Publisher’s Point: When Athens Has A Broken Heart

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

For years, nearly every time that I have written about our beloved Athens, it is from a virtually effortless view that celebrates how amazing our town truly is, in ways both great and small. And while this Publisher’s Point is being “penned through tears,” I am still a firm believer in the “amazing-ness of Athens,” especially when we have lost precious ones to mental illness.

I am not going to go into the details of the deaths in our city that were unavoidable that occurred first in May and then this week. Those can be found anywhere you look. After talking to authorities, I have no doubt that in both cases, ensuring public safety was the driving force, and lethal force was sadly and completely warranted.

I have been stunned at the grace shown by a grieving family, and the fact that they made it very clear via a network news interview that “no one is to blame.” They also commended the police for how the tragic situation was handled — the patience and restraint that were manifested. The father expressed the desire to see their family’s loss be turned into a “beautiful tragedy,” and I believe that process has already begun.

I have sat across from APD Chief Anthony Pressnell and heard the frustration in his voice when it comes to finding ways to helping people with mental illness. It is obvious that it weighs heavily upon him, both as a man who has sworn to protect the public, and who also has a heart as well as responsibility to care for those under his command when they have no choice but to do the unthinkable.

These kinds of things stretch me to the point that I feel like a rubber band that is so played out that it is nearly useless. Mental illness has robbed me of people that I loved deeply more than once. And then I remember two things: God and Athens. No one’s heart is more broken for the ones who are no longer with us, as well as for those who are left behind, than our Father. And, He has promised that He shall wipe all tears from our eyes. You notice He is not delegating that task? It is something He is waiting with love to do Himself. And, I have no doubt that He will also show us the “rest of the story,” the “why behind the why” these heartbreaks were allowed, and the good He worked through the horrific.

Which brings me to the reason why it’s so important for Athens to lean upon Athens for healing. There is no question that Heaven runs point on healing the broken hearted, both collectively and individually. And, Heaven also uses humans. So, as we move by millimeters toward healing, let us focus on whatever we can do to improve first our own personal mental health, and then be there for others in their struggles. Let us resolve to work tirelessly to find answers, even when it’s unfamiliar and certainly when it’s uncomfortable. Let us look into making it possible for some of the best and proven modalities that were previously thought to be unconventional, and now are mental health mainstays, to become available in our area. And more than anything, let us humble ourselves and seek His face for ways in which Athens can be a “care house” and never a “warehouse.” May God have mercy on our souls…and minds.