I, like anyone else, was horrified over what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. I have school-aged children, and every time I’ve dropped them off since last Friday, I’ve wondered. Every time I drop them, I will wonder. Events like these change us, and they should. Hopefully for the better.
I’ve watched with interest as people have entered the “let’s fix this” stage. Some claim we need more gun controls. Some less. Some claim we need to ban certain fire arms. Some claim we need to allow our teachers to be armed. I honestly have no real contribution in this area. Personally, I don’t think gun control (more or less) makes a difference unless the people wielding the guns change. I don’t like banning certain fire arms will change anything unless people change. I don’t think arming teachers changes anything either. It might change the result–and let’s be honest, what happened last Friday should never happen again–but the events won’t. No amount of government control will ever fully eliminate what happened last Friday without the additional change within ourselves.
Some of the suggestions I find most disturbing are many of the thoughts I’m seeing in regards to mental illness. As we have this national conversation, I hope we will all take a moment to recognize one key fact: mental illness does NOT equal violent.
Anything less than that will perpetuate a travesty on a segment of our society comparable to what happened in Sandy Hook.
Did you know that in 2008, roughly 5% of US adults were afflicted with a serious mental illness? That in any given year, roughly 25% Americans experience a mental illness of some kind?
If even a tenth of those who experience severe mental illness were violent, it would represent a horde of over one million people (1,178,000 roughly).
Are there violent mentally ill people? Yes. Are there violent mentally healthy people? Yes. And I’m not arguing otherwise. But I find it dangerous to make an assumption that those who are mentally ill are violent, and numerous scientific studies hold that the mentally ill are NOT any more violent than the mentally healthy.
Now I admit a bias here: I have a lot of mental illness in my family, including a son with Aspergers. Did I note that some have claimed the shooter (I refuse to name him because he should be forgotten!) had Aspergers? Yes, yes I did. And could I ever imagine the boy who just last night climbed into my lap, gave me a hug, and told me how much he loved me as a mass murderer? No.
Could any parent?
As we face these difficult questions and deal with the truly raw emotions Sandy Hook has left on all of us, let’s be careful to ask not only the right questions but also focus on the right issues, the right problems, and the right solutions. Labeling the mentally ill as violent and dangerous does no one any good. But more than that, it continues the tragedy that happened last Friday on to yet another innocent and in so many ways helpless population.