When the Columbine shootings occurred twenty years ago, we understood it to be an uncommon tragedy. We sought information about the shooters, and naively believed that we might not live through more of these, and that we could move beyond them quickly.
We now know that this is not the case. As these shootings have multiplied, tragedy and trauma have spread throughout all parts of the country, and the effects are lasting.
We mourn the immediate victims; we pray for the comfort of their loved ones.
We try to look beyond the hatred of the shooters to understand the reasons for their actions and to give us hope that there are no more out there like them.
But we now live with the nagging feeling that – much as we hope – these will not be the last mass tragedies we experience. And we know that in cities and families across the nation, smaller tragedies, with equally lasting effects, will occur most every day.
The Mayor of Dayton was eloquent in saying that the lives of ten families – and scores more of those injured – have been changed forever. In El Paso, that is true of dozens more today. We must think about this and, even in the heat of the moment, recognize that we have to do something – today and forever – to respond.
We need a new national commitment from our policy leaders to address trauma. We need more acknowledgement that the traumas we experience are real, and that the effects don’t go away quickly, on their own, or by ignoring them. We need more dollars and more programs, both in the immediate aftermath of traumas and on a long-term basis, to deal with trauma. And we need these things today.
We must never give in to the hate. We must not accept that these mass tragedies are inevitable, or the result of living in a free and welcoming nation. We need policy leaders to recognize that they do lead by example, and that what they say and what they do before and after tragedies have meaning, influence, impact, and consequences.
We need them to confront hate, tragedy, and trauma head on, with words and actions that help our country heal.
At Mental Health America, we pledge to help with that healing, and offer resources on our website free of charge to all who need them.