Look at the entire picture
Like everyone else, I am horrified by the events that occurred in Connecticut yesterday. As a new parent, as well as an educator, I feel sorrow that innocent victims, in a place they should be physically and emotionally safe, were killed. It seems as though everyone is coming out with an opinion about guns and gun control, and the debate over the second amendment is being heard on the news, through social media, and in homes across the country. While it is always appropriate to talk about issues related to gun control, I think there is something else that this event should bring to the forefront of the national conversation.
As a nation, we need to have a serious talk about mental health. Both sides of the gun control issue will express that if more people had guns, or if no people were armed, this would not have happened. What neither side can dispute is that this act, like those in movie theaters, malls, universities, and other schools was conducted by someone who was clearly unstable. Was his access to a gun the problem, or a symptom of a bigger, systemic issue?
A national counseling program? Well, maybe. Mandated counseling and mental health for all, regardless of circumstance? Not quite.
Our national conversation should spend some time on stress. Perhaps the notion that working 14 hour days as “hardworking” or “industrious” is incorrect. Worrying about losing your home, wages that cause individuals to take on extra jobs, or the cultural urge to spend more money are contributing to stress. The new economy has caused companies to make needed reductions, often causing employees to take on more responsibility. Our 24 hour, instant culture magnifies mistakes and fosters criticism that is not constructive. Does our constant quest for profit foster a destructive culture?
Our national conversation should spend some time on access. Those who don’t have insurance often cannot get the mental health care they need in a timely fashion. While I don’t believe that everyone needs counseling help or medication, I do think those who need the help should be able to get it.
Our national conversation should spend some time on how we treat one another. Our politics and news networks have become polarized. No longer is compromise good, nor is real debate encouraged. While we should all hold infortmed views, we should not demonize those who disagree with us. We also need to talk about coping skills. How do we handle when someone disagrees with us, or something does not go our way?
Our national conversation needs to break the stigma of receiving help. Research for cancer and new treatments for heart health are regularly praised. There is no shame in getting a screener or taking a pill for high cholesterol. Our culture needs to embrace people getting the medical help they need, regardless.
In the coming days and weeks, we will hear a lot about gun control. People on both sides of the issue will point to recent tragedies in Oregon and Connecticut. I hope as we have these debates, that we look at the whole picture.