I'm mentally ill — and I will not be your mass shooting scapegoat.

In the wake of yet another act of domestic terrorism, Donald Trump's proposed solution was not gun control, but "tackling the difficult issue of mental health."

He tweeted, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior."

I am not quoting this out of context. That was the clear angle of his comments on the matter — that this was an issue of one mentally ill individual, not cause for large-scale gun reform. It was a marked difference from his reactions to acts of terrorism committed by a brown Muslim man, wherein he called for immediate legislative action.


But that’s what mental illness is: the ultimate conversation killer.

Nothing makes people uncomfortable like the idea that the human brain is as vulnerable and fallible an organ as any other.

That’s why we like to make it sound like an anomaly — one that makes you immediately, inherently bad. We are attached to the idea that to have a flawed brain is to have a flawed character, mostly because it takes the work out of examining and interrogating our bad behavior. People who do bad things do them because they are crazy, we reason, not because they are people. The adversary is not our own flawed norms, but rather an individual outsider whose crimes are of an external origin.

According to Trump, the Parkland shooting didn’t happen because it's ridiculously easy to obtain an unconscionable range of lethal weaponry in this country. It’s not because we’ve fostered a culture where men feel powerful and entitled enough to exact violent revenge on others who have “wronged” them.

No, it's because the dude was “crazy.” Nothing to see here! Just another “deranged individual” who couldn’t possibly have been acting with a shred of his reality intact. We don’t share our reality with people like that, and theirs has nothing to do with ours — so the only problem, really, is that those kinds of people exist in the first place.

Society clings to the delusional idea that there is evil lurking in a brain merely because it is a brain that is different.

We’ve been vilifying mental illness for as long as we’ve been telling stories with villains in them. Where do all the bad guys in “Batman” go when they're caught? An asylum. The Joker was deemed insane, and poor Two Face was the smart and sensible Harvey Dent before injury and trauma rendered him “deranged.”

Some of the villains of “Harry Potter” are the Dementors, aka physical embodiments of depression. Of course, Voldemort himself was a bad apple from the start, the nonconsensual product of a love potion — never mind that more complicated bit about his being aided and abetted by the wizarding media and government. (Sound familiar?)

While it’s certainly true that there are mentally ill people who do bad things, we are also the heroes, the bystanders, the victims — the human beings who make up every part of every story.

1 in 25 adults lives with a serious mental illness (I'm one of them!), and 1 in 5 experience some form of mental illness like anxiety or depression in any given year. Only 3–5% of violent acts can be attributed to this huge portion of the U.S. population, yet neurodiverse people are 10 times more likely than their neurotypical counterparts to be victims of violence.

Anyone with a modicum of sense could tell you that the stereotype simply doesn’t add up.

The issue here has far less to do with mental illness than it has to do with the very human proclivity for violence, hate, and destruction.

Mentally ill people are certainly capable of such things, seeing as we are just as human as anyone else. But we're also capable of the equally human virtues of compassion, empathy, and creation — often in ways that are informed by our experiences living with and being marginalized because of mental illness.

And if we dig a little deeper than the “crazed” antagonists of popular culture, we can find mental illness woven between the lines of our heroes and saviors and all the normal people that fill up the gaps, no matter how convinced we may be that mental illness is monstrously abnormal.

We don’t talk about how Harry Potter’s PTSD made him a resilient and passionate agent for change. We forget Batman’s phobic origins and his many parallels to the Joker. Hannibal Lecter is what a certain beloved band might call a “psycho killer,” but Clarice and Will both serve as protagonists with far-from-typical neurologies of their own.

We struggle to see the diverse and deeply relatable experiences of mentally ill people already imprinted onto our stories because we only ever look for them when we’re trying to find someone to blame.

Mentally ill people are not separate from us — they are part of us.

1 in 25 people is about eight people in every full movie theater, three in every church congregation, and two in the average college classroom. Rarely are we the armed and murderous person who walks in and massacres all of those people. We are far more likely to kill ourselves than we are to kill another person. If there’s any mental health problem in this country, it’s a severe lack of accessible and affordable mental healthcare, which — last I checked — the Trump administration is actively seeking to make even more inaccessible.

Mentally ill people aren’t the problem. The people in power are — from Trump to the NRA to the “lone wolf” white male terrorists our sensationalist media encourages and excuses.

They're just pointing at us so that people will stop looking at them.

This article by Jenni Berrett originally appeared on Ravishly and has been republished with permission. More from Ravishly:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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