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MURRELL COLUMN: Before we go any further, can we please address mental illness?

Remember at the beginning of the high school football season I wrote that I was trying to redirect my mind from the tragedy and confusion of the shooting of a TV reporter and cameraman (and one more person) in Virginia? Remember when I said Ricky Williams, Brandon Marshall and Metta World Peace came to mind when it comes to athletes battling mental illness?

Here we are 10 weeks later, and what has happened?

Shooting deaths at Delta State University, Umpqua Community College, Northern Arizona University, Texas Southern University, Tennessee State University and Winston-Salem State University. Not to mention Wednesday’s stabbing deaths of four at the University of California, Merced, that led to the police shooting and killing the suspect. Or the homecoming parade incident at Oklahoma State University in which a woman is charged with crashing into and killing four spectators.

That’s eight campuses, coast to coast. All in 10 weeks.

What’s worse: In some cases, it’s been reported students were not properly alerted to the tragedy in a timely manner. That’s a whole other column in itself I could write.

If you really want to put a sports angle to this column, many of these schools I named have championship pedigrees (like Delta State winning the 2000 Division II football title and Texas Southern racking up SWAC basketball titles under Robert Moreland and Mike Davis). I really don’t care to delve into that, though.

There is something much more important than anything else you read in this section, and it seems as a society we are making a conscious decision to avoid the topic. So, I’m bringing it up here. In a sports column.

Campus violence — let alone any such tragedy anywhere — happens so often these days, it doesn’t pre-empt TV programming the way shooting deaths at a Jonesboro, Arkansas, middle school and a Littleton, Colorado, high school did in the late 1990s. Did the movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, during the summer not shake us up enough? What about the one in Aurora, Colorado, three years ago?

Politicians want to talk about gun control, which probably could have prevented at least half the outbreaks. But who’s willing to address the mental illness that’s clearly the underlying problem?

It’s no assumption. Who in their right mind takes a gun, shoots (or stabs) people randomly and ends up shooting himself or herself?

You’re probably thinking I don’t know what goes through anyone’s mind. You’re darn right I don’t know. I don’t know what goes through yours; we just tend to trust that we can live in peace and harmony.

For all the good that peace and harmony bring, I do know we’ve turned a cold shoulder to an underlying problem.

This is 2015, people. I’ve been around since 1980. Nearly three decades of my time here have been spent battling some form of mental illness, only to be first diagnosed with it 10 years ago. And in the past 35 years, mental illness has gone from taboo discussion to prevalent in American society.

Want a statistic? About 43.8 million Americans, or 18.5 percent of the population, experience mental illness in America, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Examples of the illness include anxiety disorders — I had those at 14 — eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.

Now, look: Terminate your all-points bulletins. I’m not a crazy guy. There are some lines in interpersonal communication I will never cross. I spent years on medicine. I continue to rely on my faith. My improved physical health promotes my mental health. I wouldn’t hurt anything bigger than a fly.

But just in the past 10 days, I’ve been emotionally shaken. A little depressed. Went from dating to not even wanting to go out.

It’s probably the first time in a few months that’s happened to me, but it happens, people. It probably happened to you.

Hey, don’t feel sorry for me. The Texas sun is as bright as can be and I know who holds my tomorrows when I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I choose to maximize each day in action rather than count how many days I go through.

Just remember the next time you hear about slipped disks, broken fingers or torn ACLs, mental illness is almost paralyzing our society. After all, sport is just a game, right?

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or ic.murrell@gmail.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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