Speechless. I’m absolutely speechless. I got home from a long final, and turned on the news to something extraordinarily devastating. My heart was pounding in disbelief that 20 young children had been killed in a school massacre. I wish I could reach out and hug every child near and far from me
The shooter was 20. TWENTY!! He was still a child himself. What could set a person off like that to go and take so many innocent lives? The first thing that came to my mind was mental illness.
I know people are going to start speculating, and if in fact the shooter was mentally ill, people are going to wonder what could have been done to prevent this? What wasn’t done, and should have been done?
Whether or not this is applicable to this particular situation, the thing about mental illness is that it’s not always obvious. A few years ago, when I was twenty-one and twenty-two, I watched someone who was at the time very close to me, literally lose his mind—he was twenty-two and twenty-three then. I didn’t know it at the time, and I didn’t even officially know it until, actually, this last spring. Around April or May of this past year, I was told that he was in fact diagnosed with schizophrenia that year that I last saw him, which was in 2010.
No one who knew him would have known or guessed it. However, something triggered his schizophrenia to slowly combust into a violent nightmare. In his case, the thing that triggered it was an overload of stress from work. In retrospect, there were signs; but the signs were not blatantly apparent, especially not to someone who has never known anyone with such an illness. However, the stress definitely caused it to explode to an infinite degree. He became extremely paranoid, moody, and violent.
There’s a certain stigma that goes along with mental illness. I think sometimes we expect the mentally ill to carry certain physical traits. We expect to know a mentally ill person when we see one. But the truth is, or as I’ve learned, there are people out there who come off as totally normal on the outside, but on the inside their wires are all tangled and mixed up. In fact, what at first might feel like mere character flaws, are actually the “signs.”
There are also those with mental deficiencies, who are completely harmless, and I’ve met those people, and I’ve loved them like my own brother and sister. They are angels with immaculate hearts. So what causes someone to become violent as the result of a mental illness?
Well, in the case of the person I once knew, I believe he was predisposed to violence. He grew up in an extremely abusive household. On top of that, his family history tends to show that mental illness may have run in his family. I’m not sure that anyone in his family has ever been tested for schizophrenia, but now knowing that he is schizophrenic, and knowing what I know about his family, it all makes sense.
It’s very sad and scary watching someone lose their mind, especially when they become violent. And at first, you don’t realize what’s happening. When I look back, I think it should have been obvious what was happening—but it wasn’t.
At least in my situation, I think I kind of panicked as I scrambled to find ways to make him happy—reverse what was happening. I couldn’t though, and things only got worse.
Eventually, for my own safety, I had to leave. I prayed and hoped his family would step in. Clearly, they have done as much as to get him to see a doctor. More than that, though? I don’t know.
I hope they’re doing everything they can to keep him from hurting others, because I can’t tell you how often I pray that I won’t one day turn on the news to find that he has stepped into the shoes of those like the shooter in today’s news.
I don't know what the best way is to prevent a mentally ill person, prone to violence, from committing violent acts. We know there are mental institutions, and medications, but is that enough? Is there more?
What I’ve told young students in my T.A.L.K. program is to just be very aware of people—what they say and what they do. Of course, you don’t need to obsess over every word and move a person makes, but just be careful. Look out for yourself and your friends. We have to take care of each other. We just do. As my friends and I used to say when we were kids, "We're all brothers and sisters in God's eyes." More importantly, if something seems off, talk to someone. Talking to someone, may save someone else’s life or your own.
My heart and prayers go out to the children and families of Sandy Hook Elementary school.
BIG LOVE & HUGS