I am going to go into a territory that is going to make everyone uncomfortable and I am going to go there because someone has to. It needs to be said but more importantly it needs to be heard.
This country and it's media are adept at avoiding it's problems head on. We are masters of deflecting and sensationalizing. We stick to our ideals and angrily attack others for theirs and yet no one is listening to anyone and no one is getting the bigger picture. Someone needs to step up and be honest and I think it should come from our community because we know what is really going on. I am a representation of this community. The mental illness community. I am mentally ill.
We have had these horrible incidents of mass murder, carnage and pain, blood and bullets. Yet instead of reporting the facts, instead of having an honest conversation, what we do is sensationalize and look to the first thing we can look to to explain the events.
In the eighties asylums and mental hospitals were shut down at such a rate the many mentally ill people who had resided in them were left destitute and homeless. Unable to get the proper support they needed, they lived on the streets ignored and overlooked for decades. And as the people that needed help languished in poverty and filth, laws were passed to make having adults committed to mental illness facilities almost impossible unless the person first tried to harm themselves or had committed a violent crime. Problem being, that many of our mass shooters have never committed a violent crime until they became mass shooters.....pretty terrible loophole right?
America, we do not have a gun problem. We do not have a racism problem. Are these two things problematic and causing issues? Yes, but that is not what is going on here. America, we have a mental illness problem and it needs to be addressed.
We as a country love symbols. They are simple and neat and convenient to blame when things go horribly wrong. We want to look at inanimate objects as the cause of our issues instead of the root of the whole problem. It is much easier to blame guns, or flags, or people that have been dead for over 150 years and make it seem like we are making progress because in this country we have accepted that we don't really need actual progress, just the symbolism of it. Symbols make great scapegoats. They are easy targets. Take them away or call for their desecration and on the surface it appears that we have solved our ills. We have cut out the offending issues. We have accomplished something.
The only problem is, we are not looking at the right problem to fix. We are not even addressing the real issue. Symbols are neat and tidy and fixing the actual issue is messy and hard. We have become lazy and we accept our laziness as long as we are able to sleep peacefully at night because we have gotten rid of inanimate objects instead of the very animate issue. Our denial makes us feel safer. Our denial is slowing killing us.
I am not a doctor, but I can see the problem very clearly because I belong to the community of those who are overlooked or ignored. I know when someone goes and shoots up a theater, or a church. or a school that it isn't because of guns or flags or whatever the media wants to spew out of it's mouth hole. These people are insane. These are the people who's families have tried to get them help but were turned away. These are the people who can not get or do not take the medications they need to stay functioning. These are the people that said and acted as if something was very wrong with them and people ignored it. The world ignored it. The system ignored it.
And why? Because this system is fundamentally broken. Laws have been passed with loopholes so large you could drive a train through them. Lack of funding. Lack of desire to try and fix it. Lack of understanding. Lack of staff. Lack of empathy. Lack of proper medication. Lack of fighting stigma. Lack of accurate representation. Lack of media truth. Lack of proper places to go. Lack of places that are willing to help. Lack of education on mental illness. Lack of honesty about just what is going on here. No this isn't just a symbol problem...this is a "lack there of "problem.
Many people knew these people needed to be committed but there was no one left willing to take them, no place left to help them, and nothing left to stop them.
I say it isn't solely about guns because when someone has gone this far they will use anything to kill whether it be bombs, knives, or sharpened spoon handles. I say it is not solely about racism because there is racism all around this world for every single race and yet most people, ignorant as they may be, do not go and shoot up a church and murder nine innocent people. I am not saying he wasn't a racist, I am simply saying he killed because he is insane.
President Obama in a speech once said that America doesn't have a monopoly on crazy people and he is right. Except that what America does have a monopoly on, is a poor understanding and an extreme sense of denial when it comes to "crazy" people. We are one of the few countries still willing to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that mental illness plays no part in our daily lives....
These people didn't slip through the cracks, they were thrown out of the door without so much as a second thought.
Adam Lanza's mom tried to get him help but was turned away.
James Holmes's family knew something was wrong but was unable to stop him.
Aaron Alexis was known to be violent and had acted violently but it was all brushed over.
Dylan Roof's friends had seen his bizarre behavior and said nothing.
John Russel Houser's family was so terrified of him that they fled and got a protection order against him.
No one listened and no one cared....until it was too late.
None of their victims had to die. It was not inevitable. It was not unpreventable. It was not fate. It was ignorance and the lack of support. It was pure and simple denial and it makes me wonder how many more times this will have to happen before people stop making it about their political agendas, stop making excuses, stop blaming symbols, and start to open their eyes.
The truth is that until we fix the system that is supposed to catch people that are like this, this will continue. You can protest and shout about the symbols all you want. It changes nothing. Change comes with fixing the problem that creates the shooter in the first place. Change comes from fixing a broken system that makes helping people like this before they get this bad, impossible. Change comes from seeing the truth.
This system is supposed to protect not just the rest of the world from these people but also protect them from themselves.
We, in the mental illness community, don't like to talk about these mass killers because we do not like to be associated with them. Statistics prove that we are far more likely to victims of violence rather to commit it. We don't want to blamed when these nut-jobs do this but on the other hand, it is everyone in America's fault because although we know it's a problem, no one wants to really look at it. No one wants to do the arduous task of fixing it. No one wants to get their hands dirty with this. It is much easier, much safer to claim it is because of something else and not look the problem directly in the eye. No matter how many people it kills before we get intelligent about it.
If anyone had bothered to ask the mental illness community, we could have told you how broken this system is. How inadequate it has become. How ridiculous the laws to prevent people that need to be committed are. How tiny the funds for mental care facilities are. How many mental illness sufferers are taking up most of our jails rather than being treated. How many hospitals don't have enough beds for those that need them. How we are running a race to a finish line that makes no sense nor has any rewards because the decks are stacked against us. We are either blamed or ignored but no one wants to actually listen and that is probably the greatest tragedy of all. These types of acts could be minimized and maybe even prevented all together if only people stopped ceasing to ignore the obvious, simply because it is the easier thing to do.