationalism, peer pressure, and a desire to fit in has overtaken daily life, any sign of weakness is trampled.
We all have a duty to keep our eyes open. We all have a duty as human beings to see if people we know (and even those we don't) are struggling. We have a duty to show them they won't be judged by working towards finding ways to become happy again.
We can't put them in a category. It only makes it worse.