PARKLAND, FL - Once again we are left with so many questions. Once again we are left heartbroken. How does it start? How does an 18-year-old get to the point that he would wear tactical gear and arm himself with weapons and ruthlessly kill his own grandmother, 19 children and two adults? There are no words and no justification for this. What I can tell you is that this did not happen overnight. The 18-year old did not become a “killer” from one day to the next. The signs were there but no one said anything, no one did anything, he just fell through the cracks, as so many have. Perhaps he was suffering silently with his anger or hate or insecurities? Only God knows and whether you believe his emotional well-being had anything to do with his actions or not, the fact is, in his mind, they did.
Here we are as a nation, heartbroken at the news that young children (younger than we are use to since Sandy Hook,) were shot and killed in school in Uvalde, Texas on May 23, 2022.
Just another day in America.
They were just little kids, ages 8-11 years old. And their teachers - my goodness, all they did was walk into work with the hopes of making the lives of their students a little better, and now 2 of those teachers are also dead.
Now what? It’s been 4 years since the Parkland (2/14/18) school shooting and what have we done to keep our children any safer in schools? Anything that really makes a difference?
Students deserve to learn and to live without the fear of getting shot in their school or their neighborhoods. Wouldn’t you agree?
Less than two weeks ago, a white supremacist shot and killed multiple Black people in Buffalo, New York, adding to the list of shootings and targeted violence in this Country. We have had over 200 mass shootings and it’s only the 144th day of the year. We can no longer even keep track of how many shootings and who to mourn for. It is a disgrace on a global scale.
Again, where does the anger and hate come from?
People will blame guns. They will argue that access to guns is way too easy in this Country and I have to say, I do agree. Then you have the other sector of society, that believes we need more guns to protect our kids in school- more police, more resource officers, more weapons, more militia etc..but how much is too much?
When you look at all the points they seem valid in their own way but why haven’t we really delved into WHAT & WHY?
What causes someone to snap and commit such evil crimes? Why did they get to this point in their lives? I have been writing about this since before my child became a survivor in a school shooting. I have always wondered why?
I will tell you why. It is because in most cases the signs were there ever since these perpetrators were children and as parents, teachers and a community, we chose to overlook it. In some cases, it was simply because there was a lack of resources, a poor school system, or bureaucracy that got in the way. And when you add the component of easy access to weapons, we have a volatile combination. This is the current recipe for disaster that we are living in this country.
We are allowed to believe that BOTH those factors play a role in the crisis we have on our hands. I can only hope that we are all in agreement that we cannot continue to live like this, with our children growing up in fear.
So, what are the solutions? What can we do as a nation, as a society, and as parents?
One of the hardest jobs in the world is to be a parent. We often see our children going through things and we always believe they will “grow out of it” and almost always, they do.
You wonder, is your angry teenager going to grow up and be an angry adult? Are their hormonal outrages something bigger - something to be concerned about?
These are troubled waters we must navigate as parents but there comes a time when we have to recognize if something is really wrong with a child. And in my opinion, as a parent, you know. What you do thereafter is completely on your shoulders.
We cannot continue to ignore mental health issues, nor can we promote access to weapons to children who have not fully developed in their brains.
According to studies the development and maturation of the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for executive functions of the brain, does not fully develop until age 25. This only supports the argument that an 18, 19, 20 year old is not mature enough intellectually to make certain decisions. And in my opinion, that would include owning a weapon.
How many times have we seen across social media platforms specifically on Twitter, families flaunting their Xmas pictures or family photos with their children holding weapons? How is this okay?
Don’t get me wrong this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. I am all for the right to bear arms. However, where do we draw the line? Where does common sense begin and end? What are we teaching children when we encourage them to hold and flaunt military style weapons in family photos? You can do whatever you want but at what point do we say, society has to do its part? We can disagree on many things but we have to be in agreement that our children deserve better. No?
The right to bear arms should not outweigh the right for children to be safe in their own schools. You can be a law-abiding citizen, who owns a weapon but what I will never understand is gun owners who are not in agreement for background checks and restricting easy access to weapons.
I don’t get it, but I digress. While I strongly believe that there must be some common sense gun reform, the purpose of this writing is to shine a light on mental wellness or lack there of.
I worked briefly at a place that was dedicated to focusing on the cognitive behavior of children with ADHD, autism, defiance disorder and other issues that were affecting them in school and in their relationships. I chose to work there because I felt it was somewhere that I could make a real difference. I learned a lot during my brief time there.
I learned that there are parents who are really trying to help their children that have issues but that it also comes at a very high price, literally. This program cost hundreds of dollars sometimes thousands. There were many parents that seemed desperate for help but just couldn’t afford it.
I began to question, what happens if these kids cannot enroll in the program or do not follow through in the program once enrolled? Do they get worse? Do they grow out of their troubles or could they possibly become the next school shooter? Sounds a little dramatic right?
