Since yesterday, the tragedy that happened at the gorgeous campus of higher learning has been haunting me. As I type that line, I remember not so many years ago typing a similar line about Connecticut, and Colorado before that. Each time a story is released like this, I watch the collective consciousness scratch its head and try to point to the specifics.
Hunh? Says he had several psychologists. Says he submitted a 141 page manifesto to the media. Says his mom warned the police after a highly disturbing YouTube video.
As if that’s the problem. This SO isn’t the point.
I vented to my friend Lois. She’d recently read my first novel called First Break which tells the story of a 17 year old going to college and finding herself in the middle of a psychotic break. The reaction to the publishing of that novel has been interesting, to be sure. The typical response is, “There’s no clear cut genre for a 17 year old going to a college campus.” I often wonder if that’s really it. If it is really it, it’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard.
The resistence of the gatekeepers is undisputed. What I wonder is if the gatekeepers understand that by the fear that they let govern their decisions, they’re perpetuating these tragedies. Not the gun people. Not the knife people. Not the video game people. The people with dirty hands in this playground are the people who can educate and stop stigmatizing mental health issues but don’t because they’re afraid.
And this extends to the schools. Look at this article in the New York Times my friend Lois shot over while I was lamenting the UCSB tragedy. Two Michigan teens from a “progressive school” can’t even start a dialogue about their own mental health experiences. The school principal is afraid they’ll give mental illness to everyone on campus. It’ll be anarchy. Contagion. (Note to the principal: 1 out of 4–probably more–have mental health issues. It’s already spread!)
Really? You’re going to put a gag order on teens who are brave enough to say this is what I have and I’m dealing with it? Do you think that’s helping in either an individual or a global way? As an educator, what’s the lesson here? So disappointing. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/opinion/depressed-but-not-ashamed.html?smid=tw-share&_r=1
The adults, at least in the United States, have failed these kids and transitional youth. These young people didn’t ask to be dealt the hand they’re dealt. Besides, the issue isn’t “where’d they get it?” The issue is we can see it’s happening and we need to change the systems we use to deal with it. It’s a national tragedy that the Twin Tower 2 in LA (prison) is the largest mental health institution in the country. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
On Thursday this week, I’ll be standing up at an MHSA meeting giving my point of view on how the millionaire tax monies pointed towards addressing mental health issues in California should be spent. Do you know how long this has been going on? The first MHSA meeting I went to was 12 years ago. See, the thing is even when mental health groups have money, they fight about how to use it which locks it up. Meanwhile, kids age out of resources and enter into adulthood with a brain that’s misfiring so badly they aren’t even aware of it. We all pay the price. We see it on the streets in homelessness, drug addiction, suicide, mass murder–you name it.
I’ve lost faith in the adults, but I have so much faith in the teens of today. I have faith that they are going to change these systems, either the hard way or the easier way. I’m hoping, for the sake of preventing future tragedies like UCSB, the gatekeepers (I’m talking to you, Michigan, and those who behave like you) will face their personal fears and let the conversation begin instead of sticking it in a dark closet where it will fester and explode yet again.