This past weekend we were stunned and saddened to see a terrible act of violence committed against our friends and neighbors in the Rockland Jewish Community. This attack was one of many attacks against Jews in the past several weeks, not only in our area, but across the world. These events leave many of us at a loss for words, and with a lack of clarity as to what to do now. Indeed, these are times that are inspiring fear, despair, and for some, hopelessness, as we live in a world seemingly filled with chaos and hatred. While there is no one answer, we do know what will help: Standing in solidarity with our Jewish neighbors, and all neighbors facing discrimination, oppression, and hatred; rising to face the powers that spread negativity and inspire fear; talking with one another about who we are, our differences and that which unites us; inspiring and spreading messages of hope and understanding; creating a community that focuses on love and compassion. The Mental Health Association of Rockland stands with all of our community members in the creation of that community.
It has been reported that this most recent attack was committed by an individual with a history of mental illness. I’m quite certain we will hear more about that as details unfold. What I am also certain of, is the fact that one in four Americans will experience a mental illness throughout the course of their lives, and it will not make them more prone to violence. Mental illness actually makes people more vulnerable to being the victim of violence, not the perpetrator. And yet, each time we experience a tragedy, we see the same finger pointing, blame and perpetuation of disinformation that takes us all backward in our understanding of mental illness. These events intensify the stigma that we have battled throughout time; the stigma that too often stops us, our families, our children and our neighbors from getting the help they need. Let us not rush to judgment, and let us not equate hate and violence with mental illness. We must respect each other’s humanity and support those in need, while bringing justice for those affected by violence. What we need most now is light to dispel the darkness, and light can be found in truth.