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Think Again: Let them speak: mental health and mass shootings

It was my freshman year of high school. Nov. 1, 2010. I remember sitting in a row towards the back in the dimly lit theater when the news was announced. One of the seniors had been shot over the weekend at a Halloween house party and died shortly after in Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas. There would be counseling services available throughout the day to anyone who needed them and funeral arrangements would be announced shortly.

The halls of Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, in the four years I attended the all-girls Catholic school, had never been as eerily silent as that day. The cheerful and playful atmosphere was nowhere to be found. There was anger. There was sadness. There was confusion. These emotions choked the air. I recall sobbing in mid-conversation with my teacher in my first period biology class. We didn’t understand how this could happen or why. All we did understand was that we needed to deal with this together somehow.

Eventually after the funeral at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, we carried on with our school lives. But it’s still an event I can’t shake from my memory.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have never experienced a mass school shooting up to this point, so maybe it’s unfair to compare this experience with the latest school shooting. It’s one thing to hear that a fellow student was shot and killed. It’s another to actually hear the gunshots and to see your friends and teachers take bullets and breathe their last breath.

I can’t help but think of my experience as I watch the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, one after the other, express so much hurt, so much pain and so much fury at the politicians for refusing to regulate guns. Instead, all politicians want to talk about is mental health reform, despite lack of majority support prior to the shooting.

If politicians were actually concerned about the state of mental health in America, they would work towards eradicating the things that threaten it such as gun accessibility, wouldn’t they? If they think mental health care reform was so important, they’d introduce measures to improve our mental health care system, right?

Apparently not. Instead, you have people like Benjamin Kelly, now former district secretary for Rep. Shawn Harrison of Florida, who accuse the student survivors speaking out against gun violence of being paid actors and a number of adults, including your typical angry white males who probably own two shotguns and suburban white moms, that say the Florida students shouldn’t politicize a shooting because they’re kids who can’t vote.

It’s easy to say, “don’t politicize an event,” when you’re sure that you won’t be caught up in a shooting. However, these so-called productive members of society should realize it’s better that students verbalize their trauma as much as they can. According to Connecticut psychologist Eric Schleifer, many kids don’t have the capacity to process school shootings. Instead, they keep it in the back of their mind. They then avoid stressful situations and the threat of disappointment. This is especially so if they’ve ever been told to “not worry” over something they care about.

If we truly care about mental health, we should be letting kids, no matter what age, speak and not belittle their problems.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students as well as other high school students across the nation are speaking up so that these shootings will never again happen. It’d be in the adults’ best interest to sit down and listen. 


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