It’s been two weeks since the Parkland, FL shooting incident. I know I’m not alone when I say it’s still weighing heavy on my mind. Between reports in the news to teacher friends bringing up safety procedures to other friends talking about drills at their children’s school, it’s clearly still on everyone’s minds. The thing I keep coming back to is not how it happened but why. How does a person get so angry/depressed/deranged that they think hurting others is a way to ease whatever is gnawing away at them? After two weeks of turning that thought over in my head coupled with a recent news report about the shooter, it hit me. It’s all comes down to mental illness.
I can almost see the puzzled look on your face. I realize this isn’t what most of you were thinking. Yet, when you break down the whole horrible act to the root cause, the very reason for the crime, it isn’t the location, or target or weapon. It all boils down to the assailant’s mental state. A person who perpetrates a crime against innocents obviously has a screw loose. Yet, we as a collective tend to sweep mental illness under the rug. Pay no attention to the crazy person on the corner. Pay no attention to the kid at school who has no friends, no interests, poor grades and a YouTube channel proclaiming their desire to kill.
Why do we automatically dismiss mental illness? If someone tells us they have high blood pressure or diabetes or even severe allergies we don’t blink. We automatically assume what they are telling us is true even though we can’t see what the disease or disorder is doing to their bodies. Yet, when we hear someone is depressed, bipolar, or schizophrenic our first thought is ‘they just need to suck it up and get their shit straight’?Additionally, why do we put so much stigma on seeking help for mental illness? You don’t see anyone shaming someone for developing brain cancer. Yet, tell someone you are seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist for anything and suddenly there’s an elephant in the room. Just yesterday news reports stated the shooter had been receiving mental health treatment but when he turned 18 he refused further treatment because he wanted to mainstream. He wanted to be in a ‘regular’ school.
Of all the organs in the magnificent machine that is our body, the brain is quite possibly the most interesting and mysterious one. Is it because the brain is so mysterious that we are so quick to dismiss mental illness? Or, do we dismiss it because we have yet to and may never know what causes mental illness? Maybe it’s because the treatment of mental illness is very much trial and error with very little actual cure, only treatment. Some could argue the reason mental health isn’t addressed as much as it should is the lack of long-term institutional facilities and mental health services covered by healthcare plans. I don’t have any answers, but I am wildly curious. I hope in my lifetime we as collective really address mental illness. Hopefully, it will no longer be a stigma but a disorder to be managed not unlike any other unseen disease or disorder.