I know this has already made the rounds on Facebook, but I think it’s worth sharing here, too.
I don’t have to tell you that the story of Sandy Hook is a tragedy beyond comprehension.
But Sandy Hook is also a story of helpers.
And now it is time for all of us to be helpers, too.
Liza Lang was helping when she wrote “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” to show how poorly our country misunderstands, mistreats and ignores people with mental illness.
Mayor Bloomberg and the Campaign of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (and many other activists) are helping by demanding that President Obama and Congress come up with a plan to end gun violence.
But critics are slamming both of these efforts. Jezebel argued this morning that playing the mental illness card only increases the stigma against those suffering and distracts us from the real issue of gun control. And the gun lobby says that banning guns would only be a Band-Aid solution.
Why are we making this terrible choice? We need the Band-Aids — desperately. And we need better mental healthcare access with more comprehensive treatment programs. Desperately. These concepts are not mutually exclusive. As Caitlin Kelly blogged: 47 percent of Americans own guns. 25 percent will suffer from a serious mental health issue during their lifetime. We do not understand how these groups overlap — partly because asking about gun ownership or access is not part of any doctor’s mental health diagnosis. The conversation isn’t mental health reform versus gun control. The conversation is how to achieve mental health reform and gun control.
It is time for us all to be helpers. Because there is a lot of work to do.
(EDITED TO ADD: I just read Hanna Rosin’s analysis of Lang’s essay over on DoubleX, and I’ll admit, it gives me pause about holding Lang up as a shining example of helpfulness here. But her essay’s main point — that prison feels like the only solution for her 13-year-old son and that is a huge national failure — is still an important one. And if she’s struggling herself to stay sane in a difficult situation, all the more reason we need compassion and strategies to help these struggling families well before their kids end up in as victims or perpetrators of violence.)
[Image via MoveOn.org]