As I was leisurely walking back to my office from a late lunch at Ditty’s Downtown Deli, I was confronted by a man on the corner of 4th and Main Street. This gentleman was having a conversation with himself before we made eye contact. My sight interrupted his one-on-none conversation, where he asked if I had any money. He asked several times in very rapid succession. I blurted out “Nope,” as I’ve trained myself to do for when my wife and/or kids ask for the same (it was also a true response, refer back to comment about wife and kids). He then asked if I had any Boone’s Farm. Again, asking several quick times. Since I’m not a rebellious teenage girl, not to mention it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I unfortunately did not have any type of wine, let alone, his choice brand, in my possession. As I’m sure he was discouraged, he then told me that he’d be watching my ass. I’ve always thought of that part of my body as one my key assets; however, in this context, I wasn’t as flattered as maybe I should have been.
This brief exchange really got me thinking about mental illness. The gentleman that I encountered was obviously in some sort of mental distress. I couldn’t help but think, where does he live? Is he on medication? Has he ever sought help? Where is his support group? How does this person survive on a day-to-day basis?
This man is one of many that roam the streets of about any city in America; lost and in mental distress. Turning our backs on those in obvious need is not helping communities as a whole. But how do we, as a community, help? Who is to pay for treatment or hospitalization? Who is to monitor those in mental distress to ensure treatment is being followed through? I wish I had all of the answers for these questions, but I don’t. However, the goal is to spur conversation about the topic of mental illness and to not forget its ever presence in society. Hopefully, one day, there will be clear answers to the questions I have posed.