Thoughts on Mass Shootings and Mental Health

I don’t normally get political, but I don’t think this is a completely political issue, though I am certain people have already made it that way.

What happened in Orlando this weekend is deplorable. I don’t have to agree with every LGBT issue in politics in order to believe that killing is wrong. It is not a solution to what someone may see as a problem. Even the greatest Bible beater out there must agree that there is a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not kill.” I am not of a particular religious persuasion, but I do still have morals, and my moral compass says that killing is not a solution. It is not anyone’s right to take a human life for any reason other than self-defense, and I seriously don’t believe those people in the nightclub were attacking the lone gunman.

That being said, I do believe that people who take other lives in these mass shootings are not alright. I don’t know anything about the lone shooter at this point, but I believe there is an untreated, or perhaps mistreated or misdiagnosed mental illness in the brains of people who complete these sorts of crimes. The Aurora shooter was seeking on campus treatment before he went on his rampage. The Sandy Hook shooter also had a history of mental problems, as did the Columbine shooters. Even if someone seeks treatment, they unfortunately don’t feel comfortable disclosing everything to their care provider. I’ve seen this with suicidal friends. I had a friend die from depression and no one was aware of how dark his days had gotten, not even his health care providers. However, for someone to build up that much hatred towards their fellow man tells me something happened to them that wasn’t normal. Not everyone subscribes to this theory of mine, including my husband, but I can’t help but wonder how many people in our jail system need a hospital, not a prison.

I wish I knew what to do about it. I wish I knew how to heal the hurt of families everywhere who have lost someone to a mass shooting, those who been injured in a mass shooting, or anyone who has otherwise been traumatized by one. I wish I knew how to stop the shooters, to tell them this hate they hold inside is not healthy. I wish I knew how to prevent them from getting the weapons and plotting the demise of many.

There are people in power who can try to solve some of these issues if they weren’t so concerned about the NRA and other groups not backing them in the next election. They are more worried about their political positions than the people they serve. The people are ready for change, but the government is not. Several polls have shown that. But I don’t want to attack our government at this time.

This is a time when, if you pray, you should pray for peaceful solutions, for better mental healthcare for all who need it, for divine intervention, for individuals to look at themselves and figure out how they can work to make change for the better. As Ghandi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” I try to live by those words, even when it is difficult, even when I want to be right and want the other person to be wrong. I always try to recall these words.

You may be wondering, “What can I do?” Volunteer! Volunteer with a boys and girls club and be a positive influence on youth. Seek out your local National Alliance on Mental Health chapter or the National Institute of Mental Health and learn more about mental illness. Feed the hungry. Show kindness to all. Smile when you are in public. A smile can change a life. Make eye contact when able. Show your joy in any way you see fit. But help others. You never know–someone you help might have had the potential to harm others, and maybe your influence changed their day. We don’t know how we affect others, but little things make a big difference.

I have a mental illness. I do not want people to be afraid of me. I am treated. I am happy. But others aren’t as fortunate as I am, and they are angry and sad and anxious. This is why we must make mental health available to everyone. I have a friend who has no insurance and no job. He can’t get medications or treatment for his depression and anxiety. I worry about him daily. The treatment center he used to go to provides treatment on a sliding scale, but they told him he had to have an income to get treatment. I am not sure if he qualifies for disability, and I don’t know if he has the energy to fight 3 rejections before being accepted as most people have to. It is a rough road for him and I help him as much as I can. I wish I could pay for his medical care. I wish I could help him get his medicines, but there are limits to what my income can do. These are some of the issues people with mental illness face on a daily basis.

I implore all of you to grieve for Orlando, and look within your hearts to see what you can do to be the change you want to see in the world. We all have different talents and abilities. What are yours?


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