The Kids Aren’t Alright

A SYTYCB Entry

I remember listening to “I Want It That Way” the minute news of Columbine broke. I’ll forever associate the song with that deep confusion, sadness, and desire to know why? that went through my 4th grade mind. I was in 7th grade when a few 8th graders threatened to bring guns to school the next day. I remember deciding to go to school the next day and surrounding myself with my closest friends as we moved quickly through the halls. I was terrified even though nothing happened. I remember the day that a student had a gun at a nearby high school that went off in a locker bank. I was overcome with fear that my best friend was hurt; relief swept through my body when she returned my text and told me she was alright. I remember hearing about Virginia Tech as I walked to Safeway for a 5-hour shift during my first year of college. I wrote this a couple days after the shooting in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011. I remember sitting quietly and sadly with some of my friends who were visiting me in Fairfax, VA.

These are memories that come to mind everytime I hear about more gun violence. I don’t want to have these memories. I don’t want to compare numbers; hear that the latest atrocity is or isn’t “worst since…”; I don’t want to hear that if more people carried guns, these things wouldn’t happen.

Emily, my roommate, posted this on Facebook (emphasis mine):

The Millennial Generation has witnessed more senseless acts of violence than any other generation to date: Oklahoma City Bombing, Columbine, all of the subsequent Columbine copycats – including the first grader who killed a fellow student, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Virginia Tech, all of the subsequent Virginia Tech copycats, Batman massacre, last night’s mass shooting in Chicago, and now the shootings at the Empire State Building. No generation has ever witnessed a similar level of this kind of violence, no other generation has been stalked by shootings from school to college to the streets. They are where we are in a way no other generation has had to contend with. I can’t help feeling as though my generation is numb to this kind of violence because the only other choice is to be always sad about it. Violence escalates when opportunities diminish – and we are the first generation in history who are probably not going to do better, or even as well, as our parents because their generation didn’t invest in us. We are not alright.

Sometimes, I do feel numb to it. Sometimes, I’m incredibly angry. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed with sadness. But mostly? I know that we’re not alright. The stigma surrounding mental health is devastating. The judgment you feel when you tell someone that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety or any mental illness is beyond painful. Why do so many have to suffer in silence?

It’s encouraging to see so many initiatives and organizations promoting love and inclusion geared toward my generation. Promoting these messages and raising awareness is great. But at the same time — this violence is still happening. There’s still disbelief and sadness and anger. Somewhere around 300 people a day are injured or killed by guns.

Let’s talk about gun control. I’m not trying to attack anyone’s personal liberty; it’s not about that. The Second Amendment mentions something about a “well-regulated militia”, if I’m not mistaken.

Let’s have an open dialogue about mental health and how it’s inextriciably linked to gun violence. So many people who come to be known as “shooters” suffer from mental illness. We almost expect that now, don’t we? Why can’t we prevent this? The stigma surrounding psychological treatment is so great that it only exacerbates the feelings of otherness, anger, fear, and sadness that can lead to these tragedies. People are able to purchase guns legally and easily, but it’s much harder to stand up and get help for mental illness. Being surrounded by this horrific violence is numbing us and more guns and prayer and disbelief are not going to save us or help us. Talking and listening to each other, fixing our laws, enforcing our laws, supporting and encouraging each other will help us.

We’re not alright: We’re scared. We’re angry. We’re sad. We’re numb. We’re depressed. We’re anxious. We’re tired. We’re not alright.

But we can be.

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