Mendi Baron

On the Verge

Senseless Shooting in Seattle

How awareness can be used to avoid future tragedies

Posted Oct 28, 2014

Another shooting in the news and another two young lives extinguished. Endless potential so abruptly ended. This is another tragedy to add to the list of tragedies affecting the young generation of America. It seems to happen here. In other countries it's a fight to survive. Here, “the home of the free,” in a burst of upset, lives otherwise head and shoulders above that of the millions of starving, orphaned, tortured children across the globe, are ended in a statement: I need my pain seen.

We seem to focus more on the "why did he do it?" One student called the TV station from the school speaking of the troubled student as having "been bullied." Not that bullying isn't an issue. It is. This student was popular. He was the freshman class choice for homecoming prince. The real question remains as to why we keep missing the picture until it's too late? It’s a fair question, which needs answers.

As parents, as teachers, as a community, we seem to only respond to pain when it is displayed in violence. Why can’t we see it before the tragedy occurs? Why must mental health issues remain, as mysteries, untreated, vilified, and judged or completely ignored until they can't be anymore?

We often dilute or distort the true explanations for mental health issues and further stigmatize them to explain how it's not our fault. We blame those "abnormal types.” Focus on other political issues. And, if or when something violent or tragic does happen, we simply say, "I told you so,” or "Those guys with mental health issues all need to be locked up," or "Stay away from that kid." We have labels and such labels deter those who need help from seeking help.

Just last week, a parent chose not to bring their child to one of our Evolve Treatment Centers for fear of having “the stigma of a diagnosis” attached and "all that information" on their insurance health record. "What will people think?"

I don't have the answers. It's hard to have answers in the face of tragedy. Two people have died and three remain hospitalized and in critical condition because of a senseless shooting in a school cafeteria near Seattle. We can't change that. We can, however, work to change how we respond. That's the first step.