My Fears as a Teacher With Mental Illness After Florida's School Shooting

Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

As a teacher and a mother of young children, I’m obviously concerned about the number of school shootings that have occurred so far this year, including the most recent in a high school in Florida. As an adult who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and has had multiple stays in a psychiatric hospital, I’m very concerned and fearful what the potential outcome might be of all the discussions connecting all of these tragic events to mental illness.

I agree with the sentiment that we don’t provide adequate services and care to many who struggle with illnesses of any kind in this country, including mental illness. I also agree that we don’t do enough in public schools to provide emotional support and real help to students who need it. In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the care they need along with adequate shelter and nutrition. There’s so much that our lawmakers and leaders could do to improve health and well-being for Americans.

Here’s my question, though: are we really concerned about helping those who need it, or are we concerned about “keeping up appearances” with the people and the businesses that run this country? My fear is that we aren’t really concerned about people at all… or at least not nearly as concerned as we are about protecting our guns. Here’s what I’m afraid might be my future in a world where we think the answer is changes to our mental health system:

1. I’m afraid I will start having to disclose my borderline personality disorder and medication lists to my employer and any potential employer should I seek a new job. I am afraid that questions about mental health will become as common as drug tests and questions about your criminal record. What will that mean for my chances of getting a job? What will that mean for my husband who has bipolar disorder II, or my daughters who have parents and extended family with a history of mental illness?

2. I’m afraid that my hospitalizations will become part of my record, just like anything else. Will mental illness show up in a database when someone runs my license or when an officer runs my plates? Will I be targeted at airports for additional security checks because of my “conditions?” Will police start having a bias for people who have a mental illness just as they already do for people based on their race or clothing?

3. I’m afraid my career in education may come to an end before I’m ready to end it because of who I am, because of my diagnosis. I’m afraid I will be seen as a “risk” and unsafe to be around children, even though I’d never hurt another human or ever had any homicidal thoughts. (All of my hospitalizations have been for suicidal ideations.)

Perhaps my fears are irrational, but history says they are very real possibilities.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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Getty Images photo via julief514

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