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To the Student Being Treated Like You're Dangerous – I Was Like You


I vividly remember being partially ostracized throughout my high school years. Never truly understanding how to connect with my peers. Always feeling left out, even while I was being included. Feeling like I can’t connect with people is something that stuck with me my entire life.

I remember being treated like I was dangerous. I felt like the whole staff knew something I didn’t. Was I going to snap? Am I supposed to want to hurt my peers?

Now I understand the faculty and staff I interacted with. They didn’t hate me; they were afraid of me. To them I fit every description of the kid that was going to come in with a gun. I will never forget the few staff members who were able to reach me. They saw my pain and they stood up for me when the administration was being too hard. Having allies was helpful. But, not being treated like a potential murderer would have been much more appropriate.

The more school shootings that happened the more I was treated as a threat. I am 27 years old; we will have a similar school experience. It won’t get easier and I’m sorry for what you’re going to face. The faculty might fear you, and their fear will come out in painful ways. Your peers might unfairly believe someone like you will murder them.

Be prepared for forced kindness after every shooting that grabs national attention. They will say hi, and maybe invite you to sit with them at lunch. But, most of them won’t try to truly understand you. They will still have to be understanding and not trivialize our mental health issues. Which is hard when the relationship is built on their fear of you.

Our society has created a facetious, callous and misunderstood stigma around mental illness. This stigma keeps people from trusting others with their problems, and seeking help in general.

My peers feared me, my faculty assumed I’d be a school shooter and in December of 2012 a school shooter took my sister’s life. My sister Rachel was one of the six educators who lost their lives alongside 20 first graders, during the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

After she was murdered I wanted to believe the shooter didn’t have a choice. That isn’t true. Most people with mental illnesses aren’t this violent. Sadly, your mental health will most likely bring an overreaction from your school.

I don’t want anyone to have to live like this. I am sorry we are continually blamed for these shootings. I am sorry for how you will be treated by a world that just doesn’t understand mental illness.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash