Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

I don't have much to say that hasn't been said elsewhere, but I thought I'd write today because it helps me to get things out of my head. Some of these things won't come as a surprise to most of you. It's a stream of consciousness. Bear with me.

I want better gun control. I don't like the NRA. I want it to be much, much, much more difficult to get a gun. I'm okay with banning guns entirely for families who have young children in the house, ever. I want assault rifles to be illegal. And I know that making guns illegal won't stop all horrible shootings from happening. But, just as we know from decades of research on suicide, if you do your very best to remove the means, you WILL reduce the horrific outcomes that can happen when people are in very dark places and they make the choice to hurt themselves or others. This is why I felt sort of ill standing on the Golden Gate Bridge: it's a "romantic" suicide destination and we know that erecting barriers to make it more difficult to jump would reduce the number of jumps. Making it more difficult to get ahold of guns makes it more difficult to kill. Period. And there will people who will scale the barrier or find a way to get a gun, but there will be others whose energy runs out before they can climb the barrier, and maybe by then they see a pinprick of light in the darkness.

I want better access to mental health care. It shouldn't be so difficult to figure out where to go, and to figure out how to afford psychotherapy. I'm in the helping field. I have a graduate degree in clinical psychology. And even I have had difficulty figuring out how to obtain therapy. Three, one-hour sessions or a few sessions by phone only (what my insurance offers) is a pittance. A poor excuse for mental health coverage. We're closing state mental health hospitals and cutting resources at community mental health centers. School Counselors are spending time helping with standardized tests and carpool duty and don't have enough time to address the needs of their students. School Psychologists, who have excellent training in assessing and addressing needs at an individual, family, and school community level, are spread so thin between two or more schools that they wish for even a sliver of time to devote to intervening with students' mental health.

So what will it take? Congress to stand up to the powerful lobbying efforts of the NRA and others who cling to their guns? All of us to recognize that maybe we can afford higher taxes or something to fund mental health efforts? Where do we start? Where do I start?

I was just thinking that I am lucky to not have been directly involved in a massacre like this. And then I realized... wait. About a year ago, I got my first call as a member of the Crisis Team in my school district for this. A woman killed five children. And I was at a middle school for days, talking to students and trying to process the shock and grief. Trying to make sense of something so senseless. I said so many times, "We will never know why." And I think that it's true here. Because no matter what sort of explanation the investigators find, there is no answer that is acceptable. There's no reason to explain killing. And killing children. I vividly remember standing in the back of the church basement in this tiny North Carolina town, ready to pass out tissues and hearing the room full of children and parents grieving. I remember calling my mom on the long drive home and thanking her for being my mom. I remember the dreams. I've been close to tragedy. Not nearly as close as the Sandy Hook students and teachers and families. But still. It reminds me that things must change. This will absolutely happen again if we continue to neglect mental health and promote guns.

And for parting thoughts... I can't look at any images of grieving people. I don't want to see the slideshows. Not because I want to pretend this didn't happen, but because I was there in that church last year and I saw the news crews filming through the windows. I saw the photographers zooming in on the most outwardly grieving adolescents, and I saw their parents hold them tight and try to give them a safe place to feel. I cringed as I saw it. I wanted to make the media leave and just let these people feel. Let them cry. Let them be quiet. Not on display. And finally, this. Because if there is actually a good time to hear something like, "God just wanted another angel," or, "He only gives you what you can handle," it's absolutely not right now. But it is okay to say, "I don't know why," and, "It's okay to feel sad." Because it is. I have to remind myself of that. It is.
Post a Comment