The Aftermath of Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton: It's not Mental Illness
Video games, political views, and mental illness have all been thrown around as culprits of this past weekend’s events. Since July 28th, the Gilroy shooting, the El Paso shooting, and the Dayton Ohio shooting, over thirty innocent people have been killed. The pain, trauma, and grief is only beginning to hit the victims, their family and friends, survivors, and quite honestly, all of America.
The reality is that as of Sunday, August 4th, the 216th day of the year, there have been 251 mass shootings in America, and the media has not stopped putting blame on mental health, bullying, and violent video games, and only rarely will the media discuss the topic of white nationalism (which some news sources are connecting the El Paso shooter to) or dare to point the finger at the gun. Regardless of your personal belief of gun laws, it seems obvious that this violence needs to stop. America needs to discuss what is causing these deaths: guns, and avoid stigmatizing something as common as mental illness.
Mental illness on its own, is not the cause of a shooting, mental illnesses are not violent, and it is important to promote that and normalize having mental illness. It can no longer be the media’s scapegoat for shootings. When 1 in 5 people worldwide will have a mental illness in their lifetime, why is it only America that has had numerous mass shootings this year?
No one deserves to fear going to the grocery store, a music festival, the park, etc. If you are feeling anxious, afraid, or unsure, and would like to speak to someone, do not be afraid to reach out for professional help. (National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, Español: 1-888-628-9454)
How to frame our discussions
In times like this, it is difficult to navigate discussing these topics, not only because of the media’s instinctive reaction to blame different attributes, but also because of the fear and distress it has caused.
I personally thought I would be meeting someone Monday morning, and was getting frustrated when I did not see them, only to find out that their hometown is El Paso, and they were at the airport trying to get on a flight home to support family and friends in this time of need. Clearly, I could not have known that this was the case, but nevertheless, my ignorance due to being an outsider of this event, may have hurt them.
This isn’t to say it is necessary to preface every conversation with talk of these shootings, because becoming too wrapped up in it will not help your personal mental health. However, be aware that anyone may have been affected by these events. It is best to avoid placing blame on any group, illness, or hobby. If you are up for the conversation, and have checked in on yourself, then do not be afraid to discuss these events with friends and family who reach out, because it is important to have a safe outlet to discuss this instead of bottling up emotions and fears inside.
For those with children
Kids are curious, they will see the news, hear talk of these shootings at school or summer camp, so be the listening ear they need when they come to you asking questions. Be sure to process how you are feeling and what you want to say to them before diving into the conversation, this will help navigate the hardships of this conversation. If your children want to get involved and help knowing that these events have affected other children of this age, allowing them to write letters thanking the first responders, as many classrooms do after natural disasters in a school’s area. It may be helpful to take an active role in times of fear.
Comforting survivors and how to deal with the aftermath
First and foremost, take time to reflect on your own, everyone in this country (and worldwide) have been affected, moved, or shocked by these events, and there is no perfect way to process this information. If you want someone to talk to about it, take the initiative to reach out to a loved one or a professional.
As a loved one reaches out to you looking for support and help in this time, be sure to, first, listen. Let them talk as much as they need to or want to, and try not to question their story or thought process, as everyone is just trying to process the information being spread. Try not to interrupt or provide falsified advice or comforting like “everything will be okay,” because unfortunately that is just not how it feels. Instead offer your understanding with “I hear what you are saying,” and try to rephrase their thoughts to show you were listening.
Simple statements of support that can go a long way may be “I’m here”, “You’re safe here,”or “Take a deep breath.” Be sure to do something relaxing, and take a break from reality and the news when necessary.
Many people may feel the need to reach out and take action in the aftermath of such traumatic events, and there are small ways you can make a difference. One action many policy advocates are advising is connecting with local senators to tell them to take action on gun legislation: texting CHECKS to 644-33 connects you with your senator to discuss background checks on gun purchases. Other options are getting involved in community groups that are taking action to support the families of the victims.
Remember to only reach out and lend a helping hand when you are ready. Check on yourself first! These events are more than tragedies, they’re life changing and painful, but instead of blaming mental illness as the culprit, we need to address the mental health of those around us in these traumatizing times.
AYANA’s mission outlines the truth of the matter when addressing these mass shootings. We focus on providing channels of therapy to marginalized groups, who face more barriers, stigma, and hardships in dealing with mental illness, than the average white man. However, almost every shooter in these events, is a white man. Sometimes, these people are self proclaimed white nationalists, and have drawn from past white nationalist attacks in their manifestos. That’s the truth, it is not mental illness, it is oftentimes corrupted views and ideas. AYANA hopes to provide care and support for anyone who feels threatened, scared, or traumatized by these events. With care from therapists of your culture we hope to provide you a safe space to discuss how this has affected you.