Welcome to the latest puzzle in my ongoing series, Eyes Open, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights protests.
In doing research for Eyes Open, I’ve come across some startling statistics, particularly those that concern police shootings. Naturally this topic is always on my mind, since Eyes Open was born out of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that followed.
The numbers related to people of color being killed by police are appalling, but it turns out that the numbers surrounding those with untreated mental illness are equally disturbing, and there’s significant overlap between the two.
According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, people with untreated mental illness are SIXTEEN times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.
In fact, almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, according to NAMI.
Because so many resources have lost funding or had funding stolen from them by selfish bureaucrats and political game-players, it has fallen to the police to confront issues that would be better handled by trained mental health professionals. Some cities are finally accepting this, but we need widespread and decisive change NOW to start turning the tide away from police violence and toward getting people the help they need.
This is part of the message of defunding police — which is NOT closing them down, but redirecting some of their funds more effectively — that is so often lost in the modern discourse.
Today’s puzzle is meant to examine how mental health and police work overlap, and the staggering failure by modern police forces to adequately deal with these situations.
There are only three examples in today’s puzzle, but they’re meant to represent three different mental health scenarios handled poorly by police and/or the legal system:
16-Across wasn’t killed by police, but has been mistreated by MTA opportunists, the police and the legal system, simply because he loves the MTA and wants to be a part of the work they do. He has been categorized as dangerous simply because MTA employees have taken advantage of him and allowed him to take their routes so they can skip work. His interactions with the public and police have been peaceful, so why is he institutionalized and considered a threat?
40-Across was a victim I hadn’t heard about until I went searching for mental health deaths related to police. His case happened in my own state in March of this year, and this was the first I’d heard of it. How can that be?
65-Across was walking AWAY from police when shot by an officer who had been on the scene for less than a minute, in a scenario where multiple other officers saw no need for violence. Yes, he was on PCP, and yes, he had a knife, but clearly, de-escalation was a possibility here. It’s a glaring example of yet another scenario where improper training and conduct ended a life unnecessarily.
It’s distressingly easy to find examples to prove the point. In this article from The Conversation, they open the piece by citing just three of the hundreds of cases that ended in unnecessary violence.
I hope this puzzle serves to engage you as a solver and encourage you to learn more about these cases and speak up about police reform and better mental health services and mental wellness advocacy wherever you can.
[Click this link to download a PDF of this puzzle.]
If you have suggestions for more topics for me to cover in future puzzles, please let me know. If you’re a person of color and you’d like to share a puzzle of your own, or to collaborate with me on a puzzle, please let me know.
If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you have ideas, please let me know. If you’re a trans person, or a non-binary individual, and you feel underrepresented in puzzles, please let me know.
I would like this to become something bigger, but hopefully, this is at the very least a start.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and fighting the good fight.
Support LGBTQIA+ people.
Black lives matter.
AAPI lives matter.
Support mental health.