Naked and Afraid

Posted: May 5, 2014 in General Interest


imageI was driving on I-94 yesterday,  five minutes from downtown Detroit, when traffic on both sides of the freeway slowed to a stop. A big 18-wheel trucker intentionally stayed in place to block traffic. At first I was annoyed, and then I was shocked because weaving in and out, and running from car to car was a man, obviously distraught, and completely naked. You always hear about stories like this on the news and here we all were with a surreal, slow motion windshield view of a real life drama.

I  was troubled by the fear on his face as he ran up and down and around the highway banging on the hoods of people’s cars. My car crawled slowly past and down the highway, his clothes littered the road. What do we do after something like this? It’s not like you can un-see it. I’d just left church so I said a prayer. I prayed that the man would be unhurt when the police and other authorities finally contained him. I prayed that people would be so stunned by what they saw that no one would whip out a mobile device to record him because he was already a victim of whatever storm raged in his head. I didn’t want him to become the latest virtual punch line. I prayed that he wouldn’t become a visual joke cavalierly recorded, posted and looped on YouTube or Vine, or “liked” on Facebook.

I said a prayer of gratitude that the rudder that steered my brain was steady and true.

Whatever mental crisis had separated this poor man from sanity must have been major. Maybe he was schizophrenic and had a psychotic break, or the vile toxic drug he took caused him harm. Whatever occurred, caused him to rip off his clothes and run from one side of I-94 to the other.

I worked closely around the mentally ill for 17 years. My job took me in and out of psychiatric facilities. I worked in such close proximity that once a patient reached out and I thought he was going to shake my hand, but he licked it instead. They’re perpetually disconnected from reality, and what’s appropriate.

Mentally ill people do the best they can with brains so poorly wired that the line that divides sanity from sickness is sometimes nonexistent. Constantly hearing voices, seeing imaginary threats, or having a brain so unbalanced that it drives you to violence. Their families aren’t trained to deal with them, and frequently run out of patience. They can’t hold jobs, loving relationships are few and far between.

States have steadily defunded mental health services for the past 20 years. Across the United States, cuts reducing financial support by 1.6 billion have occurred since 2009. Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency has absorbed approximately 30 million in cuts since 2008. Jails are ad hoc psych wards, the mentally ill wander the streets in intense conversations with themselves, and emergency rooms and homeless shelters are crowded with people who are rarely stable. Many of the mentally ill are drug addicted, attempting to self medicate. Next time you have a bad day, or one of those days where you feel a little off, remember almost everyday feels like that for the mentally ill.

I repeatedly scanned the news hoping to learn the outcome, of what I saw, but so far I haven’t found anything. Please say a prayer to where ever you direct your spiritual requests for this nameless man .

Thank you.

  1. zoerabbit says:

    My prayer has gone up. Thanks for highlighting this issue.


  2. Thanks for sharing this. It so helps put a face on mental illness.


  3. Petronia says:

    “May the Light of God surround him and the Love of God protect him.


  4. puccdetroit says:

    Great post! I appreciate the way you share your perspective on life!


  5. Shinda says:

    They did eventually do a news item of this incident. I saw a link through one of my friend’s status on Facebook. We must lift our community up in prayer. Metal illness is real and cannot be ignored. Too many people are suffering in their personal hell and need help.


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