Readers, please note this is a creative writing piece, a work of fiction
It’s happened again. Another day, yet another mass murder at the hands of someone with a gun. This time it’s a middle aged woman walking into her work place, firing indiscriminately and leaving fourteen people dead in a small town most people have never heard of. It is becoming such a common occurrence that we aren’t shocked. So common that we aren’t outraged anymore. So common that it is hard to distinguish one incident from another. Instead of treating it as one of the most horrifying things to ever happen it only draws a heavy sigh. Next week or the week after another one will happen and the details of this one slip away. Sure, for the first day or two there will be the same talking points that are trotted out every time this happens. “It’s because of the guns” or “A case of a previously undetected mental illness” or “There’s nothing that could have been done to prevent it from happening”. Some talking heads on TV will state their cases, repeating the same tired lines, and in the end nothing will change.
What if something could have been done? What if people would stop bringing up the the same points over and over and actually looked at the situation? What if the shooter had sought help and didn’t receive it? What if she told every medical professional she came in contact with about the issues mounting? What if she had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since her mid-teens? What if a more thorough background check would have been used to stop the legally purchased firearm from getting into her hands in the first place?
I’m sure most people would say that it’s not possible for the warning signs to be missed on so many levels. Someone, somewhere would certainly pick up on it right? Well, you would be wrong. The signs were there, and she begged for help. She told her medical doctor, her psychiatrist, and four different therapists about the increasingly dark thoughts she was having. She told them about the self-harm, the nightmares, and the voices. She shared the disturbingly violent things the voices were telling her to do. She begged and pleaded with friends and family for help. Most ignored her, the select few that picked up on her struggles severely underestimated the severity of the situation.
You would think that a proper background check would have prevented her from obtaining the weapons she used. After all, after her last hospitalization she was informed that she was forbidden from owning, possessing, or even handling a firearm for five years. Well, it turns out that these background checks aren’t very thorough at all. Seeing she was currently in a different state than where she was hospitalized last year the check didn’t come up with any red flags. Apparently in the eyes of the law mental illness does not cross jurisdictional lines.
All of the safety nets that should be in place just aren’t there. It is far too easy for a severely mentally ill person to hurt themselves or others. A mentally ill person who is aware of her illness and doing everything she can to get help before something bad happens slips through the cracks. No one took her seriously.
So when you arrive at work tomorrow and see all the police cars, ambulances, fire trucks and news vans don’t say you didn’t see it coming. When you pick up the paper, or read the news online don’t try and tell yourself that you could never picture her doing something like that.
I have been screaming for help for months, and I have been ignored.