I typically try to avoid talk radio…but not much else tends to play from 6:30-8:00 on weekday mornings, so sometimes I am forced to listen. In the wake of the most recent mass shooting in Oregon, one particular talk show was taking phone calls from listeners who had opinions about gun control laws. Of course, it always comes to this.
“We need to remove all guns…We should GIVE everyone guns…We need more protection everywhere.”
Nothing really out of the ordinary was said. Then, the radio show host spoke up again:
“They say that all of these people who do mass shootings are mentally ill or something. I just don’t believe that.”
I started going to counseling two weeks ago. I am going because I realize that I can no longer handle my mental health entirely on my own. And I don’t think this is anything to be ashamed of. For years, I struggled internally with serious anxiety issues. In the beginning, I didn’t even realize I had a problem. I mean, doesn’t everyone mentally plan out every single possible outcome for every single possible event that could possibly happen? Don’t other people keep Web MD bookmarked so they can research the symptoms of each disease they probably have?
I know this sounds almost humorous, but it’s very emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining to live a life of constant anxiety.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 adults experiences some form of mental illness in a given year. That is roughly 43.7 million people. Similarly, 1 in 5 youth experience some form of severe mental illness in a given year.
Assuming you have at least four friends, imagine yourself in a room with them. One of you has a mental illness. Put yourself in a room with 24 of your friends. Statistically, one of you will a severe mental illness that substantially interferes with a major life event this year. That’s a pretty shocking statistic, and if I’m being honest, it’s probably not high enough.
When someone is experiencing a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, etc., they may not always seem “crazy.” I am not always having a mental breakdown about tumors in my neck, or deadly viruses in my bloodstream. I’m not always in a fit of rage when one small thing doesn’t happen how I planned it. But when I am experiencing anxiety attacks, I am very far from a rational mindset. I do things and say things that I would never say or do otherwise. In fact, when I think back to some of my anxiety attacks, I almost want to laugh at how silly I acted. But in the moment, it feels as if there is no going back. I feel like I am capable of dangerous things, and that’s a pretty scary place to be.
I am fortunate enough to have friends/family that encourage me to seek help for these issues. I am fortunate enough to realize that my mindset is not normal, but it could be controlled if I got help. Not everyone is this fortunate.
I find it hard to believe that someone in a literal right mind would walk onto a college campus and randomly open fire on innocent people. While the politicians are busy taking advantage of this situation, pushing their anti-gun/pro-gun agenda into the mainstream media and ultimately into the minds of the American people, there are more American people struggling with severe mental illnesses and not receiving proper care. No law in the world will prevent someone from practicing their ability to murder. But I do believe that affordable, available, mental healthcare could.
As crazy as I feel when I am having an anxiety attack, I can’t imagine how others feel when they are experiencing much more severe mental illnesses. My heart aches for those people. My heart aches for people like the Oregon gunman, who are unstable enough to commit such heinous acts. You may disagree, but we are all human beings, and none of us are immune to mental illness. As much as I am aware of the gospel Truth, there are times when my mind will not allow me to believe it. Not only is my heart deceitful above all things, but so is my mind. We cannot expect to heal our country and end acts of terror if we are not reaching out and raising awareness. We cannot “pray for this country” and sit back and wait for healing. We must act.
It is baffling to me how concerned my friends and neighbors are about guns. We need more, we need less. Guns are the problem. We are quick to increase security and gun control, but seem to disregard the people that are committing these acts. If you google “mental illnesses,” you would be shocked at the things you would find. You will discover mental disorders that you’ve never heard of. We are a fallen people with fallen earthly bodies, and disordered minds.
Our broken world will never be free of murder, hatred, illness, etc. We will be waiting for healing until the day that Jesus returns. But we can take steps toward healing. We can talk about mental illness. We can remove the stigma that goes along with mental illness. People shouldn’t be afraid to get help, and they shouldn’t be left in the dark about what mental illnesses actually are.
We are indeed a country that needs to experience the love of Christ. But we aren’t giving people that chance when we let their mental illnesses consume their lives and choke them to the point of literal death. My prayer is that we will begin to dig deeper into the personal, individual issues that we are facing in our country, and focus less on governmental control and order.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [Romans 8: 18-30]