4/8/21: Mental Health Is A Combination of Many Factors

News broke mid-day, yesterday, that former NFL CB, Phillip Adams, shot & killed 5 ppl (his family doc/the doc’s wife, 2 of their grandkids, & a repairman at the doc’s house). Adams then fatally shot himself.
Upon hearing the news, deeply saddened by the tragedies, I went to social media to see the public’s reaction. Frustratingly, but not surprisingly, beyond the posts & comments stoking political & racial divides, most of what I saw were comments projecting that the shooting was a result of “TBI” (traumatic brain injury), &/or “CTE” (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). The rationale? He was an NFL player who’d competed in a violent sport.
When shootings of ANY kind happen in this country, the public looks for simple explanations/single motives/closed & shut cases. And in fairness to the masses- arnd this topic, the media/movies/little-no education in schools/even words from nonprofit leaders, stoke these simplistic narratives that set us back when it comes to a vital topic where more light MUST be shed: mental health.
I’m gonna say something that’s the elephant in the room, that nonprofits avoid like the plague: A shooting like this HAS a MH component to it. We shy away from saying that publicly for fear that anyone w a diagnosis will be broad-stroked labeled as “potentially dangerous.” This tiptoeing arnd this topic MUST stop tho bc MORE lives are being lost as we dance arnd addressing it.
Why can’t we in the same breath say: for someone to shoot a group of innocent ppl (kids included), the shooter’s MH was likely impaired, while at the same time, say that 99.9% of ppl whose MH is impaired, will NOT shoot up a group of ppl? Are both not true?
Whether blind rage, psychotic break, imbalance – do we NOT believe that someone’s MH had to have been impaired to commit an act like this? And why is it important to publicly say this? Bc, it helps us shed light on what may contribute to these outcomes when MH is at play. Shed light on a shooter’s past so that we can learn from it & spot signs earlier in others. Shed light so we can direct more funding to educate arnd the topic.
When we deny the above – NOTHING changes. When we deny the above, we get the comments like you’ll see on upcoming slides: pass-off explanations that there was a single “reason” for this tragedy & others like it.
Well, MH is messy. Could brain injury partially be at play? Sure. Could what’s coming out now that the doc took Adam off his meds be at play? Sure. But so too can the below – a recount of great reporting that USA Today did, speaking to Adam’s sister. In the talk we hear about a man who seemed lost…isolated…without purpose after football…like his love of the sport had scorned him.
Is THIS not what’s relatable? Is THIS not what we need to learn from? Is this story you’re about to read not a VITAL piece that helps us know what to look out for in others? Bc when we headline read…when we don’t talk about overall MH & backgrounds of shooters, we get simplistic/neat/tidy answers like “TBI or CTE” & since most of us don’t play combat sports at a pro-level, we say: it’s not gonna happen to me. Not gonna happen w/in my friends/fam group.
Here’s the reality – MH complications can & often do cause thoughts of harm to oneself & others. Again not in everyone, & in 99.9% those impulse thoughts aren’t strong & ppl don’t act on them. But for us to not acknowledge the FULL stories like the below, & how MH can/does play in, is irresponsible & actually negligent. Consider Adam’s history:
Drafted to the NFL in 2010, Adam’s sister said he was always so laid back. Never showed signs of violent behavior…would give less fortunate kids in his neighborhood literally the nice clothes off his back. He was always a ladies man & would dress up.
Then, his rookie yr, he had a major injury to his ankle which required surgery & screws, & the fam believes that injury prevented him from being able to become a full-time starter. He drifted as a journeyman, 6 teams in 6 seasons, then retired.
He returned to South Carolina having soured on his love of football, according to his sister. He really didn’t want anything to do w the sport. He didn’t watch it. If his fam was watching it, he’d leave the room or ask them to turn it off.
Then, she said she & the fam noticed his BEHAVIOR shifted dramatically. He grew a temper. He would isolate. He neglected his hygiene & withdrew from ppl. He stopped dating. A yr & a half ago, things got worse. She said there were parts of his character that just disappeared. He moved away & didn’t tell his fam where he was living, before finally moving back to live in his parents house – a grown man at 32 years of age.
If we want to deny MH, & a combination of ALL these factors above, bc it’s cleaner to say – TBI/CTE flat out was the sole cause, we can…but then we never learn from these tragedies. We don’t get closer to stopping the next ones. We can be better than that. We NEED to be better than that.

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