“How to recognize when people are calling out to you for help.” Over the past few days a particular story has been making major headlines. Aaron Alexis was someone in the military who was “having special problems.” He claimed that people were following him around and using microwaves to terrorize him through the walls of his hotel room. He kept hearing voices in his head and actually “reported” those voices to authorities seeking help. “Help” never arrived and subsequently Aaron went into a Washington Navy Yard base cafeteria and started “shooting” people at random. At last count, 13 people, including Aaron himself, were dead as a result. In the next few days we will probably hear even more details about what actually transpired, but to me that is no longer relevant. I want to understand why an individual who claimed to hear “voices harassing him” was practically “ignored.” Judging from “all” the mass shootings that have taken place over the past few years it is obvious that we need to “pay better attention to what people say.” To dismiss someone and just label him a “nut case” might not be the feasible thing to do. All the perpetrators who engaged in random killings were individuals who needed “help” in some way. A lot of them couldn’t express it the way they wanted, but their actions should have been a “red flag.” The sad part about this story was that Mr. Alexis was “already” in the military and had access to “great medical treatment.” I have/had a cousin who was a medical doctor in Vietnam (I say this because I don’t know if he is still living now or not). When I was a young boy, he seemed so relaxed and calm. It seemed like hardly anything could phase him. Then after the war was over he came over to the house one day with a photo album book. He showed me the pictures as though it was a family album or something. The only problem was that these were personal pictures of his army friends who had been shot in the head or eaten by dogs, etc. As he explained each bloody picture he just laughed out loud strangely as though this was a fun family picnic. As a little kid I could see that he needed help and I wondered how the military could even release him in that condition. There needs to be “some” type of agency that we can call to report “suspicious behavior.” There needs to be more psychiatric evaluations for those who are in dire need of it. Crazed individuals are not necessarily “bad” people… They are “sick” people. Maybe the Navy Yard shootings could have been thwarted before it even began, but without any type of “recognition or realization” that this man had problems this is only speculation. To me ANYONE who is hearing “voices in his or her head” warrants special attention. It shouldn’t take much to realize that someone’s world is not the same as ours. Dementia usually has some form of “erratic” behavior with it. If we continue to ignore the warning signs, then many more scenes like this one can happen repeatedly. Years ago my grandfather was dying and suffering from dementia. He kept saying things that didn’t make much sense, and I felt bad because I couldn’t understand. He kept mentioning to me that I needed to “shoot the squirrel, shoot the squirrel.” I thought he was just rambling on, so I finally asked him why he wanted me to shoot the squirrel. He said “Because the squirrel is hurting too much.” THAT part I understood clearly and at that point I had to leave. I am saying this to let you know that even in the craziest of individuals there is a message in there somewhere. We need to pay attention and we need to offer help. Just because they can’t properly express their desire for help doesn’t mean that they don’t “need” it. I hope this message reaches someone today. and I hope your day is a great one.
Billy Paul and Brett Jolly in concert in Tunisia