Like clockwork, every horrible shooting resulting in multiple deaths brings in its wake the controversy over gun control. Proponents and opponents alike come out of the woodwork to defend their sides, but we still rarely look at the underlying problem in all of these incidents; mental health.
From cases like Columbine to the naval yard shooting, the motives of the shooters are essentially impossible to fully comprehend or, at times, even identify. To say these shooters were in their right minds at any point in their crimes would be untrue.
Thus the problem; people know that to commit such an atrocity, you’d have to be “out of your mind.” As crude a phrase as that is to describe it, it’s true. Mental illness is an issue people don’t seem to look into when pointing the blame in these matters, however, do we even know enough about this so called issue to point blame in the first place?
As much as we don’t like to admit it, there is still such a negative stigma around mental illness. And what we think it boils down to is that as far as America has come in so many ways, we still don’t know how to treat people who suffer from mental illnesses. In a way, this is understandable; it’s hard to be completely comfortable with the idea that complications so common in our society can be the cause of brutalities so large and influential.
However, if there have been reoccurring instances where mentally ill people are behind the barrel of a gun that kills innocent people, shouldn’t we become comfortable talking about this topic? Or in the least, shouldn’t we start learning about these illnesses?
Mental illnesses are not something that can be pushed under the rug. They are not something to be afraid of. They are not a danger to every day society.
Mental illnesses are an issue we should be paying attention to. They are something that is too serious to ignore. They are manageable.
Mental illnesses are tricky, they never really completely go away and the smallest trigger can set off an episode. However, maybe if the country were more knowledgeable on how to handle someone openly coming out and saying something like “I suffer from a mental illness,” we would face less of these issues. People without mental illnesses are uncomfortable with things they don’t understand and can’t relate to. It’s the classic shunning and overlooking of the kid who just doesn’t fit in.
On top of dealing with the constant struggles of managing a mental illness, imagine also dealing with the idea that you could be judged or treated differently for a problem that you can’t help having.
Many people feel like they can’t turn to help, that it’ll make them weak. This should never be an issue. We have to take care of our minds as much as we try to take care of our bodies.
Now we are in no way defending the shooters who killed these innocent people, but maybe these shootings may have turned out differently or not have happened at all if more attention had been paid to the signs he showed: the trouble sleeping, the strange angry behavior, his admission to hearing voices and all of this on top of his dismissed arrest. Or maybe if the country were educated on mental illnesses, someone could have intervened before tragedy happened.
So although of course it is a big issue that these shootings have happened, we think the wrong questions have been getting asked. Instead of asking who allowed those people to own a gun, maybe we should focus of what made that person reach for a gun in the first place.