Chronicles of one girl's journey to London - from conception to eventual migration.

Monday, December 17, 2012

MENTAL HEALTH AND GUNS

OK, it's time to talk violence .

By now, we are well aware of the full story of Friday's Newtown, CT massacre. We have all watched the story evolve. Ryan Lanza is not the killer. His brother, Adam Lanza - a baby at just 20 - is, in fact, the boy behind the gun. The mother was not even in the school. The body they found at the house turned out to be her. He was not a sociable person. Neighbours thought he was weird. A heroic substitute teacher has made the headlines. Faces of the children have been plastered everywhere. Distraught parents have made eulogies of their tiny, tiny children. The police have no motive. Obama droned on about the US failing it's kids but gave his country no real sense of relief. Though, really, can anyone right now?

Social media posts have varied between angry calls for better gun control and criticism of "stupid Americans" and their love of guns to emotional cries for the victims who won't celebrate another Christmas and teachers who saved lives.

Someone posted a Morgan Freeman letter that bashed sensationalist media for giving these killers celebrity-like status (a letter that is NOT really from him at all). Yet another posted this image of all the gun related deaths compared to the US and the numbers are staggering. A friend posted this image this morning. Is it true? Somewhat, yes. Most likely quite a biased image that feeds into our hate of Americans and their too-free wielding of guns. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Control is big on these images. They like these numbers floating around because they are scary.

Doesn't this feel familiar? Don't the quotes and pictures and vigils have a dreadful sense of deja vu about them? Does it feel like yesterday we were just angry and sad and emotional about, say, the Dark Knight cinema shooting?

But now a new topic is emerging, creeping in slowly among these gun control issues and tears for the children. Mental health. This, I think, is the real issue to tie in here.

Adam Lanza wasn't just "not sociable" and "weird". He was also autistic. His mother pulled him out of public school and home-schooled him for the remainder of his years because it was too painful for him to handle the social bonding required from him on a daily basis.

Now, I am no expert, I am not pretending to be one, nor am I saying all autistic individuals are going to pick up a weapon and fire at random. Autism is, however, linked to reasons behind violent behaviour.

What I think we should be concentrating on is why a young boy would even think to pick up a gun for this violent purpose. Instead of focusing time and money on better gun control why not focus time and money on better resources for those with mental health issues?

There needs to be a better system in place which will help parents understand their children and children understand themselves. This will, with great hope and hard work, help them grow into more understanding and - most importantly - more understood adults.

People are not weird by nature. People are not ant-social by nature. There are reasons behind this. This is not a senseless act, as much as we want it to be.

Think outside the US. Does your country offer a system where those with mental health can seek help without being ostracized and labelled as "weird"? Can you offer your help to someone who needs it?

Let's think bigger picture here. Let's think realistically! Guns cannot feel emotion, cannot sense that they are pointing at someone precious. Start with the trigger finger, work your way up and into the mind of the person holding it. What can you do for them?

To end, a great article about a parent dealing with a child with autism: I am Adam Lanza's Mother.