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Time for Speaking Out PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jenni Person, BT Contributor   
March 2018

We must discuss both gun control and mental health

APix_FamilyMatters_3-18s I write this, our community -- and our nation -- reels from yet another act of fatal gun violence, this time in our own backyard. So many of us know families directly affected by this incident.

By the time you read this, two weeks or a month or more will have passed, and this week’s incident will no longer be news. It may not even be relevant.

And that’s exactly why I have to write about it. In addition to all the social media posts sharing the stories of the victims and their families, details about rallies, plans for teacher strikes and student walkouts, petitions, and political arguments, there’s a meme circulating that declares a cycle surrounding school violence.

It details the violent incident, followed by social media posts sharing the stories of the victims and their families, details about rallies, plans for teacher strikes and student walkouts, and petitions, and political arguments, followed by silence…until the next incident.

With no new protective measures, no legislative change.

I’m not suggesting that by writing about gun violence in this country, I’m going to stop it. But I do think that stopping the cycle of only talking about it when there is an incident keeps it consistently and urgently at the forefront of our national discourse. Perhaps by doing talking more, we can effect change.

And as Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho pointed out this week in his remarks in response to the Broward school shooting, we don’t need to blame one or the other, when it comes to gun access and mental health. Both issues need our attention. “There are some on this equation who will only want to talk about mental health,” he said. “Others will only want to talk about gun control. How about being reasonable and talking about both?”

I was very lucky to be raised by a mom who completely destigmatized mental health before I was even aware of such a stigma. “Sometimes smart people just need someone to help them understand all their thoughts. That’s what comes with having so many thoughts and ideas always swirling around in your head,” she explained to me as I embarked on my lifelong relationship with managing mental health.

Those words buoyed that aspect of my childhood and informed my response as a parent to my own kids’ needs. Just as we go to the orthodontist, we go to the dermatologist, and we go to the therapist. And trust me, the issues and work done related to the latter are way harder than the braces and preventive sunscreen and biopsies.

I am well aware that this attention to mental health is not normal. But it needs to be. We need to reframe our thinking to embrace the idea that instead of labeling kids “problem children,” we need to embrace them as children with problems that need to be addressed.

And we need to talk about it in quiet times, too, not just at the point of turmoil. In an effort to make sure we are talking about it until something is done, not just until the next incident, I share my open letter to Marco Rubio, weeks after the Parkland school shooting and, hopefully, in a time of calm, not in proximity to another tragedy:

Mr. Rubio:

I am usually an extremely articulate person. At this point I have no mental bandwidth for that. My head and heart are polluted by the excessive gun violence in this country perpetrated as a result of you feeding yourself and your family directly from the NRA. Your interests are clear and clearly evil.

I have two children in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and a husband who is an educator. These days that feels less like pride and more like the anxiety I imagine the family of firefighters and law enforcement officers live with daily. Except I’m just sending my kids to school. We are all numb from the communal trauma caused by your hands taking money from the NRA and empowering senseless, frivolous death and violence on American soil.

I only wish that Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Fund had the lobbying power to impress you as much as the NRA, as you and your cronies work to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA has historically funded work that instead of bringing death and violence to our communities, brings awareness, the deepening of critical thinking skills and references, and aesthetic and sensory nourishment that saves lives.

You should be ashamed of yourself. You should be so ashamed of yourself that you do something.

I urge you to do your part to bring gun regulation up to a contemporary context and need.

I’m waiting.

 

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