In the wake of the school shootings and stabbings, people are trying to come to terms with a society that would allow and carry out such crimes. In the process, many are starting to play the blame game, and one of the unfortunate victims have become the mentally ill.
I understand the thinking and the political motivations. That’s why I am writing this piece. I’m not going to try to blame any one person or entity for these unfortunate turn of events, but I am going to offer some sobering information from the point of view of someone who has lived with severe mental illness all her life.
Victim or Perpetrator
It is a fact that in any demographic (sex, sexual orientation, occupation, urban, suburban, etc.) there are those who would commit violence against others. Approximately 2% of people living with a mental illness will do so, no greater and no less than any other group. People who live with mental illness are far more likely to become victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it.
That having been said, it may be true that the people who have committed mass murder in our schools, churches and at concerts here in the United States may have lived with a mental condition. However, they were undiagnosed and in the cases of the children, were ignored. The kids who shot up the Columbine High School were known to be unstable, as was the teen in Florida, yet with all the evidence sitting right in front of all, it was ignored.
Why? What Is Wrong?
One problem, and perhaps it all, stems from stigma.
Stigma is a potent influence in our society. For hundreds if not for thousands of years, being diagnosed with a mental health condition has been considered a life sentence. Even with the advancements we now have in science, people who have themselves or have a relative who has such a diagnosis are shunned and shut out.
Until the Obama administration, even medical insurance denied paying for care for mental health conditions even though the costs and prognosis for those living with them were much lower and better than other physical diseases such as cancer or diabetes.
Stigma is Powerful
I have had to leave two houses of worship not because I acted strangely or caused a disruption, but because once the people found out I had a mental health condition, they became afraid of me. Some even refused to sit in the same pew as I did. These people aren’t evil folks, just people who don’t understand and do not care to find out the facts.
Isn’t the biggest culprit here? People being afraid to face the facts? Are we so terrified of looking at the truth that we would sacrifice the lives of innocent men, women, and children?
A Few Sobering Things to Think About
Here are just a few sobering facts to ponder.
The father of one of the Columbine shooters had been notified several times by the police and the high school that his son had done disturbing and in a few instances illegal things. The father’s answer? “My son is a victim. He did nothing wrong.” Here it was clearly not only a lack of taking responsibility, but being fearful of stigma.
Columbine was aware of the strange behaviors of the two youths who were to later kill themselves and several innocents. They either could not or would not act.
Our politicians in Washington are terrified of losing their positions of power and authority, so they turn the other way and do nothing when faced with the hatred and fear in our country. This isn’t just recently, this has been going on for decades. They have forgotten who they are supposed to be working for, the American people.
The youth who killed so many in Florida recently also had been noticed by his school. He had been, at one time, denied carrying a backpack to school for fear it might be hiding weapons. Finally, he was expelled. The local police and the FBI knew about him but did nothing. People were afraid to act.
There are currently very few and in some instances no counselors in our schools. Those who are have been hampered by the bureaucracy and red tape involved in helping kids. They are left powerless to act on behalf of troubled kids, and like myself, their pain and suffering go untreated.
Child and family services are so tied up with cases they can prove to involve child abuse that many of our children fall through the cracks. The reason? No one wants to fund them. They are on the number one hit list of cost-slashing in many states. It’s as though the United States values their children so lowly that raising property taxes or doing anything to help our kids gets easily marked off.
The media is helping to perpetuate the problem. I understand that people have the right to know about these horrible events, but to carelessly report such things is to engender a type of immortality to the killers. The scenes are not just reported once or when necessary, they are played over and over again. This reporting invites other lonely or disenfranchised youths and adults to think about how they too can reach a place in history by doing the same.
The Answers Aren’t Easy
I fully understand that the answers to these problems aren’t easy, and to be frank, many people will have their toes stepped finding them. But blaming the mentally ill, the gun owners, or the politicians alone will not solve anything.
What Can We do?
Work together. Sit down and take a hard look at all our attitudes. Try to find out why so many of our kids are turning into mass murders.
We need to come together like never before as a nation, as a people, with open, honest dialogue.
We must stop acting like toddlers, and end the finger-pointing.
Who is To Blame?
Who killed those children at Columbine and in Florida?
We all did. Every one of us.