There isn't a person I know who hasn't been touched by the tragedy that happened last Friday in Newton, CT. Like most, I've spent hours pouring over the information released by the press, hoping to find some reason for these senseless killings and the abrupt end of lives that were just beginning. I cried when the names were released, thinking of the parents who's arms were now empty. And I've been angry; angry that despite the signs, this was not prevented.
There's been a lot of focus on gun control in the US since Friday. Many blog posts have been quick to point the finger at the NRA, the laxed attitude to gun regulations and have called for change from our nation's lawmarkers. I'm not saying that this isn't important nor that it isn't something we should be talking about. But what has disturbed me is how many people have once again refused to addressed a key issue: how the US treats the mentally ill.
Since our miscarriages and failed cycles, Grey and I have both been in counseling. I've talked before about how therapy has been a life-saver, preventing me from dwelling too long in the dark pit of despair and giving me the tools I need to heal and live. What I haven't talked about is how much of therapy is not covered by insurance. How much of it is covered out of pocket, resulting in huge monthly bills. We are fortunate that we are able to prioritize seeking help, but with each bill I'm reminded how unavailable counseling and psychotherapy is to the general public.
A lot of this has to do with how our culture views mental illness. It should not come as a surprise that ~60% of the convicts occupying our prison system suffer from a mental disorder, which is 5 times higher than the general populous. Even within the general populous, mental illness is always talked about in hushed tones, with families refusing to seek help simply out of shame.
The thing is, like any preventative care, the sooner an individual is able to be diagnosed and receive help, the better the outcome. Granted, it's never an easy road, but I have witnessed families rally around an individual, providing support and addressing ancient demons only to conquer and thrive. In some cases, it's simply a matter of counseling. In others, more aggressive intervention is required. But at the end of the day, the outcome is always better than ignoring the problem.
Adam Lanza was not a demonic monster; he was a human being who was in a great deal of pain. I'm not excusing what he did nor condoning anyone who chooses to take lives. But to hear that he was isolated, without friends, so painfully shy that he couldn't speak without anxiety and was forgettable. Well, my heart breaks there too. And I can't help but think "what if." What if someone had reached out to Adam, offering a kind word or letting him know they were available to talk? What if someone had pushed Nancy Lanza to seek help for her "difficult son?" What if a judge had mandated family counseling following the Lanza's 2008 divorce?
What if we stopped assuming that mental illness isn't a problem or is simply that individual's problem and started demanding that help be available to all?
My heart is heavy for the members of Newton, CT. My heart is heavy for the families that lost too much. But I am also tired of us passing the blame. Yes, gun violence in this nation is awful and we need to address it. But no one who takes another individuals life willingly is mentally well. And if we don't address the root of the problem, nothing will change.
Agree with me or not, please take a moment this week to contact your Congressmen/women and let them know that we need change. It was too much with Aurora, CO. It was too much with Virginia Tech. And it was too much with Columbine, CO. Enough is enough.
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