Monthly Archives: October 2015

Courage, dear heart.

I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again- I’m a terrible excuse for a “blogger”. I rarely post, and when I do it’s not about my latest hairstyle or outfit. Sorry kids. It’s usually meaty and long, and heavy. But I do my best to keep it real, so here it is.

I know everyone hates political rants on the internets- myself included. BUT (you had to have known there was a ‘but’ coming….right?)…

Yesterday was my day off, which of course means it’s not actually a day off. I spent the day (literally, 6 straight hours) completing a suicide assessment project (which consequently had me wondering if I wanted to live anymore. Not really, but seriously- it sucked). This meant six hours in front of my computer. And one point my phone buzzed- a notification from twitter that Reuters and other accounts I follow were tweeting about the latest mass shooting. I immediately clicked the facebook tab in my browser (like any good student- facebook is always a resource while completing homework) to look at the news links (which are also very handy by the way). Where I saw a link reporting the shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC). I looked over at my husband and say, “Oh man, another mass shooting”. Just like that- like I was reporting the weather, or that the Bears lost (yet again, thanks for nothing Jay). My own nonchalantness weirded me out. How could I so matter-of-factly talk about this tragedy?

Likely, because I- like many of us are used to this. We are numb.

The definitions of what “mass murder” is varies, and what people take into that count (domestic violence incidence, gangs, etc.) varies as well. However, as for spree shootings the count is somewhere over 50 since the 80’s. Which, doesn’t sound too terribly bad, I mean that’s three decades. Until you further look at the research and find that many consider this number to be increasing. “A report published by the FBI last year, studying active shooting situations between 2000 and 2013, found that these kinds of incidents were happening more and more recently. The first seven years of the study found an average of 6.4 active shootings per year, while the last seven years of the study found that number jumped up to 16.4 incidents per year.” (Mother Jones) Now before you get your undees in a bunch over where the data is coming from, and what mass murder is and isn’t, and gun control and all that political nonsense- I just want to reiterate one thing: this is ‘normal’. This is the way we become ‘proactive’ and grieve the loss of so many lives. By squabbling over this stuff, and not remembering the big things.

Which brings me to this article.
I love so many aspects of this article- and just want to share, add, and highlight a couple points.

First, I absolutely love the underscoring of Chris Mintz’s heroism, courage, and selflessness in this article. I love the concept of controlling what we can- which is putting the attention in the right places. Honoring the hero, and forgetting the culprit of violence, terror, and tragedy. As the article reports; “In the evening, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin held a press conference. Hanlin said he would leave it to the coroner’s office to identify the killer. “I will not give him the credit he probably sought,” Hanlin said of the killer. “You will never hear me use his name.”

However true it is that the ‘forgotten’ are the culprits here, it is equally true that this phenomena of ‘mass murder for attention’ goes deeper than the notoriety gained for the killer by the public, or for the gun control argument or whatever direction you choose to take it. The truth is the world is FULL of sick, hurting, lost people who need something other than to be ignored. Giving a shooter the notoriety he yearns for after the fact is certainly NOT the answer. But then what is?

“As a nation, the U.S. is the third highest spender on health care per person, yet our health outcomes rank 37th compared to other nations. We can do better….The costs of cutting the state mental health budgets are high. The lives of the one in four Americans who experiences a mental illness at some point is at stake. Treatment works — if you can get it. Without treatment, more people will end up hospitalized, in shelters, on the street, in jail or dead. These are costs that are too high to pay.” (NAMI)

While any person who has ever taken a research class likely knows the term, or some variation thereof which states; ‘Correlation does not equal causation’ (Thanks Dr. Caldwell, I use that one all the time!).
On both sides of the argument we can apply this statement- the correlation of mass murder with guns does not equal guns are the cause of mass murder. Whereas, the correlation of mental illness in mass shooters does not equal mental illness is the cause/predictor of mass murder. As an insightful facebook friend of mine posted something insightful- in 2010, a man in China stabbed 28 people. Clearly we should not ban knives for this. However, “Evidence strongly suggests that mass shooters are often mentally ill and socially marginalized. Enhanced psychiatric attention may well prevent particular crimes. And, to be sure, mass shootings often shed light on the need for more investment in mental health support networks or improved state laws and procedures regarding gun access.” (From this great article that you really should read).

But ultimately- there is never one such factor to why these things happen. There is no one definitive predictor. “However, credible studies suggest that a number of risk factors more strongly correlate with gun violence than mental illness alone. For instance, alcohol and drug use increase the risk of violent crime by as much as 7-fold, even among persons with no history of mental illness—a concerning statistic in the face of recent legislation that allows persons in certain US states to bring loaded handguns into bars and nightclubs. According to Van Dorn et al., a history of childhood abuse, binge drinking, and male gender are all predictive risk factors for serious violence.”

I’m not sure what all this data means as far as application is concerned, but the reality of the situation is- before gun control, before increased mental health screenings, before politics, and arguments and anger and loneliness and tragedy. Before all of that, what we all need is a little more courage, selflessness, humanity, and humility. Maybe if we all acted a little more like Chris Mintz we’d see a lot less tragedy because  we’d be brave enough to intervene before we are notified by social media that another dozen people have been shot and killed, speaking of it like it’s a weather report.