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What's Missing From the Debate About Stopping the Next School Shooter

The most helpful emails in health
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I wish you’d stop and be quiet. Just for a minute.

I truly understand. We send our babies off to school in the United States of America. It should be a given they don’t get murdered. But here we are. Another 17 innocent souls have been gunned down, slaughtered in hallways that smell of Elmer’s Glue and textbooks. This means we are going to fight about the weapons.  Again. It’s the obvious first choice.

I don’t think you’re wrong. Anyone in their right mind would wonder how this individual with a long history of violence and violent threats could legally purchase firearms. Which he used to mass murder innocent children. At their school. You should be furious about that.

Still. You should be quiet.

I am a mother on the front lines of pediatric mental illness. I am a warrior in the trenches of a misunderstood battle that nobody likes to talk about. I stand in the dark places you’d rather pretend aren’t here, holding up my little boy and the rest of my family. I often fight with makeshift weapons and blaze my own path because help is damn hard to come by, much less afford. I’ve been at war for a very long time.

My message is urgent and my opinion is expert. I can help, if only you’d listen.

If you would stop yelling at each other about guns from behind your towering Red and Blue walls, you might be able to see me. I’m the one with the tear-stained face, jumping up and down in the wreckage below. The one who is screaming. Gesturing. Begging for you to direct your attention to the elephant in the room. The one nobody ever talks about or tweets about or argues about or stands up for. Ever. I’m on my knees, but beyond the occasional nod or smile, you pay me no heed.

You see, I believe none of you are raising hell about the right thing.

Ask the other moms like me, if you can find them in the shadows. Everyone rages about the gun, but nobody gives a damn about why it was picked up in the first place.  You need to yell about the mental health system in our country. You need to protest the understaffed, underfunded field of pediatric psychiatry. You need to feel burning rage about the lack of resources and training for our public school teachers who are raising these children as much as we are. I beg you to start drawing attention to mental illness instead of just arguing about the gun lobby. Start asking yourself why more and more young men are walking into schools and murdering people. The gun control mess will still be there tomorrow.

Humor me for a moment and pretend the guns are all gone. Did those who are struggling get well? Is the young man suddenly cured of his violent tendencies? No. Do you care now?

Will you only fight the real problem when the child-slaughtering tool of choice isn’t something you can ban or regulate or hold a partisan battle over? How about we step in and help the kid who is circling the drain before he decides to murder people. By any means.

Democrats blame the guns and Republicans blame the teacher’s inability to carry them. The fault always belongs to someone else. That is so much easier than looking at the bigger, darker picture that isn’t as easy to share on Facebook.

What if the well-being of lost and outcast children meant as much to you as the Second Amendment? We might actually prevent these tragedies.

Before the weapon is purchased. 

A man who has the capacity to shoot his way through a school hallway or chain his own children to a bed is not just evil. You don’t get to write off the human behind these atrocities as a nameless anomaly and walk away, shaking your fist at the weapon used or the fumbled police tip. Not if you don’t want it to happen again tomorrow. And the day after that.

If your soul hurts and your anger is palpable, fight with me. If your “thoughts and prayers” are real, fight with me. If you care about the spiking youth suicide rate in this country, fight with me. If you want to stop mass murders in our schools, fight with me.  We have to re-do our mental health system from the ground up. We have to start talking about the stuff you’re all hiding and shake off the stigmas associated with mental illness. We have to start specifically teaching our children from a very young age that indifference does not equal kindness. We have to be willing to face some very uncomfortable truths about the way kids are treating each other at school. Above all, we have to stop treating mental illness as a taboo topic reserved for whispered conversations behind closed doors.  The shame has got to stop. Now.

Or just keep screaming at the top of your lungs about gun control and we’ll chat again after the next preventable massacre. I will be right here, jumping up and down in the wreckage, begging for you to talk about the elephant in the room.  I will still be holding out my hand, waiting for you to take it.

Seventeen people were brutally murdered in Parkland. If we had saved Nikolas Cruz before it was too late, 18 of them would have their lives back.

Follow this journey on She Shines Her Light.

Getty image via Ableimages

Originally published: March 30, 2018
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