I saw more than a handful of kids walk through that program, that had all the tell-tale signs of being potential “trouble.” And that is not profiling - that was based on test results, behavior and past records. Of course, not all the kids were in such dire straights but those very few - those were the ones I wondered what would become of them if no one truly intervened. Those are the ones that frightened me.
As the parent of a child who survived a school shooting, I can tell you that the perpetrator in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida was a troubled child and a bully since early on - there is evidence and testimonials to concur. Where was the intervention then? Why did the system keep passing him along ignoring the real issues? Not every “bully” becomes a school shooter but we do have to address the fact that way too many young kids and teens are suffering in silence with their mental health.
We are failing them somewhere along the line. Is it because of their family life? Their friends, or lack of friends, is it because of faith or lack of faith, is it because of video games or social media? It could be one of these or all of these. The questions and possibilities seem endless but doing nothing about it should not be an option.
When are we going to step up to the plate and help troubled kids and teens? And for that matter, adults who suffer with mental health.
It is true that there are many wonderful programs and organizations out there focused on helping these such issues but we have to DO MORE as a Country and as a collective because right now, we are failing this course in humanity.
As a mother, as an American citizen, as a humanitarian and as a writer, I am going to do everything in my power to advocate and change the narrative around mental wellness.
We may have grown up in a generation where this was not an issue we discussed and we didn’t know how to address it, but here we are, in 2022, in a Country broken by division, hate and a mental health crisis of epic proportions.
It is possible to advocate for common sense gun reform, while also advocating for mental health awareness. I believe that they are intertwined.
It is because these perpetrators have mental health issues from early and they know that they have easy access to weapons - this combination, in my opinion, breeds the atrocities we see happening that are mass shootings.
At what point do we stop arming ourselves to the tee? Do we not realize we’re the only country that has the level of mass shootings that we do? Obviously, more guns is not the answer.
Over 200 mass shootings and we are okay with it? Actually, not okay, but sometimes apathetic about it. The answer is not to have more guns, nor to stack schools up with more police officers. In my opinion the answer should lie in getting to the root cause of how and why did a child grow up to have such evil in their heart? Or why does an adult have so much hate in their heart that they would turn to violence? We can definitely protect our schools and our children while simultaneously addressing the root cause of the mental health issues.
It is just like a person who is not feeling well and goes to the doctor. If you keep giving them medicines and putting on “band-aids,” eventually the diseased body will erupt at some point, if you don’t get to the root cause of what is actually causing the problem, it will continue.
We can no longer keep ignoring the signs we see in troubled children. We can’t save every troubled teen but they do say it “takes a village,” and it is time for that village to come together.
The village does not mean that others will raise your child for you. Obviously, parenting is the responsibility of those who chose to have children, however, as a society and anyone with a moral compass, we should take a vested interest and do what we can to help others whether that is a child, a teen or an adult, who is struggling with their mental health.
If we are not here to help each other and live better lives, then why are we here?
You might think the problem is too big or we’ve gone too far to turn back. I am here to tell you that is not the case. Every piece of this puzzle counts and if you have an opportunity to lay down a piece and make a change please do so, even if that just means being a little kinder to your fellow neighbor, colleague, classmate, co-worker or anyone you think is struggling.
So how do we begin to address this problem?
Let me just reiterate that not only do I think there is a major mental health epidemic in this Country, but I also whole-heartedly believe that the problem is exacerbated because of easy access to weapons! And BOTH of those issues MUST BE ADDRESSED on a national level.
In the meantime, what can we do:
✅ Vote for common sense gun reform.
✅ Call out politicians who support the NRA.
✅ Vote with your pockets/money.
✅ Volunteer in charities that make a difference.
✅ Advocate for better resources in our schools.
✅ Advocate for mental health awareness.
✅ Speak up or write how you think we can make positive changes.
✅ Be kind to your fellow human beings, regardless of their color or race and at the very least do not hurt them.
✅ Thank the teachers who everyday, now put their lives on the line for our children.
✅ Ask for help! If you or your child are struggling with mental health issues, please do not be afraid to ask for help or seek holistic health solutions.
✅ Promote positivity and kindness whenever possible.
✅ Be a mentor to a child, tween or teen - you could be the one to literally save their life.
And in my opinion, one of the most important things we can do as parents and guardians is:
✅ Teach your children: empathy, compassion and tolerance!
Don’t ignore the signs. We can turn this “ship” around in many ways. It is long overdue but we need to TAKE constructive ACTION. As my husband said the day after the Parkland shooting to the politicians:
And now I urge you as citizens of this country, as parents and as members of society, it’s time that we ALL do something to leave a better nation and world for future generations.
(UPDATE: Article edited sadly, with an updated count of children who were killed.)