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I may have paranoid schizophrenia but I also have strength of character that is often lacking in many people.

When a high school friend of mine posted an anti-Arab post on his Facebook wall, several of my other high school friends (who happen to be Arabs), wanted me to respond. I did respond. I told the poster his comments were racist and I unfriended him. Other mutual friends said nothing, some called him out for his behavior, but generally speaking his bigotry cost him very little even though all of the people I am referring to went to the same school together in an Arab country so all of us have ties to people who are of Arab descent – they are among our friends and our classmates.

Why didn’t people respond more harshly? Why didn’t more people unfriend him? Why did he just receive a minor confrontational comment from several friends and then things went back to normal?

I saw the same kind of behavior yesterday regarding gun ownership and mental illness. Of course there were people ranting that if we could keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill we wouldn’t have any more mass shootings. I pointed out to these posters that the statistics are not on the side of their beliefs. It is often people without a mental health diagnosis that are the shooters.  Friends of mine who know I have schizophrenia and have read the facts about gun violence stayed silent while their other friends targeted the mentally ill.

Why, when they know that I have a mental illness, and they know that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crimes rather than perpetrators of crimes, did they stay silent?

Strength of character.

Strength of character would be to risk standing up for your friends and what you know is the truth even if it means you might offend someone else or be ridiculed.

Mentally ill people are often discriminated against, wrongfully scapegoated, and many are abandoned on the streets and in prison. We are often made fun of, ridiculed, and our illnesses are often sensationalized. Many of us are shamed into silence and treated as less-than. All of this is true and most people with a mental illness can tell you an incident where they have been on the receiving end of one or more of these things. Even living life among this reality doesn’t mean people with a mental illness don’t have rock solid characters though – they can be honest, loyal, courageous, trustworthy, humorous, compassionate, empathetic, and so much more.

I am definitely mentally ill but that’s not a character flaw. A character flaw is leaving your friends to defend themselves because you don’t have the strength to defend the underdog even if the underdog is someone you claim to care about.

My character is healthy, is yours?