In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings in the United States. To put that into perspective there are 365 days in a year.
In 2018, so far we are on day 325 and there have been 317 mass shootings, one of which took place in my hometown at a place where my brother and I frequented often through the years. I met majority of my high school friends at Borderline and my brother and his band used to play every weekend up until about a year ago.
In America, we have a horrible habit of instinctually defining the actions/behavior of a mass shooter. We have to eliminate all possible “grey areas”, so our society and our country has latched on to “mental illness” as the justification for their appalling behavior to keep things very black and white. PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, Dementia, ADD, ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the list goes on and on. These are some of the types of mental illnesses people are faced with. Some people suffer from multiple types, some suffer slightly, some suffer severely. It is VERY complex and very layered and there is absolutely no way this issue can be so black and white.
No one can ever be prepared for a mass shooting. You see it on the news almost every day and your heartaches for those affected, but you never really believe it could happen in your hometown. Since this incident, I’ve noticed a shift in my perspective and my actions. Before I was very open about my depression and anxiety and didn’t feel the need to hide the fact that I have mental health issues, but since this shooting, I have been hiding that huge part of myself in fear of what others would now think or how they would look at me. Would they view me as a potential threat? Would they question if I have ever or will ever own a firearm? My depression is not based upon anger, it’s based upon self-hatred and insecurities, but now that we have labeled these shooters as “mentally ill” or dealing with “mental health issues”, the narrative has completely painted a picture that anyone with mental health issues all belong together in a box. That we are all one in the same and capable of the same which is completely unfair and 100% incorrect. Society has now created this fear that if someone is mentally ill they are fully capable of becoming violent and hurting you when in all actuality, it’s far more likely for someone with a mental illness to impose self-harm then to harm others.
In the United States, our mental health care is lacking deeply and instead of our politicians talking about the access to weapons, we are talking about mental health. My issue with that is 1. It’s a deflection of the true problem and 2. We talk and talk about how these people are mentally ill and yet nothing gets done about it. We just keep blaming a very large “industry” if you will and yet do nothing to better it. Every other country has civilians that suffer from mental illnesses, who are prescribed medications, and have access to treatment, and yet we are the ones that can’t seem to figure out why “mental illness causes gun violence”…Guess what. It doesn’t.
Lack of Mental Health Care
If mental health is to blame for mass shootings, why aren’t we addressing these health concerns earlier on in children that stem from toxic environments or go through traumatic experiences?
If mental health is to blame for mass shootings, why aren’t we providing veterans with better resources and services?
If mental health is to blame for mass shootings, why aren’t we making mental health care more affordable and accessible to all humans in all financial classes and of all races and ethnicities? In addition to, why aren’t we normalizing speaking to a counselor earlier on and making it a priority in schools to normalize understanding emotions, feelings, and our own thoughts?
If mental health is to blame for mass shootings, why are we incarcerating instead of hospitalizing?
If mental health is to blame for mass shootings, why aren’t we taking action sooner? In most of these shootings, the shooter always had red flags arise years, even months before the event even happened. Why aren’t we further evaluating the stability of those we are concerned about? And to take it one step further, why are we not regulating their owning of weapons and firearms? It seems only logical that if someone is causing concern to those around them, they should be limited to what they can own. If someone is causing trepidation to their neighbors, they should not have the right to own weapons.
This talk of mental health is detrimental to those who do suffer and don’t pose any threat. Not only does it deepen the stigma of mental health, it now creates a fear for those who need help to go out and seek help. Have these shooters suffered from a mental illness? Yes, some of them have. Were there proper laws or regulations put in place to limit the access they had to owning guns? No…And that is the problem. In addition to, by placing the blame of a mass shooting on mental health, it lessens the eagerness and urge to further research mental health and how we can advance our treatments.
Furthermore, a point we all are forgetting here is America is not the only country in the world. Mental illness is not a single country epidemic, it is seen throughout the entire world and yet we are the only country facing these astronomical numbers of mass shootings.
Until we can start to communicate intellectually with one another about how we can better our country without blaming one side or the other, or placing the blame on one facet or another, we will never be able to combat this issue. There are so many layers that need to be addressed such as better access to healthcare, less access to guns, and more reliable treatment plans for those who need it. We HAVE to change the narrative and stop trying to find one thing, one group, or one person to blame. It is a spider web far too intertwined.
If you want to become more educated on mental health or start advocating for it, please visit some of these organizations and see how you can help.
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