Aaron Swartz and Mental Health

Yesterday, I wrote a post about this, and it disappeared in the ether before I could post it. I can’t recreate it, but I’m going to try.

When I heard about Swartz’s death, my first thought wasn’t about his activism or contributions to the web we’ve all turned to to share our lives, but that I could have been Swartz’s mother. I’m thankful that I’m not in her position, but I can’t help but think that I could be. On Sunday morning, Chris Hayes ended his show with a little bit about Swartz and his depression and encouraged people to get help. I would second that. Our family is living proof that you can get help, and that it works. For those suffering from suicidal thoughts or who know someone who has, the suicide hotline is a great place to turn (1-800-suicide). It saved my son.

Too often, people don’t seek help. For young men and teenage boys, I think there’s an element of feeling embarrassed. Being sad doesn’t fit the macho stereotype society still encourages our boys and men to live up to. Worse, once help is found, it often isn’t covered by insurance or isn’t covered enough. Sometimes patients are allowed only a few visits. And sometimes there’s no coverage for valuable outpatient programs or inpatient programs. Even when it’s covered, co-pays add up, especially when you’re visiting a psychiatrist once a week. Co-pays tend to assume you’re seeing a doctor two or three times a year, not 52 times.

It’s been interesting to me to watch the difference between how people have discussed Swartz’s mental health issues versus the Sandy Hook killer’s issues. There seems to be less sympathy for the latter person, and granted, it is terrible that he took others, young children, down with him, but he was clearly suffering from some kind of problem.

I don’t know. The whole thing is just sad, and I just wish we all treated each other a little better and were a little more understanding. I don’t know enough about either case to know what could have been done to intervene or what was tried. I do think that we ignore mental health issues too often, both in ourselves and others–to sometimes deadly effect.