We at TASH watched the unfolding of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida with tears and concern for the individuals involved, their families, the first responders, the community, and all of those who are now supporting loved ones whose world was torn apart on Wednesday. Our hearts and love go out to everyone across the country who has been a victim, whether directly or indirectly, of a school shooting. There is much work to be done to ensure this never happens again.
At the same time, we urge the national discussion to focus on real solutions and issues rather than to villainize those with mental illness and disabilities as the cause of these shootings. According to NAMI, 18.5% of adults experience mental illness in a given year, while 21.4% of youth ages 5-18 experience a severe mental disorder. Looking to people with disabilities as the scapegoat of underfunded health and mental health services, schools that are unable to budget for sufficient counselors, and the overarching stigma of people with mental illness and/or disabilities is a false panacea that threatens our country’s ability to a) address the real issues that underlie these shootings and b) provide an environment where all people, including those with disabilities, are able to contribute to and engage in an inclusive community.
- Reviewing the healthcare budget and services to identify barriers to prompt an effective treatment and support for people in a crisis;
- Identifying practices that are successful in supporting individuals with mental illness and/or disabilities so that they do not reach a point of crisis;
- Working to create inclusive communities from birth that value and welcome human diversity so that the bullying and feelings of isolation that lead many shooters to radicalize or imagine hurting those who are “different” is decreased;
- Creating plans of action for students with disabilities in schools so that they too are safe in case of a crisis and, most importantly;
- Standing with the victims, their families, and their community as they try to understand and find ways to heal from the incomprehensible.