I want to preface this with: I DO NOT THINK AARRON HERNANDEZ WAS INNOCENT OF THE CRIME OF MURDER. However, I believe he was a victim of a very flawed mental health system, as well.
Money is a powerful tool. It gives opportunity a driving force that is unmatched by any good spirit or future goal setting. Having money, or not, can surely make or break some, but wealth does not kill. Money in your pocket doesn’t mean much in terms of danger, aside from privilege. This, of course, in and of itself can be dangerous- but alone, money does not act.
Again, fame isn’t a killer. Never has Being Famous walked into a bar and murdered a few people. It’s pretty cool for everyone to know your name, though it comes with the price of no privacy, different standards of living, and a lack of anonymity in your daily life. Regardless of the stress of fans and pressure of performance, however, Fame does not act in violence.
People have things happen. That’s called Life. Some things are much harder than others… but truly we can’t compare apples to oranges and expect to come up even.
I heard a story recently, of a woman who lost her mother, her father had left before she was even born. She was raped and robbed by men in her village for years, but still had to raise her brothers and sisters, and so she persevered. At 15 she met an older, wealthy man, moved hundreds of miles from her home to marry him, and while he took amazing care of her and their eventual children, his passing too soon left her destitute and needing to sell everything they owned to raise her family. Eventually she moved her [surviving] children and herself to America, where she worked hard for the next 30 years before her passing.
Her life was hard. A kind of hard I don’t think most of us can imagine, nor endure with such grace. And yet her beautiful spirit was carried on in a story shared by her granddaughter. The memory of the wrinkles around her eyes deepening with each new, happy moment.
And so, yes, some upbringings are harder than others, and it’s why some people are happier and some are sad. Sort of. In some cases.
But, have you ever met someone who has it all, but it so miserable? You want to shake them and tell them to suck it up, that they’re so blessed, that they have no idea what real life is like?
But their real life is very different from your perception.
The idea that someone is crazy, or angry, or just couldn’t take it describes mental health care… or the lack of it across the world. It’s why so many senseless deaths and murders happen. We’ve ignored the signs of need.
Unlike the pain in our leg after a break, or the lethargy and cough indicating cancer, the inability to get out of bed or explosive anger of someone who is suffering a need for mental healthcare are often ignored or explained away.
But, Aarron Hernandez’s anger is not why he killed. Anger doesn’t kill. Trust me, I’ve been described as an angry person.
A killer? No. I’m not a killer.
I have, however, been given the best treatment for mental illness. For mania, bipolar disorder, and issues pertaining to OCD. Because my mother, a psychologist, always gave the same attention to my mental health, as she did my physical. I’ve spoken to all the people and tried all the medications, together, alone, in different cocktails until my one was found, and then changed as I did. I was taken to the doctor. Many doctors. My tics and crying jags were not explained away. My impulsive behavior and anger were not ignored. And this is where Aarron Hernandez’s story began and ended.
As a star athlete, we can blame his upbringing, a quick rise to fame, a lot of money, a young age, anger.
But anger doesn’t kill. Anger doesn’t commit suicide.
This level of anger, of inability to cope, of many contributing factors culminating into loss of life. Others and his own. A 4 year old without her father.
Leslie Walker, executive director of the nonprofit Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, which serves indigent inmates, said the state had a worse-than-average inmate suicide rate a decade ago but had done some work to “suicide proof” its facilities, such as installing clothing hooks that collapse if too much weight is placed on them.
But do we need to suicide-proof our prisons? Or world? Or do we need to focus on what is driving people to end their lives? Whether it is “temporary insanity”, or an ongoing illness, do we not owe it to our world to solve our issues versus incarcerating them to multiply and manipulate in minds that need help?
13 Reasons Why
If you’ve been on social media at all, you may have seen 13 Reasons Why, based on the book with the same title, on Netflix.
As we follow this tragic, graphic story, time and time again the same conversation comes up: how can you stop other people from doing these things to you?
Our society has created the narrative that we control what others do, and we are to blame for their poor behavior. Not that others control what they do and what negatively impacts others. This is a lead enabler to ignoring mental health, and diminishing it in others.
You push someone in line at the grocery store to get ahead, and they fall and break their arm.
In this example, you pushing someone is an assault based on you not wanting to wait your turn, which is a crime and punishable by law. And the injury- a break- is able to be treated at the hospital. This is physical.
Now, what about taunting letters, or explosive anger, ranting and raving, that is ignored because boys will be boys (which can certainly extend to mean girls and how cliques are just a natural part of high school, etc.) and because being in the limelight is hard and athletes can be hotheads… and other stigmas? Now the victims of this person who has inflicted fear and emotionally terrorized people around them, are asked what they did. Why they were victimized. This is mental.
This is what I call a mindfuck.
I wasn’t able to get enough help
Jovan Belcher was an exceptional athlete who eventually played for the Kansas City Chiefs. On December 1, 2012, Belcher shot and killed Cassandra Perkins, the mother of his three month old daughter, drove to visit his coach and the team’s general manager. Quoted as saying that he ‘was not able to get enough help,’ turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
This is not money, fame, upbringing, anger.
This is mental health.
We live in a world of failed mental health.
Somehow the signs of mental health are as equally ignored as a 5 year $12 million dollar signing bonus is celebrated. We throw people in a cell, to be treated like everyone else, and hope this system punishes appropriately- regardless of the why.
Regardless of the signs…
People don’t just hang themselves with bedsheets because life is hard. Because something is really bad, or they have a small prison cell and not enough yard time.
Suicide doesn’t just happen.