In my 27+ years I have never felt the need to take another human’s life, and I have never struggled with urges to take my own. But, this does not mean I have not struggled.
We hardly know much about the young man who entered an elementary school and opened fire on children and teachers, but we do know that he was ill. Mentally ill. So ill that he decided that he needed to do the unthinkable.
It has created a knot in my stomach. Not as much for the family and the children affected, although I do feel for them, but because I know that we’re missing the issue. The issue is mental health. A topic we don’t really talk about until something like this happens.
I suffer from a form of mental illness.
I am an anxious and depressed person who if not careful and aware can have my mental illness overcome my rational thought. I have never felt so low as to self-harm, but I have lived an unbelievable low. I have looked at life and felt it was void of happiness or purpose. I have had to work desperately hard to fight through stigma and the tight grip of my depression to continue to seek out the medication I need to be chemically balanced and happy, and I have also taken the steps necessary to speak with a therapist to continue to grow beyond my mental failings. I will need to be aware and conscious of my mental illness for the rest of my life to ensure I am living a balanced and happy life. When I no longer am aware of the power of my mental illness is when it is able to regain control over my life.
All of this has taken awareness, support, and mostly, medical insurance and money.
Without my health insurance, willing to cover the costs for my anti depressants and my therapy sessions, where would I be?
If I had not had the options available to me to get help, to get on the correct medications, to speak with the right individuals, how low would my life have gotten? Where would I be today?
Thankfully I don’t have to know the answer to this question. I am lucky in this regard.
I share this because what I suffer from is manageable, and in comparison to some mental illness, marginal. And yet, if affects my daily life in a profound and noticeable way when I am not taking care of myself as I should. If it takes so much awareness, time and money to live a healthy life with my anxiety and depression, can you imagine what is needed for those suffering much worse than myself? The scope of what we're dealing with?
Which is why when I look at the tragedy that took place today I don’t see a gun control issue, I see a mental health issue.
If this person had gotten the help he needed, the help he didn’t even know he needed, we might not be mourning the loss of these children and students today.
There is no Band-Aid.
There is no magic fix.
And I don’t know what else can be done today, in this moment, except to keep talking about mental illness. To remind people it is real. And big. And needs attention. That it is the root cause, and that before we start fighting about gun control laws we need to have compassion and understand for those who are sick. To attend to and speak about these illnesses early, not only when they've morphed into the unspeakable.
Because only when we care for those who are suffering will we prevent things like this from happening again.
I have to hope. And share.
Because I don’t know what else to do.