In Ned Barnett’s Jan. 24 column “Prison letters reach beyond the walls,” he said, “Sometimes the messages are from the mentally ill or complaints from inmates more angry than convincing. But often the letters are reminders of a human spirit that cannot be walled in.”
How fitting that, now that North Carolina has criminalized mental illness by making it a felony to assault any worker or licensed provider on hospital property, Barnett should reduce people like me to an article, adverb and adjective: “the mentally ill.” We don’t deserve a noun; we are no longer people. And we don’t deserve to have our concerns heard.
To paraphrase Martin Niemoller: Then they came for the mentally ill people, and I did not speak out, because I was not mentally ill; then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Since the ill like me can now be charged with a felony for “assaulting” (a vague term at best) hospital personnel, we might think members of the fourth estate would recognize and revalidate our human spirit.
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Life has brought me many challenges – tainted genes, childhood victimization, a major car accident and a stroke – that have become catalysts for some craziness. Life has not, however, revoked my human spirit.