Mass Shootings and Mental Health

Please bear with me, this is a longer and thought-provoking post…

My heart hurts. There are tears streaming down my face. I feel like I can’t breathe. How is this real life? How can this be happening in the America I’ve lived in all my life? I thought I knew this country. It’s clear that after reading the newest identified victims of the El Paso shooting, I feel broken. And I was not even directly affected by these shootings. I can not begin to fathom what the victims’ families and friends are going through.

For those of you that read my blog internationally, I am located in the United States. Mass shootings have obviously made their way into the American (and International) headlines, once again. The latest tragedy bringing the total of mass shootings to take place in the United States, this year alone, to 251. Let me remind you of the date – It’s August 5th. We haven’t yet had 251 days in our calendar year for 2019. That averages out to more than ONE mass shooting EVERY DAY.

While what qualifies as a definitive “mass shooting” may not be as dramatic as you think, the point of the matter still stands.

There have been way too many “mass shootings” in the last seven months. As far as I’m concerned, the first was already one too many. I mean shouldn’t others who live in America feel as upset and sad and angry as I am? Is this not extremely alarming? In case you haven’t noticed, America isn’t safe.

We, as individuals, can no longer go out into the general public, worry-free. Instead of concentrating on the fun to be had with whatever outing you may be taking part of, you are busy watching your surroundings. Making sure that anything out of place is noticed and reported immediately. And then when you want to go out as a family… you now have to think about an “active shooter” plan and possibly having to risk your life for your children’s. This is America’s reality now. It’s heartbreaking.

You ever hear that phrase, “if you’re not helping, you’re hurting”? We, as a whole, are clearly failing somewhere along the lines. We are not helping to change the situation and prevent these satanic events from happening. Because filled body bag after body bag later, nothing has changed. Innocent children are still dying. Loving and caring parents are still dying. Our faith in society as a whole is dying. And we are just here, observing from a distance… or maybe even just choosing to ignore the fact that mass shootings happen altogether. But we cannot ignore them. We cannot let this be established as a new norm. We cannot just “send prayers and good vibes”, a change needs to happen and it needs to be immediate.

Now before you think that this change I’m speaking of is gun reform, hold your horses, because it’s not. Whether you like to admit it or not, gun violence in the U.S. is not going to go away. Ever. Even if we put this big reform into action… the bad, evil and sick people out there will still find a way to a gun. And if for some miraculous reason they are not able to get a gun, they would find other methods to kill. A killer is a killer is a killer. They become a killer long before that gun or choice of weapon is put into their hands.

Say we were to take away guns… the ideal outcome would be no guns in the United States for anyone (except police officers and such), right? IDEALLY, there would not be a single citizen with a gun. But then someone with a homemade gun comes in. Yeah. Homemade. How do you defend yourself and your family? Theres no police around. You are officially 100% helpless and defenseless.

Okay don’t like that scenario? Ummmm… Someone drives there car through a crowded festival (which has happened too much as well), killing and injuring many. The police can’t respond quick enough and the killer drives away, free. Leaving so many dead and wounded – with a car. Should we take away cars? NO. Same concept could go for guns.

There are literally one hundred other things that makes someone a killer before a gun. A killer is a killer is a killer. They are going to find a way to kill. Nearly anything can be a weapon if you use it with that intent.

What our society needs to realize is how important the developmental years are and how much mental health plays a role in someone’s over all well-being. Some of these monsters that are killing people have major mental health disorders. The mental health system has failed them – for whatever reason. They could have been put on the wrong medication. Their symptoms could have been dismissed. Their doctors could have misdiagnosed them. They could have had a traumatic experience with mental health professional staff that made them not want to seek help. They might not have had access to affordable health insurance. There is an endless list of reasons as to why these killers did not get the help they needed.

There are others out there, right freaking now, that are thinking of ways to plan a mass shooting. Messed up, isn’t it? If we could come together as a nation and help them, if it hardly took any effort or time at all to prevent a mass murder, would we do it? Because it’s more than possible. It’s important that we address the reasons these killers didn’t get help and change and adapt. We don’t have to be in the mental health field to make a difference.

What is also possible, believe it or not, is that these murderers were not educated on mental health and truly did not understand their thoughts as evil. Plain and simple – they didn’t know any better (about their mental health state not the fact that they didn’t realize they were murdering people). The mind is manipulative and powerful. That’s why when someone chooses to seek treatment, it is so important that they be treated with compassion and understanding, as they are already in such a fragile state.

It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I had learned “self-harm” and “suicidal” ideations and actions were not normal to experience. I honestly thought everyone had thoughts about killing themselves. I straight-up did not know. We need to better educate the youth of America with mental health disorders and the warning signs that lead up to a mental breakdown or God forbid, a mass shooting.

There is still a l a r g e stigma surrounding the topic of mental illnesses. To spark change, we can start by reducing that. We can talk about mental health more. Make going to the therapist as normal as getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks. It’s okay to get help. Clearly some situations are much more intense than others, but we all have a choice to get help and we can help others get help.

Having a mental illness is hard, no doubt. The pressure to fit into our societal norms has become increasingly forceful. But getting help for mental issues has not. Why? Nobody should be afraid to get help for something that is medically wrong with them. Nobody should ever shame another person for getting help either. If you do that you are part of the problem.

Are mass shootings preventable? To a point, I’d like to think so. It starts with education about guns and mental health, as I’ve said. It begins with our children and teaching them good morals and how to be a good person. It starts with every person watching out for themselves and also others, as if they were our own blood. It starts with love and compassion.

My family, or anyone’s family for that matter – should be able to go to a public platform in peace. There shouldn’t have to be an “active shooter” plan in place. Nobody should lose their life because they chose to enjoy a day out with their family. Nobody should lose their life because the mental health system failed someone. We need to break the cycle.

Yes, it is a cycle. Mass shootings are a vicious cycle. They happen. The world mourns (or ignores and goes on living). Calls for gun reform come into play. People argue and protest because we can’t agree on how to fix this growing problem. A couple weeks pass and nothing changes. More mass shootings happen. Then the cycle starts all over again. We cannot allow it to keep going.

We are all trying to make it through life and figure it out. We all want to succeed and excel in certain aspects of our life. Murdering other people should not be one of them. Can we please end the mass shootings? Please.

-A Heartbroken U.S. Citizen

Photo credit: Here

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