What has happened in Newtown is a tragedy (you can watch the news reports, listen to the radio, read the papers for more about it). Whether the shooter had an illness was brought up in the earliest broadcast. It always is when there is an emergency like this.
Please spread the news: A diagnosis of a mental illness does not absolutely mean that that person will be violent. It does not absolutely mean that s/he will harm themselves or others. It is rare. Early treatment and detection help to control many aspects of different mental illnesses. Since this happened in a school, we have the opportunity to move forward by educating children about mental illness as an illness, not the stigma that is generalizations and spreading assumptions as truth.
I encourage readers to, at the least, learn a little about mental illness and what it means for most people who have them. Read this blog. Look at NAMI’s response and assistance in their article “The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy.” Read other pages on NAMI’s site. This is a chance to bring up, in conversations already happening, the reality of mental illness, and the need of early detection, support systems, health care.
It is also a time to talk about your experiences with mental illness – if you have one (or more) or a family member or friend does. How does it affect you? What were your assumptions about mental illness before you met someone with that illness, and did anything change?
As far as gun control is concerned, I was sent a petition to sign. This is my response to the person, who knows that I have a mental illness, who has been one of the greatest supporters of me, my life, my bipolar, and this blog. I may still sign the petition, but I have a real problem with the language that creates stigma in one place when genuinely trying to make a difference in another:
My response to the petition:
I’ll have to think about it. I really don’t like the text:
I don’t have a gun. I don’t want a gun. I don’t need a gun. But somehow the guns always wind up in the hands of people crazy enough to use them irresponsibly and dangerously. This HAS TO BE STOPPED.
I’ve heard reports on the radio – this morning, quoted on NPR (not by NPR newscasters themselves). I’m “one of those people” that shouldn’t have guns. I don’t think anyone should. I think that adding in the petition that the “people who are crazy enough” should just be “people.” I don’t want this to create stigma about mental illness – this is when it is really important to say that we need education and early detection and available health, so that we can help people with mental illness before it gets to this. Because it doesn’t have to.
My heart and prayers go out to those who were killed, their family, friends, and community. And to the shooter, and his family and friends. And to people with mental illnesses who feel like they were just shut out a little bit more, and may not think that they can speak about how they have a mental illness.
Newtown is a tragedy that has to spark discussion about the society we live in. Along those lines, I want to share an amazing short film called “A Perfect Day” about a potential mass shooter on the morning of, and an unsuspecting stranger who opens the shooter’s eyes to the implications of what he’s about to do. Powerful stuff!