Finding Ways to Stand Together When Horrific Things Happen

Finding Ways to Stand Together When Horrific Things Happen

We typically finalize our plans for the weekly edition of the Ally in our Monday morning staff meeting. This Monday morning we shared our horror in response to the shootings in Atlanta that left eight people dead last week (you can read more about the lives they lived in this article), and we talked about ways that we could respond.

As I sat down to begin writing Monday afternoon, breaking news of the shooting at the King Sooper’s in Boulder scrolled across my laptop screen. I was horrified once again. It seemed surreal. It still does, and it is now Tuesday. I keep thinking about Officer Eric Tally and the other people who died. I am sure many of you are doing the same. I know we all grieve for the Georgia and Colorado families who have lost loved ones so violently and senselessly.

There are no words to adequately respond to what has happened, but I hope these thoughts are in some way helpful.

Let’s take care with our words – When people (often media commentators or politicians rather than mental health professionals) assume a person who commits a violent act did so because they have a mental illness, it creates a false impression of what a mental illness is and how it affects a person. It can also make it harder for people who have mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety to get help because they are afraid that people will perceive them as violent or dangerous if they admit they have a mental illness.  Ironically, it can also make it harder for people who are dealing with violent thoughts to get help when the two issues are confused.

Increased attention to mental health and mental health resources can benefit everyone, including people who struggle with violence. Equating mental illness with violence is inaccurate and helps no one. This article has more information about the diverse and complex factors that may be related to mass shootings.

Let’s have empathy with each other –So many thoughts have gone  through my mind in writing this, especially the words of our first core value, “We welcome every family without judgment or blame.” I wonder if we as an organization have been as responsive to or even aware of aggression and racism toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) as we should be.  I wonder if I have been. The fact that I’m asking those questions probably means that the answer to both is no.   I hope it also means that the answer can move toward yes.  I hope that for you too if you are struggling with those same thoughts.

I wonder what it means to make families feel welcome in a world where terrorism and violence are very real. I’m not sure, but I know we are committed to doing so at Families as Allies and I know that the families who are most affected by the issue will be the ones who can best help us understand what is needed.  Let’s all be prepared to learn and stand side by side with them to make whatever changes are needed.

Let’s be mindful of our young people –  The suspects in both shootings are 21 years old -it is hard not to be struck by how young they are and to wonder what influences violence in young people. That’s an important issue to keep examining.

These tragic incidents inevitably bring up discussions about guns. When those discussions arise, I urge everyone to remember that suicide rates in young people, including children, have been on the rise for the past decade. Whatever measures that are considered to address gun violence should take into account both suicide and homicide.

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