Over the last few days, while people all over the world debate about gun control, mental health issues or any other factors that could have possibly stopped Adam Lanza from shooting those innocent children and teachers, I’ve had debates of my own. I’ve been told that I’m ‘condescending,’ I ‘have no clue’ and essentially, I have no idea what I’m talking about by a few so-called friends.
So here’s my chance to state my claim on what I know.
My way of debate is to open the conversation to all what ifs, buts and maybes. I like to question EVERYTHING. I look at all the available information and enjoy construction, educated banter with friends, colleagues and family who have the personal expertise or information to back themselves up, and I present information that I research and/or have had personally experienced or been involved with myself. I do not judge, name call and I try to be fair in all that I write and say. I am a writer, a researcher and I pride myself on looking at all angles to be as objective as possible before making comment, and MOST my comments are looking at the bigger picture, seeing an issue from a different angle and raising awareness, not being narrow-minded with what only a chosen few chose to present.
When the Connecticut tragedy first happened, I claimed that the failure in mental health assistance for Lanza was PART of the reason the tragedy happened. I did not discount that gun control had to happen in the US, and I fought like buggery between friends to say that we in Australia could not be immune to something like this happening in our backyard, let it be with guns, knifes, bombs or any weapon of mass destruction. I argued that there were 22 students stabbed in a school in China that same day the Connecticut tragedy happened, which went largely unnoticed, but even in our smallest sleepiest state of Tasmania this past weekend, a 9 year old girl witnessed her mother and her mother’s partner being shot and killed by her mother’s past lover. Yes, it wasn’t a mass murder by the same degree of the Connecticut horror, but still, what nightmares this 9 year old girl will have over her life, as will the little girl who pretended to be dead when the rest of her class were shot dead in Connecticut, their lives and their mental wellness are ruined forever.
What most people don’t know, is that I have been heavily involved and actively see the very heartache in families who are affected by children and family members with mental health concerns. If it’s ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, learning disabilities or maniac depression, for the ones who work with these people every day and seek to find the positives in their lives, the chosen angels who help these kids, give them a label of confidence in who they should be… They are the ‘exceptionally gifted.’ Many of these children, and even adults who can’t control their brain or conform to society, have exceptionally high IQs, are talented in so many fields, they just aren’t accepted socially with their peers and in the education system, which can be so frustrating and heartbreaking for many parents, as I, myself, am one of those parents.
So for all those who think I pigeon hole people with mental illness, think again. I embrace them, I help them, I befriend them, I don’t fear them… I listen to their daily struggles, I petition for more government funding, I write letters to Education ministers to give these kids a better chance to survive and not feel alienated. I fight with the schools who don’t want to include my child in their national testing as they fear he will lower their performance standard. I do what I can to ensure these children are given the same right as every other child in our country to an education that suits their needs and their learning abilities.
I deal with self-esteem issues every day, where my child has been telling me for the last four years that he wants to kill himself. Can you imagine a five year old saying that to you? He hides from the world when nothing seems to make sense to him, or his friends alienate him. He struggles when his teacher puts him in a reading group with an Autistic child and a Korean girl who doesn’t know English. He feels alienated. He can’t cope with being abandoned. He draws pictures of him putting a gun to his father’s head because of all the pain he goes through, as he believes, from his father’s actions, lack of attention and words, that he doesn’t care about him.
The thing is, I’m not the person who hides myself in committees trying to come up with some political solution to these problems, I’m at ground zero feeling the hurt and struggles these children go through like many parents. I will be their voice, not only for my child but for many others who follow.
I am lucky, that my child has found an outlet that he loves and gives him positive energy… he loves to draw. But I worry every day that the next ten years of his schooling, when he will most likely have the most amount of social interaction in his life, he will have some extremely low days with his self-esteem that he could do something to either harm himself or someone else. He knows I don’t condone any type of violence with weapons. I refused to allow my children to have or play with anything that resembles a knife or gun, unless it’s a brightly coloured water pistol, but who knows if by some chance, he may get hold of a weapon without my knowledge and cause some harm.
My son is the most loving child a mother could ask for. He doesn’t have any stand out behavioural issues, so he doesn’t get any government funding or help. I’ve had to do all the work myself in finding him the right tutor, psychologist, speech therapist and diagnostic tests to ensure he is getting the help he needs. But I can only do so much. At this stage, what he has is quite mild, but as someone kindly pointed out to me today, mental instability progressively gets stronger as hormones kick in and other social activities make them feel isolated and depressed. I know this… as I had a dear friend from primary school who had maniac depression, and killed himself a couple of weeks before his 21st birthday. If I can teach my son, that there is something out there for him, where he can use his exceptional gifts and talents to be the best he can be, and nurture those talents, then maybe, just maybe he will rise above the cream and be successful in his chosen field, without worrying about feeling socially isolated.
Mental health is a concern both here and in the United States, and possibly many other countries in this world (I just haven’t seen the research to make that statement clearer). Our prisons are becoming institutions for those who the system can’t help. Mental health assistance can’t be just for those who can afford it, it needs to be for the broader community. Who knows where the money will come from to help these people, if the governments choose to do something, but maybe we should be helping our own, instead of helping other countries to the extent that we do. Charity starts at home… if only our governments can see it.
So for all my so-called friends who think I have ‘no clue’ about anything in this world if it’s here or in the US, think again and stop judging, as you have never walked in my shoes, as I have never walked in yours, but at least I consider your situation, unlike you consider mine.