December 14th, 2012

reality

The conversation no one is having

Word about today's horrific shooting in Connecticutt spead quickly amongst the parents and teachers in my daughter's preschool class as we came to pick up our children today. Everyone hugged their kids harder than usual, tried not to cry and faked smiles for the children. Moms mumbled about home schooling and avoiding movie theaters and malls. A few talked about gun control in hushed voices, a subject I feel absolutely certain will be a loud and devisive topic around the country in the very near future. And, yes, that's a conversation that needs to happen (though I doubt it will happen in anything remotely resembling a civilized or productive way). But, to me, the issue that needs to be talked about, the root problem that needs to be addressed, is our country's mental healthcare system... or lack thereof.

I said something like that to one of the other moms and she looked at me and said "Oh! Was he insane?" And I said "Mentally healthy people don't walk into an elementary school classroom and slaughter children. So, I'm no expert but I'm gonna guess yes." She looked surprised.

The truth is, there are a lot of unknowns still about mental illness and - it should be noted - not all mentally ill people are violent. But, it was only fifty years ago that lobotomies and electoshock theapy were the height of of treatment for mental health problems and there remains an enormous stigma attached to mental illness in general. Gun control or not, things like this will continue to happen (a man in China attacked 22 school children with a knife today as well). However, we can minimize it by starting a national dialogue about mental illness, helping the public to understand and recognize it better, create a better support system for those who suffer from it and their families, and develop better treatment options that address the root problems.

My heart breaks for those poor children and their families, as well as for the suviving children who heard or saw their friends die. I cannot help but put myself in the shoes of those parents, even though I don't want to think about it. I locked myself in the bathroom so I could cry in the shower without my kids seeing. My four-year-old daughter asked me what happened. In my scrambling for a way to answer her, I told her that a bad man did something that hurt people. But it's easy to call the shooter "bad" or "evil." The harder thing is too look at why.

That's my two-cents, anyhow... for the approximately eight people that actually read my livejournal...