Wednesday’s article, “Lake Zurich proposal for homeless questioned: Neighbors balk at moving mentally ill into group house” (News, Jan. 14), provides yet another example of our society’s lack of understanding regarding mental illness. Joel Williams (executive director for PADS Lake County, an emergency shelter for homeless individuals) had it right when he said the negative responses to a proposed group home are because “people did not have an understanding of the people we’re going to be serving.”
People are the key word here. It should be about people getting to know people who appear different—not about people excluding other people because they don’t understand them and, as a result, are afraid of them.
Over the past thirty years, I have provided nursing care to, worked alongside of, and enjoyed friendships with, many persons with mental illness. These people are not killers— serial or otherwise—or pedophiles, or even remotely interested in harming others or disrupting their lives. They are men, women, teenagers and children who are facing the challenge of living with a mental illness. They are fellow human beings who often face this challenge with grace and dignity that is inspiring. My life has been made richer by knowing them.
I would be pleased to have a group home for formerly homeless people with mental illness on my block. People who live there would be supported and ready for life in the community. As for my children, I would be glad that they would have the opportunity to get to know their new neighbors.
If you are going to protest something, be informed about what you are protesting. The stereotypes and myths about mental illness that are perpetuated in entertainment and news media have little to do with reality. For every one person with mental illness who is in the news for a crime committed there are 999 who are out there living their lives the best they can, just like the rest of us.
- Read more in this article from the Chicago Tribune website: Link