George Floyd - A Different, Mental Health Response
What did I feel when I heard the news that Derek Chauvin would be convicted on all three charges for the murder of George Floyd?
It's hard to describe.
It was a clashing of feelings, and most of them weren't positive.
What I do know is that this does not need to be a political issue.
If you've been with me on this newsletter for a month or longer, you know that I don't like straying into political territory.
Politics forces the choosing of sides, and I have a belief that, because we all share the same mental health background, we are all inextricably connected.
It could have been framed in mental health terms.
If we wanted it to be.
But we don't.
Read all the way through to learn what I mean.
You are George Floyd
Imagine for a second that you are George Floyd, with his entire life story, with his flaws and his strengths. All the struggles he had.
Imagine that you were high on drugs that day.
Imagine whether you would care or not.
Think about what may have brought you to that point to use a drug that others disdain.
Now consider the family you raised--or didn't.
Consider what role you played in the lives of the people you loved.
Why am I asking you to this?
Because you're not George Floyd.
You know that, and I know that.
But are you really that different?
I'm sure you've made mistakes.
And I'm sure you've made friends.
George Floyd had those.
He also had his glaring deficiencies.
In mental health, we sometimes talk about risk factors and protective factors. We do this to see everything a person is dealing, everything that might be holding an individual back in life.
Did we hear that about Floyd? Or did we learn about a caricature of a man?
Politics does that.
Whereas, if we learned about mental health, with its kaleidoscopic gradients, we would know so much more about the humanity of a person.
Because we don't know you.
The world doesn't get to know the full you.
And that's not right.
You are now George Floyd.
But what About Derek Chauvin?
Isn't he a man, too?
Isn't he a human being worthy of love?
But we forget that.
How quick we are to hate what we don't understand. And we don't understand what led one man to kneel on the neck of another for nine whole minutes.
So when I heard the news, I didn't know what to think.
It's was a creeping embodiment of a silent terror. A floating anxiety.
Because I don't know either one of these men.
But, in a way, I do.
Because I know myself.
And I know the range of awful emotions I've experienced in my life are within the range that those two men experienced on that awful day.
And it sickens me that a life taken away leads to another life taken away. One is gone, and one is in jail.
It seems like a massive loss for something that never needed to get to that point.
Yet it gets to that point every single day.
And it's traumatic.
And utterly avoidable.
Mental Health Perspective or Political Perspective?
If only we stopped taking a one-sided, political view. And started taking a multi-sided mental health view.
That won't solve all of our problems, of course.
But the work we do on ourselves when we aim to better our mental health is the work we could do together, as a society, if we aimed to understand our collective mental health.
We are all bound up in this together.
That's precisely why these events are traumatic, no matter what side you take.
And I hope you won't take a side.
I hope you'll choose the third path.
I hope you'll see George Floyd and Derek Chauvin.
I hope you'll glimpse their humanity.
And I hope you'll remember this feeling that you have right now.
Not everyone will feel what I feel about this tragic breakdown in humanity.
But we all feel something.
And if we led with that, more with our hearts and less with our politics, we'd find ourselves in these two men--and we'd realize how redemptive that could actually be.