On Friday, December 14th the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut faced a tragedy and many have been left to face grief that I would never wish upon another person. Since Friday, I have had a lot of thoughts about grief, mortality, guns and weapons, and the stigma in this country about obtaining the care needed for mental illness.
Before that, let me just say that my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this tragedy.
Where can I begin? I have a therapist. Therapy doesn’t control my life, I don’t suffer from mental illness, and nothing fantastically traumatic has happened to me. I don’t begin every sentence I speak with “but my therapist said…,” and I am lucky enough to be in at a place in my life where I have access to these mental health services. Whenever I say this to people they get wide-eyed and look closely at me, “But what’s wrong?!” they ask, astonished.
Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong with me, or with anyone who seeks medical care for their mental illness. A person with cancer, or diabetes, or lupus wouldn’t be looked at that way for going to their doctor. So then, why, I must ask, do we stigmatize mental illness to the point that people that need medical attention are criminalized?
I am in no way pardoning what happened last Friday. I’m not. It was a terrible, monumental tragedy, and I hope that we can begin to move toward preventing this from happening.
Prevention comes from two things: 1) Moving away from the notion that mental healthcare is a privilage in this country and 2) regulating guns. I don’t know a lot about gun control because I don’t have a gun, I don’t want a gun, and for the love of all things good in this world can someone explain to me why any civilian in America needs a weapon that can fire 100 rounds of ammo at rapid speed?
I don’t know guns, but I do know the value in mental healthcare. And we must begin to stop glamorizing killing and violence and weapons and guns, and we must stop stigmatizing mental illness. We must. Or events like Newtown will continue to happen, and we will continue to be grief stricken by the loss of human life.
All of this hurts my heart, but the thing that causes me the greatest grief is seeing this posted on the internet.
Who on earth would create something like this? Why? First of all, “pretends to cry”? Why would a father of two pretend to cry over the loss of children who never had the chance to grow up, get married, fall in love, buy a car, have a family, see the world, experience life? It was apparent to me that whoever made this isn’t a parent, because no parent could lash out in anger when their children were safe after last Friday?
Yes, there are wars happening in the world, there are terrible things happening in other places in the world. Yes, America has some influence on that. But to discredit that the president, who is, after all, a father, a husband, and a human being before he is the president, is truly moved and upset by the events in Newtown is just disappointing.
We, as a country, need to come together and grieve the loss of the human life, and open the discussion about gun control and mental illness, and we need to move toward changing things at home.
Pointing fingers, blaming, and being angry about international affairs isn’t a way to cope with this tragedy.
I sincerely hope that this begins a discussion about de-stigmatizing mental illness and mental healthcare and leads people to question the gun laws that are currently in place. If we don’t, this will continue to happen, and children and adults alike will continue to be killed in malicious acts of violence.
Hug your loved ones, and for those of you who are suffering from mental illness or know someone that is: please, please know that help is out there. Violence is not the answer.